Surface Security

amtrak-securityLess than three percent of the U.S. Transportation Security Administration’s budget is currently allocated for securing non-aviation surface transit i.e. trains, ferries and buses.  Yet trains, including subway rail carry many times more passengers per day than do airlines.

Armed Amtrak police officers and K-9 units patrol larger train stations and passengers and bags are randomly searched at major rail hubs in DC and New York.  But hundreds of smaller stations have virtually no security or screening.

Senator John Thune (R-SD) has introduced the “Surface Transportation and Maritime Security Act” bill which would establish within the TSA the “Surface Transportation and Maritime Security Advisory Committee.  Republican Deb Fischer (NE) and Democrats Richard Blumental (CT), Bill Nelson (NE) and Cory Booker (NJ), are bill cosponsors.

Just last month, a bomb exploded at a New Jersey train station and there is a general public perception that attacks on non-aviation targets are on the rise.  One could argue that these were always targets and that we are just now getting around to securing them.

In any event, the idea is to expand the TSA’s responsibility for securing surface transit beginning with a study to be conducted by the Comptroller General and with a view to increased implementation of TSA procedures.  The bill … “shall include a strategic plan for working with rail stakeholders to enhance passenger rail security by vetting passengers using terrorist watch lists maintained by the Federal Government or a similar passenger vetting system maintained by the Transportation Security Administration.”

Centralizing security functions and budget and standardizing security procedures sounds like a good idea.  Do we need more security for surface transit and, should the TSA be the one to do it?


  1. Erv Chocol on November 5, 2016 at 9:29 pm

    This has been a concern of mine for a long time. Glad that something is being done about it.

  2. Devraj JB Rana on November 4, 2016 at 10:31 am

    Security of Surface transport ,mainly train and bus is a tricky job. Every railway and bus station has a very peculiar setup which does not match the other. It is a very interesting subject and requires many heads with lots of inputs. Its an humongous subject.

  3. Ignacio Ortega on November 3, 2016 at 10:24 pm

    Ningún sistema de transporte de personas es más importante que otro, pero al ser el Sistema de Transporte de Superficie más común y masivo, obviamente se nos hace más difícil de controlar y asegurar, pero es lo que se debe hacer y pronto, ya que en caso de ser atacado controladamente, será el que afectará a una mayor cantidad de víctimas.
    No es necesario abordar o profundizar más en el tema, Uds. entienden. Pasemos a la ofensiva, antes de que “otros” reaccionen.

  4. Edward J. Zemaitis on November 2, 2016 at 7:29 pm

    Excellent source of security related information. Thank you for sending it along.

  5. Rich Roth on November 2, 2016 at 7:12 pm

    TSA has always had a surface transportation wing, and it has been involved in quite a few pilot programs at rail and bus stations around the USA. BWI airport and the local rail had a pilot program that may still be in place, as well as some of Bostons subway stations.

    I sat in on a few of the TSA meetings that dealt with the issue, most of it was sending out old or unused equipment to rail and subway events, there was even a maritime sector, but that was taken back over by the Coast Guard.

    On rail it came down to how do you allocate resources, there are a lot of rail stations out there, and when you do, your risk assessment will point you to the rail lines themselves, where most attacks have occurred, and what to you do to secure them.

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