Commuters heading to work in Manhattan walked through metal detectors Tuesday at a busy train station and fed their bags into X-ray machines at the start of a test of an airport-style security screening program.
The $1 million test program is a response to the train bombings in Madrid and London.
The program at the Exchange Place PATH station is designed to see how well the technology works for large numbers of daily rail travelers. The equipment was desensitized so keys, loose change and cell phones wouldn’t set off alarms.
The scanners are intended to detect large quantities of metal, as in the explosives vests used by suicide bombers in the Middle East, said Doug Bauer, an official with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
In an effort to keep passengers moving quickly through the system, commuters won’t be required to take off their shoes or empty their pockets. The screening process should take about one minute, officials said.
Commuter Timothy Warren said that since the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attack across the Hudson River he still gets “a little nervous going that way,” and he thought the 30 seconds it took to be screened was acceptable.
“But if it gets a little slower, like if it takes three to five minutes, then it will be a pain,” said Warren, 38, a computers systems engineer from Summit.
If the test is considered successful, similar equipment could be used on the rest of the Port Authority Trans-Hudson train system and on other mass transit systems around the country, authorities said.
About 15,000 passengers a day pass through the Exchange Place station.