Public transport security
Public transport security refers to measures taken by a mass transit system to keep its passengers and employees safe, to protect the carrier's equipment, and to make sure other violations do not occur. This includes the enforcement of various rules and regulations, human and video surveillance, the deployment of a transit police
Transit police
Transit police are a specialized police agency or unit employed by a common carrier, which could be a transit district, railroad, bus line, other transport carrier, or the state...

 force, and other techniques.

Public transport security has become a major issue around the world since the September 11 attacks, and especially the 2004 Madrid train bombings.

In the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, the FBI at times has put the nation's mass transit systems on high alert, and the U.S. Congress has reconsidered cuts in funding following attacks in other parts of the world.. Grants have been given in order to improve security to mass transit systems in the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, while in the United Kingdom, public transport, due to its "open nature", is considered a major potential target for terrorists.

Security measures

It has been proposed that extra security screening of passengers and their bags would be the best option of preventing weapons or bombs on public transport. However, this would also have a number of negative side effects, which could outweigh the benefits, among them:
  • increased (and prohibitive) costs
  • reduced public transport convenience, leading to more car travel (and thus road deaths)
  • making the queues of people waiting for screening vulnerable to attacks
  • creating a sense of fear and a call for further measures and reduced civil liberties

Therefore, some experts recommend against such methods. Like random or profile-based searches of public transport users, they are often considered security theater
Security theater
Security theater is a term that describes security countermeasures intended to provide the feeling of improved security while doing little or nothing to actually improve security. The term was coined by computer security specialist and writer Bruce Schneier for his book Beyond Fear, but has gained...

, because random searches will be unlikely to catch the particular terrorist, and profile-based searching allows the terrorist to reverse engineer
Reverse engineering
Reverse engineering is the process of discovering the technological principles of a device, object, or system through analysis of its structure, function, and operation...

 the search system, using attackers which are unsuspicious.

Passengers are often instructed to be extra-vigilant, including looking out for persons behaving oddly while on or in the vicinity of mass transit vehicles or stations, being dressed out of character for the weather, or leaving behind bags or packages.
However, this has also been criticised as scaremongering, as the likelihood of terror attacks on public transport is, for the individual, very low. Individual attacks are also likely to kill fewer people than an attack on an airplane, and are thus of less attractiveness for terrorists.

Opponents of security theater therefore argue that even very good security around public transport is relatively useless, as it only moves the threat from transport to other targets - such as movie theaters. They instead advocate spending more money on investigative (police and secret service) ways of apprehending terrorists before they can carry out an attack.

Similar arguments have been raised about the United States Federal Air Marshal Service
Federal Air Marshal Service
The Federal Air Marshal Service is a United States federal law enforcement agency under the supervision of the Transportation Security Administration of the United States Department of Homeland Security...

, which provides plainclothes marshals aboard airline flights. According to Congressman John J. Duncan, the air marshalls had led to only 4.2 arrests a year, at an average cost of $200 million per arrest. He argued that this represents a win of the perceived dangers of terror, supported by a profit center-type approach, over realistic spending priorities.

See also

  • Armoured bus
    Armoured bus
    An armoured bus or armored bus is a type of bus which provides increased protection for passengers, usually against small arms and improvised explosive devices. The bus can be a stock commercial bus with retro-fitted vehicle armour as well as bulletproof glass, or a specially built military...

  • Prohibited activities on public transport
    Prohibited activities on public transport
    On most public transport systems, there are at least some activities passengers are prohibited to engage in. Activities like these, which can be restricted in vehicles, stations, and other property of the agency, are prohibited for a variety of reasons...

  • Guardian Angels
    Guardian Angels
    The Guardian Angels is a non-profit international volunteer organization of unarmed citizen crime patrollers. The Guardian Angels organization was founded February 13, 1979 in New York City by Curtis Sliwa and has chapters in 15 countries and 144 cities around the world.Sliwa originally created the...

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