Good Intentions, Bad Idea.
One of the major advantages of traveling by train is not having to empty your pockets, take off your shoes, and pass through a metal detector before boarding. But a couple of years ago, when one of Amtrak’s Florida trains stopped at Savannah, Georgia, the TSA was there and they ran everyone getting off the train through a security check. That’s right, everyone getting OFF the train. Obviously, that made no sense. Amtrak pitched a fit and, as I recall, eventually someone at TSA apologized.
But now there’s a report in a couple of industry publications saying Senators Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Cory Booker from New Jersey, both Democrats, are calling on the TSA to implement security and safety improvements on all of the country’s passenger rail systems.
Senators, we sincerely appreciate your concern, but . . . Are you freakin’ crazy??
Amtrak has more than 500 stations and more than a few of those are in the middle of nowhere where, on a busy night, five or six passengers may board. And TSA is going to be there? At what cost? And for what purpose? To intercept a terrorist who decides to launch his diabolic plot by boarding the Empire Builder when it arrives in Staples, Minnesota, two hours late at 3:30 a.m.? Seriously?
And then there’s the whole business of commuter rail. Are they proposing that the millions of commuters pouring into major cities from the suburbs all have to take their shoes off, empty their pockets, and pass through metal detectors twice a day, five days a week?
Let me emphasize that both senators are supporters of passenger rail, and those of us who are advocates for more and better trains are deeply appreciative of their efforts. But there is a much better, not to mention more practical approach to improving security on America’s trains: additional financial support from the federal government for the purpose of expanding and improving the Amtrak Police.