TRANSIT: Blumenthal presses for better transit security

April 25, 2016

Citing terrorist attacks on mass transit targets in Brussels, Madrid, Moscow and elsewhere, the Senator is seeking boosted security for transit systems across the nation.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) is calling on the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to implement overdue security standards for train and bus systems in the country.

Transit mega-hubs in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and other major cities obviously need strong security, he said, but smaller locations -- such as Amtrak's Hartford, New Haven and Stamford stations -- should be made safer, too, he said Friday.

Blumenthal is pressing the TSA, which is best known for airport security, to step up work to better secure railroads, long-haul buses and transit systems.

"Our passenger rail systems carry five times as many passengers as airlines," Blumenthal told TSA Administrator Peter Neffenger in a letter Friday. Blumenthal released the message publicly after a press conference at New Haven's Union Station about the topic.

Nine years ago, Congress directed the TSA to set national standards for how public transportation operators plan terrorism prevention, how they train their front-line staff about terrorism, and how they screen employees -- from engineers and bus drivers to mechanics and ticket clerks -- with rigorous background checks.

"My main complaint is that it's been nearly a decade that these standards have been mandatory, but we still don't have them," said Blumenthal, who has established a reputation as the Senate's top advocate for rail safety.

The TSA has said that setting national standards is complex and time-consuming, but Neffenger has promised to speed up the work.