January 12, 2018
» The Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority seeks a chief executive officer. [More]
» The Maryland Transit Administration is looking for a director of transit operations and chief operations officer. [More]
» The Yuma County (AZ) Intergovernmental Public Transportation Authority requests proposals for operations and maintenance of fixed-route and demand-response service. [More]
View more Classified Ads »
TO PLACE AN AD: E-mail the requested date(s) of publication to: ptads@apta.com. Mailing address is: Passenger Transport, 1300 I Street NW, Suite 1200 East, Washington, DC 20005. Ad copy is not accepted by phone. DEADLINE: 3 p.m. EST, Friday, one week prior to publication date. INFORMATION: Phone (202) 496-4877.

Public Transit Systems Test New Tech to Combat Terrorism

Of the many benefits of using public transportation, not least is ease of access: step off the street; purchase a ticket; enter the system unchallenged; ride. This is a vastly different experience than taking a flight, a fact not lost on potential terrorists who have targeted over recent years the openness of bus and rail systems in Madrid, London, Moscow, Brussels and, most recently, in the passageway linking the Times Square and Port Authority Bus Terminal subway stations in New York City in December.

Traditional airport-style security measures such as funneled checkpoints and individual bag scans are simply not practical at busy rail stations where hundreds of thousands of commuters pass through daily. Testing is underway, however, for technology that addresses the specific and unique demands of public transit hubs: for example, a device that enables operators to scan moving crowds at a distance without slowing them down.

Known as a stand-off explosive detection unit, the SPO-NX from QinetiQ can identify objects that block the naturally occurring emissions emitted by a person’s body and will trigger an alarm if an individual carrying an improvised explosive device passes by the mechanism. Security can then approach that individual without inconveniencing other riders.

The SPO-NX uses advanced passive millimeter wave technology, which means that it emits no radiation. It creates no images of the persons scanned, thereby protecting their privacy. The system can be operated by transit agency employees locally at the sensor head or remotely, for example from a CCTV control. The system is portable and easily redeployable, but can also be fixed on a wall or ceiling mount.

Agencies including the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District and Los Angeles Metro have worked with TSA since 2004 to help evolve and refine this type of equipment.

The sensor heads, top photo, can determine the presence of an improvised explosive device on a person's body. The scan can be seen on a remote screen, bottom photo.

Photos courtesy LA Metro

Tests also have occurred with Amtrak at Washington’s Union Station and at the 2014 Super Bowl with New Jersey Transit Corporation at the Frank R. Lautenberg Rail Station in Secaucus, said TSA spokesperson Lisa Farbstein. Most recently, tests took place in December at one of LA Metro’s busiest transit hubs, the 7th Street Station.

Alex Wiggins, chief system security and law enforcement officer for LA Metro, explained: “We are constantly looking for new security technologies to augment our existing robust security posture on the LA County transit system. This is the second passenger screening system we’ve tested at a Metro transit station in recent months.” He added, “We will continue to evaluate various technologies, with possible implementation of a new passenger screening system this year. Transit agencies have to remain vigilant in seeking out the latest technologies to meet evolving transit security threats.”

TSA Administrator David Pekoske said, “Along with industry partners, we are committed to identifying, testing and deploying technology that addresses threats to transportation across the ­spectrum. We need to innovate and evolve faster than the adversary and, more importantly, deploy technology ahead of the threat-curve.”

Devices such as the SPO-NX are already commercially available; the issue is funding. “When you build a new station, you build in cutting-edge security features: cameras that can detect algorithms, detection for biological and chemical agents, etc.,” said Polly Hanson, APTA director-security, risk and emergency management. “Older systems are trying to layer on security, but you’re competing for scarce federal funding. Funding for aviation security is in the billions, but aviation travelers number in the millions. Funding for transit security is in the millions, but travelers number in the billions,” she noted.

APTA members interested in testing this device should contact TSA’s Office of Requirements and Capabilities Analysis or Hanson.
« Previous Article
Return to Top
Next Article »
© Copyright American Public Transportation Association
1300 I Street NW, Suite 1200 East, Washington, DC 20005
Telephone (202) 496-4882 • Fax (202) 496-4321
Print Version | Search Back Issues | Contact Us | Unsubscribe
Twitter Flickr Blog YouTube Facebook