Mass transit systems increasing security

Mass transit systems along the East Coast are increasing security measures in the wake of the bombing of a train station in Madrid, Spain, last month and the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

"We've implemented security changes, and we're constantly reviewing them on a daily basis," said John McCarthy, spokesman for New York City's Metropolitan Transportation Authority. "We are taking every precaution to ensure the security of our customers and employees."

McCarthy said MTA officials work closely with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the New York Police Department.

New York's system also has an initiative called "See Something, Say Something," which encourages riders to alert police or a subway employee when they see an abandoned bag. This is similar to the Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority's campaign called, "Excuse me, is that your bag?"

Most mass transit systems, like the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, which serves the Boston area, have followed suit in trying to involve riders through safety programming.

"The most important part of our safety program is a targeted education campaign to help customers like you prepare for emergencies," MBTA General Manager Michael Mulhern said in a press release.

As The Eagle previously reported, Metro officials recently spent $180,000 in portable X-ray kits, surveillance cameras, tools to identify chemical weapons and other equipment. This is in addition to having extra transit police officers on duty during rush hours and special response teams with machine guns and dogs that detect explosives.

However, officials still face the daunting task of securing systems that were meant to be easy to use, such as the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority in the Philadelphia area.

"We have to provide public transportation every day. You cannot shut down the system like you can an airport," SEPTA spokesman Richard Maloney said. "We have 16,000 bus stops. We can't put a metal detector at every bus stop."

The Philadelphia mass transit system is now in its second audit by the federal government to identify any weak spots and is receiving more funding for security measures.

"It's obvious from 9/11, that we've learned lessons since then," Maloney said, adding that transit officials have to plan for similar events as well as they can. "Our ridership is more perceptive of terrorist threats, and this has been ratcheted up since Spain"

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