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Rail Security in Transition

GIVEN THAT THE 9-11 hijackers used planes to execute their attacks, it’s no surprise that air travel got most of the attention and funding when the federal government began its post-9-11 security initiatives. After the London attack on subways, more attention—and some additional funding—was directed to metro systems as well. But buses have not gotten their due, say representatives of the industry who spoke before a congressional subcommittee looking into mass transit security.

Various bus companies have used their own funds and modest grants to upgrade security, testified Peter J. Pantuso, president and chief executive officer at the American Bus Association. Greyhound has increased passenger metal-detector “wanding” in its larger terminals and installed an on-board communications and GPS system and a “driver lateral shield with which Greyhound drivers can fend off attacks,” Pantuso said.

Smaller companies have also been active. Ready Bus Lines in Minnesota and Concord Lines in New Hampshire have used grant money to secure their garages. Academy Express in New Jersey and Adirondack Lines in New York have begun implementing Global Positioning System tracking of their buses.

Rail operators have been proactive as well. Reporting on the security improvements made by 32 U.S. rail transit operators contacted by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), GAO’s Director of Physical Infrastructure Issues JayEtta Z. Hecker testified that 23 of the operators had increased security personnel and 21 had deployed bomb-sniffing dogs. Eight operators were using behavioral screening, 29 had CCTV, and 22 had either removed conventional trash bins or replaced them with bombproof versions.

GAO’s Hecker pointed to promising measures used among 13 European and Asian transit agencies contacted by her staff. These include covert testing of employees to keep them alert to their security responsibilities, random screening of passengers and their baggage, and national clearinghouses of technologies and best practices.

Much more remains to be done, however. Witnesses presented a laundry list of needs. William W. Millar, president of the American Public Transportation Association, said funding is needed for radio communications systems, access control, vehicle-locator systems, and security fencing, among other items.