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Mass Transit Defends Itself Against Terrorism

NCJ Number
Steve Dunham
Date Published
March 2002
10 pages
This article discusses possible preventive Nation’s public transportation systems.
Public transportation offers an ideal target for those determined to kill in quantity and willing to kill indiscriminately. The attack on a train in India in February 2002 is one of the worst to date, killing 58 people mostly women and children. India leads the world in attacks on public transportation and in fatalities from those attacks with countries in Asia and Africa close behind. Terrorists have been targeting mass transit in more industrialized countries as well, such as the United Kingdom and Germany. The United States experienced five attacks on public transportation during the early 1990's. The Port Authority Trans-Hudson Corporation, known as PATH and operating between New Jersey and New York, is the U.S. transit system that has suffered the most at the hands of terrorists. Because of the history of attacks on public transportation, transit system managers have long been aware of transit’s vulnerability. The September 11 attacks have focused even more attention on security. Security assessments are being conducted by the American Public Transportation Association, whose members participate in voluntary safety management audits every 3 years, and is sponsoring industry roundtable forums on security. In Atlanta, the transit authority planned for the 1996 Olympics 3 years ahead of time. The system improved on many areas considered vulnerable to tampering, including alarm systems, perimeter fences, and bomb-resistant trash containers. Private vehicles were banned from rail and bus facilities. The San Francisco Bay Area rail system maintains an elite group of personnel who will serve as a first response team in the event of a terrorist incident involving radiological, chemical, and biological agents. Providing emergency service turned out to be a major role for transit systems on September 11 for Alexandria, Virginia Transit, which provided emergency transportation for first responders and stranded railroad passengers. Authorities believe that urban rail, commuter rail, and bus and rail terminals are at greatest risk of being targeted in a terrorist event, with bridges and tunnels being slightly less at risk. 50 endnotes