Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Federally funded security system keeps eye on Tri-Rail passengers

New federally funded $1.1 million security system takes a test train rideBy Michael Turnbell Transportation Writer Posted July 23 2006

Tri-Rail conductor Tom Euell watches commuters on a flat video screen at the head of the train, looking for any suspicious images beamed from cameras mounted in every car."Sometimes you can't walk through every car and back by the time you get to the next stop," said Euell, a Wellington resident who has spent 11 years running the commuter trains.

The closed-circuit cameras are the centerpiece of a new $1.1 million security system now being tested and slated to be activated next month, paid for by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.With chances of a terrorist attack slim, officials say the cameras will have a bigger role in helping law enforcement officers deter crime aboard the commuter rail line."I ride the train sometimes at night when there are less people and sometimes I'm sitting all by myself. You don't know who's going to pass through those doors," said Ann Edwards, of Miami."It makes me feel safer knowing that someone is keeping an eye on things."Edwards, like most passengers, was unaware of Tri-Rail's surveillance plans. The globe-like cameras are about the size of a softball and barely noticeable on the ceilings inside the cars' entrance.In the next few weeks, posters and fliers will be placed inside the trains to tell riders why they're being videotaped.Tri-Rail is also participating in a national campaign by the Federal Transit Administration called Transit Watch, aimed at educating riders on what kind of suspicious activity to look for and how to report it.Abandoned packages would be an example.While Tri-Rail has never faced any specific terrorism threat, officials say they can't afford security lapses in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, as well as recent rail bombings overseas.The commuter line carries about 10,000 to 12,000 passengers daily, including 1,400 Palm Beach County school students during the school year.According to statistics compiled by Tri-Rail, disorderly conduct and criminal mischief such as vandalism are the most common crimes reported by passengers, with 151 incidents from July 2005 to June 2006.Wackenhut security guards patrol the stations and ride the trains between Miami and Mangonia Park, the last stop on the line north of West Palm Beach. Sheriff's deputies from Broward and Palm Beach counties also patrol the trains."The cameras are just another layer of security we're providing for our passengers," said Brad Barkman, Tri-Rail's operations director. "It's better to be prepared than be sorry."Since 2001, the aviation industry has received $20 billion from the federal government for security measures while the transit industry has only got $386 million. Mass transit systems in the United States, meanwhile, carry 32 million passengers a day -- 16 times the number of air travelers.The American Public Transportation Association, a Washington, D.C.-based trade association, has identified more than $6 billion in unmet security needs for transit systems in the country.


Thursday, July 20, 2006

NYC Transit workers ready for an emergency?

(New York- WABC, July 14, 2006) - There's a troubling question tonight about security on the New York subway system: How prepared are the crews on the trains to evacuate passengers in an emergency?
Sometimes, it's not very well. That's the finding from an Eyewitness News investigation.
In a fire or explosion in the subway, conductors and train operators will be the first to help straphangers. The train crews' decisions will likely make the difference between life and death.
Yet some workers and security experts we've spoken to say their training falls far short in preparing them for such an awesome responsibility.

"MTA-NYC transit personnel are especially trained in emergency procedures."
An instructional video on the MTA's web site boasts that its subway operators and conductors are fully trained to carry out evacuations.
Talk to those who work the trains though, and some are less than confident.
Train Operator: "We really need to get more training. Eyewitness News, Jim Hoffer: "Not trained adequately?" Train Operator: "(shakes his head) No definitely not."
The MTA says all train operators and conductors have taken a comprehensive one day evacuation course, with refresher training every three years.


Cubic and GE Security Support Public Transit Explosives Detection Study

Bradenton, Fla. and San Diego – July 18, 2006 – Cubic Corporation (AMEX: CUB) and GE’s Security business (NYSE: GE), today announced the successful conclusion of the first real-world operational test of the companies’ jointly-developed automatic public transit ticket vending machine with integrated early warning explosives detection and supporting faregate capability.
The Baltimore Rail Security Study tested and collected data from the Cubic and GE explosives-detecting ticket vending machine, the Early Warning Explosives Detection System (EWEDS), deployed in a Baltimore Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) subway station throughout the month of June. This pilot focused on the system’s ability to identify the possible presence of explosives compounds on passengers as they purchased tickets prior to passing through the faregates to board trains.
The study was a cooperative effort of the Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology unit, the MTA and the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT), with technical support provided by Cubic and GE Security.


Metro Beefs Up Security to Prevent Terrorist Attack

by MC3 Heather Weaver
Journal staff writer

Metro is increasing security measures to protect riders and prevent terrorists from crippling Washington's rail system. The effort comes in the wake of a subway attack in Kashmir, India, that killed more than 200 people and left hundreds more injured. The security increase also comes only a few weeks after the one-year anniversary of the London subway bombings.
"[The additional security] is something we started last year after London and we are going to pick it up now," said Steven Taubenkibel, a Metro spokesman. "We will pick different stations each week ... to do targeted [and] random searches to ensure the infrastructure is what it's supposed to be and nothing out of the ordinary is found."
In response to last year's London attacks, Metro increased station, tunnel and train inspections, installed explosive-containment trash cans and increased the presence of uniformed and plainclothes officers, Taubenkibel said.


Thursday, July 13, 2006

Toronto Braces for Terrorism

The bad news: If a major terrorist explosion went off today in the tunnels of Toronto's two older subway lines, the underground ventilation system wouldn't be able to pull out the smoke, posing a serious risk to people trying to evacuate.
The good news: Folks at the Toronto Transit Commission know it and have embarked on a plan to install 260 modern ventilation fans throughout the system and remove 100 older fans by 2010.
"Our fans right now are ... fine for the ventilation of the system on a regular basis," said Adam Giambrone, co-chair of the TTC. "But should there be an explosion in a tunnel, should there be some sort of other attack, they don't have the capacity to suck out enough of the smoke, which is critical if you're expecting people to evacuate."
So it goes with disaster preparedness on Toronto's subway: From the removal of garbage cans to the installation of closed-circuit video cameras, the TTC has identified dozens of projects to make the subway safer for its 800,000 daily riders and better able to handle an emergency like a terrorist attack.
That's on top of its own disaster plans and working relationships with the Toronto Police intelligence unit, Transport Canada, and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service -- partnerships forged after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.


NY MTA Increases Transit Security Patrols after Bombing

After the deadly commuter train bombings in Mumbai yesterday, New York City has increased transit security once again. Police officers who would have clocked out at 3PM or 4PM were kept on through the evening rush hour, and the random subway bag checks were increased. Can you believe it's been almost a year since bag checks were instituted? Police Commissioner Ray Kelly explained, "We are acting on an abundance of caution. There are no indications of any specific threats to our rail system. But it's always a possibility that [an attack] is part of a worldwide operation."
The MTA won't talk about their security improvements, for fear of giving "the terrorists a road map," but only a third of the planned 2000 video cameras have been installed in the subways. And the Port Authority unveiled a new system to screen concealed weapons at the Exchange Place station in Jersey City yesterday.

MTA Beefs Up Security and Installs New Camera Systems

By Jean Guccione, Times Staff WriterJuly 12, 2006
Doris Williams watched commuters board the Gold Line in Chinatown on Tuesday from a flat-screen color monitor on her desk many miles away in Willowbrook.She zoomed in on a young man getting off the train, then panned the area around the platform, checking for safety violations and illegal activity.

"It's like a new world," Williams said, referring to the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority's closed-circuit television system, which was unveiled Tuesday.

She and other MTA staff used to monitor the activities around rail stations on small black-and-white screens filled with images from fixed-mount cameras.Since the London bus bombings in 2005, the MTA has invested $9 million in security upgrades, including the new surveillance system. It also has added dogs that sniff out explosives and has trained more than 9,000 transit workers in detecting suspicious packages and people."We are a lot safer today than we were a year ago, without question," Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said as he toured the MTA's Rail Operations Control facility.The mayor, noting recent terrorists attacks on public transit systems in London, Madrid and Mumbai, tried to reassure L.A. commuters that they are safe."We are absolutely committed to doing everything that we can to protect the riding public," he said.