Posts Tagged ‘TSA’

There is probably no safer place than public transit stations and vehicles. Despite what you see in the movies and on TV, the incidence of crime is rare. But since the 9/11 attacks, the Dept. of Homeland Security has provided over $1 billion in grants to public transit agencies through the Transit Security Grant Program. A large chunk of that money has gone to visual surveillance systems.

For the 2015 budget, the DHS wants to eliminate dedicated public transit grants — though transit agencies could still apply for funding under a different National Preparedness Grant Program.

The American Public Transit Assoc (APTA) has come out against this idea. In fact, APTA wants another $6 billion:

We are well aware of the many pressures on our nation’s budget and the importance of addressing other national funding priorities; however, the current level of transit security funding is woefully inadequate as the Transit Security Grant Program is the primary source of funding for security needs of public transportation agencies. To put the current level of investment in transit security into greater perspective, we note that a 2010 APTA survey of its members found security investment needs in excess of $6.4 billion nationwide. APTA urges Congress to acknowledge the risk that our citizens and transit systems continue to face, and restore appropriations for the Transit Security Grant Program in this and subsequent appropriation bills to levels closer to those authorized under the 9/11 Commission Act.

When transit agencies receive the DHS funding, they don’t pretend it has anything to do with terrorism. Trimet (to use one example) spent $5 million for 4,400 cameras, with an additional $7.5 million in the pipeline. The cameras were useful for catching vandals and gropers. That kind of criminal certainly deserves to be punished, but they are hardly Al Qaeda.

The sad thing is that there is one very significant part of the transportation system that could benefit from surveillance cameras: our roads and highways. Speed cameras are proven effective in reducing crashes and injuries. Just imagine if $1+ billion had been spent on that.

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Airline-Style Boarding

Matthew Yglesias has been having a field day criticizing Amtrak’s airline-style boarding procedures:

At Union Station there’s a bizarre process where they list a gate instead of a track. The gate is a door and the door is closed. Outside the closed door there is a long snaking line. You wait in line, and then eventually the door opens. Then everyone shows their ticket to an agent, walks through an ante-chamber of some kind, and only then do you reach the platforms.

The ticket-checking is completely superfluous because you could walk to any platform once you’re out there. But it’s also unnecessary because conductors check the tickets on the trains anyway. But then you walk to the appropriate platform and board the train that’s waiting for you.

This method is both slower than the standard method and also involves overcrowding the interior of the station. Amazingly, Amtrak says it wants $7 billion to ameliorate track capacity constraints and station interior overcrowding when for the low price of $0 they could adopt standard train-boarding procedures.

Indeed, this is totally idiotic and without justification. But it gets worse — because the policy is being replicated all over the country.

Station plans for the California High-Speed Rail show lots of security theater; including mezzanine-level “waiting” rooms (holding pens), pre-boarding ticket check, and perhaps even x-ray machines. There is no thought to passenger circulation, and the underground platforms will be every bit as cramped as the “obsolete” ones at Union Station. All this security theater doesn’t come cheap. The new Transbay Terminal in San Francisco just got hit with $56 million in cost overruns to meet “unanticipated” Federal security requirements.

And then there is the All-Aboard Florida rail project. Here is how they plan to manage train boarding with station ushers:

Because the AAF service will be an ‘all reserved service,’ ticketed customers will pass through a control gate to gain access to the vertical circulation leading to the secure ‘ticketed passengers only’ spaces. In all cases, passengers will not be allowed access to the station platforms until approximately 4 or 5 minutes before departure of an arriving train. Train departure and arrival information will be electronically updated both in the public ticketing/information area, as well as in the secure waiting room and Business Class lounge. Access to the platform will be provided by means of two escalator/stair pairs and ADA compliant elevators, controlled by an AAF usher in the secure waiting room.

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TSA Out of the MBTA!

Occupy Boston held a protest today against random bag searches in Boston “T” stations:

Since October 2006, the MBTA has been conducting random security inspections at stations throughout the system. The move was re-instituted by former Governor Mitt Romney.

The bag checks, according to the MBTA, take roughly 10 to 20 seconds and are done at random, “as part of an overall layered strategy to deter and prevent a terrorist attack.”

Passengers can refuse a bag test and check, however, they will not be allowed to ride the T if they do, according to the MBTA’s website.

This is another example of Security Theater. The terrorist can just refuse the inspection and walk to the next station.

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Security Theater Comes to Emeryville

Another reason not to ride Amtrak:

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When Explosives Go Missing

I feel safer already:

Explosives that went missing from Phoenix’s international airport during a routine police training several days ago, causing authorities to search the airport several times over the weekend, were spotted by a passing motorist sitting next to a roadside on Monday, police said.

The explosives — two half-pound orange-colored tubes set inside a blue, soft-sided Igloo container — were taken by an “unknown individual” Friday afternoon from Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. Police had placed the container in the public area of at the airport’s Terminal 4 to train police dogs.


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Airline industry profits plummet

Airline industry profit forecasts for 2011 are falling like a brick:

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has lowered its global industry profit forecast by 54% to $4bn from a previous forecast of $8.6bn in March and a 78% drop compared with the $18bn net profit recorded in 2010. The international industry body blamed the natural disasters in Japan, unrest in the Middle East and North Africa, as well as the sharp rise in oil prices.

Undoubtedly the irradiation and sexual assaults had something to do with it too….

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