Thursday, September 14, 2006

Passenger Rail and Security - Who Is and Who Isn't

Five years and counting.

Much has been made in the weeks leading up to the 9/11 fifth remembrance of the question: "Are we safer now?" We have written previous posts on this blog about Passenger Rail and security. With this post, we would like to look at answers to this question from several different sources.

Amtrak passenger: Amtrak always felt like one of the safer modes of travel. You didn't have to walk through scanners, baggage handling was loosely organized, and coach seating was not assigned. Not much has changed in this respect, so the "feel" of Amtrak is comfortable and easy. Sweeps for drugs and the unexpected "departure" of drunk and abusive passengers have been going on for years. The heightened awareness of post-9/11 and the station and on-board personnel security measures have made an already safe Amtrak safer.

Big city commuter: We are much safer now, because there is a station presence of security that wasn't there before and there are even some searches. Even if these aren't deterring terrorists, they are deterring common criminals that used to prey on commuter riders. Commuters are safer.

Medium city commuter: Not much has changed, and there doesn't seem to be much more that has to be done. Not a high priority target. These trains are just as safe as before.

Transit rider: Some of the same kinds of security measures that work on commuter rail have also been applied to transit. The massive movement of riders to and from unpredictable and unticketed stops makes transit a target ripe for abuse. Security cameras, both on and off trains, along with living, breathing guards are our best security measures. We are probably somewhat safer.

Tourist rail rider: Sucks that we have to pay more to cover insurance, but it doesn't seem like tourist rail is doing much in the way of security against attack. Perhaps just the heightened awareness of everybody concerned is making us safer.

Rail cruise rider: Don't think we are paying that much more for insurance and we don't see any real evidence of increased security. But you can only do one of these once every few years, unless you are rich. They cost so much. So it's possible that there was less security before 9/11. Just don't know.

Railfan: The security measures encountered by railfans and photographers are laughable. Railroad security is spending too much time making us safe from ourselves and keeping us from enjoying our hobby. I suppose it is good to see more and vigilant railroad people around when we are near the tracks, but to questions a citizen on public property trying to take a photographs is just too much. I don't think we are any safer.

Are we safer? There have been no Passenger Rail related terror attacks on US soil since 9/11, so we would have to say yes.

©2006 - C. A. Turek -

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