Mass Transit Vulnerable, But Technology and Tactics Can Help


After the Sept. 11 terror attacks, the federal government took immediate steps to secure airplanes. Cockpit doors were locked, passengers thoroughly searched. But it has been harder to ease the fears of bus and subway passengers after the July 7 attacks on London’s mass transit system, reports the New York Times. The very virtues of mass transit – easy access, frequent service and central locations – make it vulnerable. From 1991 to 2001, 42 percent of all terrorist attacks worldwide occurred on trains or buses, according to a recent study by the Brookings Institution.

The United States mass transit system also lacks the aviation system’s built-in security: limited accessibility, a ticketing system that requires identification and a single governing agency, the Federal Aviation Administration. By contrast, the Federal Transit Administration has little say over security policies. That’s left to the country’s 6,000 mass transit agencies. Money is another problem. Since Sept. 11, 2001, the federal government has appropriated $250 million for transit security, compared with $18.1 billion for aviation security. Given the problems, what can transit systems do? The Times reviews the latest in technology and tactics.


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