Transit security will be up to state and local governments

News AASHTO Journal July 22, 2005
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The Secretary of the U

The Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security
(DHS) said that the federal government can provide only limited help to states
and local governments to protect transit systems from terrorist attacks. As a
result, Michael Chertoff told the Associated Press, those non-federal officials
must cover most costs of improved subway, train and bus security.

Chertoff’s remarks, made one week after bombs killed more
than 50 people in London on subway and bus systems, drew fire from Democratic
U.S. senators who represent metropolitan areas with heavily used transit
systems.

Chertoff said attacks that could produce many casualties are
his highest priority. Continued U.S. security support for commercial airlines
makes sense because the aviation system is largely a federal responsibility,
while mass transit systems are mostly owned and operated by state and local
authorities.

“The truth of the matter is, a fully loaded airplane with
jet fuel, a commercial airliner, has the capacity to kill 3,000 people,” Chertoff
said. “A bomb in a subway car may kill 30 people. When you start to think about
your priorities, you’re going to think about making sure you don’t have a
catastrophic thing first.”

Senators were outraged at the secretary’s comments.

“To say that the federal government has much less of a
responsibility for mass transit systems because only 30 people might be killed
on a subway bombing is one of the most appalling things that we’ve heard from
any government official from any party in a long time,” said Sen. Charles
Schumer (D-N.Y.)

Chertoff later clarified his initial remark. “We have an
equal responsibility to protect Americans across the board,” he said. “We have
to be partners with everybody but we have to recognize there are differences in
the way we apply our partnership.”

Transit industry representatives have put the cost of
technology to protect mass transit systems in the nation’s 30 largest
metropolitan areas at about $6 billion.

 

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