Transit systems are the most frequent target for global terrorists. They are designed to be open and accessible, which limits security options. But the ability to safely operate transit systems is closely linked to broader policy objectives, such as reducing oil consumption (69 percent of our consumption of oil is for transportation) and global warming, which will affect our national security over the long-term. The tidy traditional policy and budget divide between what is domestic and what is national security is no longer adequate.
While transit fares have been raised to cover some increased security costs, there are limits. Transit systems battle the automobile as the commuting method of choice, even with the current cost of oil. System-wide security improvements, including better communications and lighting in tunnels, barriers around bridges, and access controls for car barns, cannot be accomplished without substantial federal assistance or subsidies from transit system operators, primarily cities and states. Specific initiatives to focus greater attention on passenger rail and transit security include:
- Increase transit security grants. Greater emphasis should be placed on operational support as much as technology. Grants should be provided to police departments that secure transit systems, not just transit agencies that operate them. They need to be flexible enough to offset at least some cost of police and canine patrols within transit systems, by far the most effective available security measure, as well as system upgrades and new construction that can improve both security and efficiency.
- Hire more transit and rail inspectors. The Transportation Security Agency requires more than the current 100 inspectors to evaluate security at the nation’s 500 passenger transit systems. There should be at least one federal inspector for every major transportation system in the United States.
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