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Old July 10th, 2005, 04:44 AM   #1
hkskyline
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MISC | Public transport safety

Can mass transit be safe?
8 July 2005
USA Today

Thursday's attacks in London had to make millions of mass transit commuters in the USA wonder: "What's being done to prevent an attack on my train or bus or subway?"

The stark reality is, not much.

While the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, wrought a revolution in airline security, little has changed on the rails and roads in the four years since terrorists turned four jetliners into missiles.

This year, for instance, 84% of the Transportation Security Administration's $5.1 billion budget went to aviation security, according to the Congressional Research Service. That imbalance makes less sense today than it did right after 9/11. Now that cockpits are tougher to penetrate, terrorists have turned to "softer" targets, such as mass transit systems.

Before politicians and transit lobbyists turn the nation's security strategy upside down, however, they should carefully assess priorities and vulnerabilities.

It's easy to tick off those gaps. Passengers and baggage flow onto Amtrak trains each day unscreened. More than 9,000 miles of commuter and subway tracks crisscross cities largely unsecured. Freight trains carry hazardous chemicals through urban centers.

Some cities improved security after last year's terror attack on trains in Madrid. Los Angeles' system now has uniformed and undercover officers, bomb-sniffing dogs and surveillance cameras. New York has its "see something, say something" program to prod commuters to report suspicious activities or packages.

Good ideas all, but they are only as good as their execution. If subway authorities ask commuters to be vigilant, for instance, authorities must provide ways for them to report problems easily, as well as ensure quick responses.

Each year in the USA, about 26 billion passengers board the nation's rail, subway and bus systems -- about 30 times the number who board planes. The systems are so vast that they can't be secured in the same way airlines are.

rail and bus safety, and Washington can help with information and coordination. If money is the issue, raise taxes, just as security fees were added to airline tickets after 9/11. Or distribute homeland security funds more wisely.

London, with thousands of cameras surveying its system and phone boxes for reporting suspicious activities, is viewed as one of the world's leaders in subway security. Yet its rush hour was pierced by explosions. U.S. commuters deserve two things from their government: better security and honesty about what can and can't be achieved.
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Old July 11th, 2005, 02:50 AM   #2
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Some bus garages leave their buses parked RIGHT next to the sidewalk (without a fence) in a residential area where one perosn could just walk right up to the bus and put whatever inside...it's THAT easy
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Old July 11th, 2005, 03:14 AM   #3
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Mass transit cannot be as safe as airports. But the probability to die or get injured is incredibly small.

3 million passengers per day in London, that means about a billion per year. Everyone who died is of course one too many. But what mean 50 dead compared to a billion passengers? From this perspective, mass transit is still very safe.

The terrorists get far too much attention for their insane actions. They cannot affect the civilized world!
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Old July 11th, 2005, 06:01 AM   #4
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Mas transit is VERY safe as is air travel. When you hear of the odd accident then it gets the headpage for a week. This is especially true for airplanes.
When was the last time you heard of subwy accidents?...only in terrorist attacks and only in exceedingly rare. You have a huge number od deaths on the highway GETTING to the airport or rail station rather than taking it.
Its just more yellow journalism.
If our highways when even half as safe as our mass transit systems then there would be thousands less injuries and deaths each year.
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Old July 11th, 2005, 06:23 AM   #5
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Good point, Ssiguy. People are much more likely to die driving a car than when they are using mass transit...
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Old December 16th, 2009, 12:11 PM   #6
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US wants to oversee safety for subways, light rail

WASHINGTON, Nov 15 (Reuters) - The Obama administration plans to propose that the U.S. government oversee safety for subway and light rail systems, a move prompted in part by the deadly collision of two trains in Washington this year.

According to a draft of the plan to be formally unveiled in coming weeks, the Transportation Department would either enforce safety regulations itself or grant states the option to do so under its guidance and financial assistance.

No cost estimate was provided and Congress would have to approve the proposal.

The administration has concluded that the government's ability to insure transit safety is weak at a time when ridership is increasing and state budgets for maintaining and enforcing their own regulations are tightening.

State agencies responsible for transit safety often have few staff, little expertise, inadequate independence from transit systems they oversee and limited legal authority, federal officials said.

A 1965 law prohibits the federal government from overseeing safety regulations for subways. At the time, there were only a few systems nationwide.

New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Washington and Boston have the five largest public transit systems in the United States. They accounted for more than half of the 10 billion passenger trips in 2007, according to the latest industry statistics.

Public transit ridership grew 38 percent from 1995 to 2008, the figures show. The Obama administration wants to expand ridership to reduce road congestion and cut gasoline use.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood spearheaded the plan to boost federal oversight following the June collision of two subway trains in Washington that killed nine people and injured dozens of others.

Other accidents in San Francisco, Boston, Chicago and track worker fatalities in Washington also factored in the decision, Transportation Department planners said.

Transportation Department agencies already oversee safety for Amtrak long distance rail service as well as freight and commuter rail systems. Airline and auto safety are also regulated by the federal government.
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Old December 16th, 2009, 02:11 PM   #7
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Guys, don't mix different problems.

It is not appropriate to compare traffic acidents (train, airplane, bus and car crashes, rollovers, derailments etc.) to terrorist risk assessment and prevention. They are two totally different things: comparing how many people died in London bombings to how many people die in London car crashes is as outrageous and shameful as it would be to compare how many people died in 9/11 WTC collapse to how many people die in contruction worksite fatal accidents, for instance.

A car, even a highway, is a low-attractive target for terrorist. Airport security has increased a lot. Last significant improve in mass transit security was CCTV, which has been around for more than 30 years. We need massive investments like metal and explosive detectors in every subway and urban rail station entrance. It should be feasible with new technologies being developed.

In regard of long-distance high-speed rail, I think passengers should be longer allowed to carry bags so freely into rail cars: they must to have an airport like screening protocol for passengers AND luggage, even if it means closing minor old stations that cannot be reasonably upgraded. Firearms should be forbidden on trains altogether.
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Old December 16th, 2009, 11:31 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by andrelot View Post
Guys, don't mix different problems.

It is not appropriate to compare traffic acidents (train, airplane, bus and car crashes, rollovers, derailments etc.) to terrorist risk assessment and prevention. They are two totally different things: comparing how many people died in London bombings to how many people die in London car crashes is as outrageous and shameful as it would be to compare how many people died in 9/11 WTC collapse to how many people die in contruction worksite fatal accidents, for instance.

A car, even a highway, is a low-attractive target for terrorist. Airport security has increased a lot. Last significant improve in mass transit security was CCTV, which has been around for more than 30 years. We need massive investments like metal and explosive detectors in every subway and urban rail station entrance. It should be feasible with new technologies being developed.

In regard of long-distance high-speed rail, I think passengers should be longer allowed to carry bags so freely into rail cars: they must to have an airport like screening protocol for passengers AND luggage, even if it means closing minor old stations that cannot be reasonably upgraded. Firearms should be forbidden on trains altogether.
Andrelot,

I don't think that it is at all distasteful to compare the number of persons killed in an incident like, say, the 7/7 London tube bombings to the number of people killed and injured in road accidents.

I am sure that you are more vulnerable to a terrorist incident on public transport than in a car but the chances of being killed or injured in a terrorist incident as opposed to in a car accident are miniscule.

What is important is that people are not misled into thinking that a particular form of transport is dangerous because accidents are given so much more coverage in the media.

Here in Britain, the last train accident that involved loss of life to passengers was, I believe, the Potters Bar train crash over five years ago. That received a huge amount of publicity but the intervening years in which no passenger lost their life have been totally ignored. One day inevitably there will be another crash and it will be followed by lurid headlines and TV documentaries about the 'dangers' of train travel.

The idea that we should have massive investment in security at all railway stations is ludicrous. Certanly there is a risk there but many of the unfortunate people who died on 7/7 were in a bus - are we to have security screening at all bus shelters?

The effect of spending massive amounts of money on rail security would be counter productive. As you point out, stations would have to be closed, fares would have to go up with the end result that people would use cars more and subject themselves to far greater risk. Also, greater car dependency encourages people to walk less and lead unhealthy life styles that shorten their lives.

Remember one thing. If you believe rail travel is dangerous then you have a simple solution - don't travel by train. If you don't want to be involved in a road accident you also have a simple solution - don't travel by car, walk on a pavement, cross a road or go outside of your house. That is the price of 'freedom'.
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Old December 17th, 2009, 12:09 AM   #9
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There have been numerous incidents involving sociopaths hiding in bushes along roads and shooting drivers. They just don't make it beyond the local news because of the state of the world we live in.

Last edited by zaphod; December 17th, 2009 at 12:30 AM.
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Old December 19th, 2009, 01:20 AM   #10
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Mass transit related deaths pales in comparison to automobile related deaths. If a terrorist/saboteur wants to do harm, they either will or will not find a way. If these attacks have done anything, it has made people more alert and more likely to act to intervene. Terrorism is making people take a stand, so, i feel totally safe with the level of risk involved with mass transit.

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Old December 19th, 2009, 05:50 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hkskyline View Post
WASHINGTON, Nov 15 (Reuters) - The Obama administration plans to propose that the U.S. government oversee safety for subway and light rail systems, a move prompted in part by the deadly collision of two trains in Washington this year.
I don't think the government making new laws or a new agency will do anything in this situation. It seems that was the fault of WMATA. Do sensors that tell if a train is coming at you not exist? If they do, why weren't they installed?
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Old December 19th, 2009, 11:16 PM   #12
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Washington Metro

These units were way overdue for replacement. As usual, feet were dragged because money wasn't going to be spent until the inevitable result. The federal Government had nothing to do with it. It was a local problem. Although I'm sure Fed. money is on the way to help out.
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Old December 20th, 2009, 07:05 AM   #13
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Awareness is key. A lot of eyes looking will be an effective deterrent, in addition to the security cameras and occasional police patrols.
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Old December 20th, 2009, 08:57 PM   #14
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In Britain we have had to be wary about terrorists planting bombs for the best part of forty years - first with the IRA and later with Islamic extremism.

Security on public tranport relies to a large extent on intelligence obtained by the police and security services and vigilance by ordinary members of the public who will often report a bag left unattended or anyone behaving in a suspicious manner.

There may be a case for more in depth security screening at some of the larger rail terminals but the benefits would be unlikely to justify the cost.

Even if the whole system could be made 100% secure, the terrorists are hardly likely to throw away their explosives and take up gardening. The worst terrorist incident in the British Isles was the Omagh bombing in Northern Ireland in 1998. That was caused by a car bomb, which is often the terrorists favourite weapon. It became such an effective weapon in Northern Ireland in the 70s and 80s that the security services would set up roadblocks at roads leading into major towns and cities. Even so, some still got through.
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Old December 20th, 2009, 09:22 PM   #15
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Awareness in NYC

Our society in the States is pretty much all for one and the next guy, maybe. There is a sort of swaggering, jealousy, suspicion and untrustworthiness that seems to abound in NYC. When you walk down the street, you hear the languages of the world and it's awe inspiring. On the other hand, it can be daunting if modern citizens of the world today feel no compassion for their fellow man and think life is highly expendable. I personally feel that we could all reach out and extend understanding to each other but it seems such a bother to most. What a pity. That way we could relax, converse and be all that much more open to being aware.
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Old December 21st, 2009, 09:57 PM   #16
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Any one?

To be continued....
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Old December 27th, 2009, 03:27 AM   #17
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Somehow we have to decide how much risk is acceptable. I wouldn't mind x-rays in every subway entrance, and I guess it would be possible to deter some terrorists by using them.

Suicide terrorists are more difficult to deter, but a comprenhensive deployment of x-rays would deter left explosive package-like attacks, like the ones that plagues France in the late 1980's.
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Old December 27th, 2009, 06:32 PM   #18
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Quite honestly, in Europe and the USA, being the victim of a terrorist attack is very low down the list of possible ways that you could be killed or injured. That doesn't make it acceptable and where it is reasonably practicable to use technology to capture or deter terrorists, then it needs to be considered. However, expending vast amounts of money securing public transport is hardly likely to be the answer as the terrorist can simply choose other targets.
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Old December 27th, 2009, 08:19 PM   #19
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Mass Transit is safe.
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Old December 27th, 2009, 10:47 PM   #20
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@Martin S: I understand your reasoning (we secure PT, they will move to blast schools - or whatever), but I don't agree with it. There is no excuse to leave some places more vulnerable so wannabe terrorists will not choose others. If transit can be made safer, it should be made safer, regardless of the impacts of it on terrorist activities.
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