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Anti-terrorism measures in place for bus travelers

The Transportation Security Administration and the bus industry Wednesday previewed security upgrades now being put into daily use aimed at protecting the riding public from potential terrorist acts.
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The Transportation Security Administration and representatives of the bus industry Wednesday previewed security upgrades now being put into daily use aimed at protecting the riding public from potential terrorist acts. The security measures are the result of $20 million in grants from the TSA to bus companies. The agency has long been criticized for concentrating too much on aviation security in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks at the expense of security measures for over-the-road transportation.

In August the TSA released the $20 million in response to 67 proposals in 25 states and the District of Columbia. The companies receiving the money had to submit vulnerability studies and costs associated with securing them as part of the grant process, TSA said.

The money is being used for a wide range of security upgrades including beefing up physical security of bus stations and maintenance yards and installing airport-like screening procedures and practices. Passenger and baggage screening and the use of hand-held metal detectors are among the most common upgrades cited in the proposals TSA is funding.

GPS goes Greyhound
On Wednesday, TSA, members of Congress and the bus industry demonstrated some of the types of security upgrades being made to buses. For example, a Greyhound bus was shown outfitted with a driver protection shield and global positioning system (GPS) tracking technologies installed.

The shield, which is roughly the equivalent of a fortified cockpit door on an airliner, presents a “significant obstacle” to anyone intent on harming the driver, the TSA said.

The GPS device, coupled with a wireless transmitter, allows the driver instant communication with authorities while continuously providing police with precise geographic location data for the bus.

Other security projects funded by TSA include anti-terrorist training and physical security enhancements including surveillance equipment.

“Great achievements” have been accomplished in aviation security, TSA Administrator James Loy said. The agency is “bringing that commitment to the roads,” Loy said.

“The enhancements that are being demonstrated today will help ensure that whether you travel by air, train or bus, you will arrive safely at your destination.”

Billions for airports, little for buses
The TSA has spent billions of dollars to hire and train airport passenger and baggage screeners, buy bomb detection equipment and beef up physical security in airports. The agency has fortified cockpit doors, begun training pilots to carry guns in the cockpit and trained thousands of undercover federal air marshals to provide in-air protection for planes.

But little, to date, had been done to address vulnerabilities for bus transportation.

“A study conducted by the Mineta Transportation Institute, ‘Protecting Public Surface Transportation against Terrorism and Serious Crime,’ found that during the period 1997-2000, 54 percent of worldwide attacks on surface transportation systems were against buses or bus terminals,” said Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., in a July floor speech in support of providing more money for over-the-road security measures. “Almost 800 million people ride over-the-road buses annually, more than the airlines and Amtrak combined,” Byrd said. “Given the important role that inner-city buses play in the nation’s transportation system and their susceptibility to terrorist attacks, they must be protected.”

Buses have been a consistent favorite target of terrorists throughout the world because “terrorist bombs on buses can yield exceptionally deadly results,” wrote authors Brian Jenkins and Larry Gersten in the Mineta Transportation Institute study cited by Byrd in his speech.

“Open to relatively easy penetration, trains, buses and light rail systems offer an array of vulnerable targets to terrorists who seek publicity, political disruption or high body counts,” Jenkins and Gersten wrote.