Amtrak "no ride" poll.

As I voted on the recent poll, should Amtrak start using a "no ride" list like the airlines "no fly" list, I was suprised to find that better than 10% of those who voted as of today voted no. No meaning they don't think we need the same security and peace of mind on a train as we have on a plane. I find that very interesting. Granted a bomb explosion on a train may have a different effect than on a plane. Or the same I suppose for hijacking of a train vs plane. Yes it may be different but could still have devastating results.

I agree sense 911 we all get some what frustrated going through all the security meassures that take place when flying. Just curious to find out why anyone would think different when taking a train. I look forward to a respond from those who think different.


  • Well, I think you've largely answered your own question.

    Trains are tough, on the ground, and incapable of moving far beyond a set track,  and fueled -when they are; a lot of the NEC is electric, and the NEC has almost half of the passenger - with diesel.  The risks to the public at large, as well as those actually on each train, is almost infinitesimal compared to being six miles up in a giant cigar tube with many, many gallons of JP nearby.

  • I agree with anmccaff.  Much of the security we are accorded in air travel is, to put it politely, feel-goodism.  The poll was whether we believed there should be a "no-ride" list, not a broad survey of our views of transportation security.  When one considers all the non-threatening people who have managed by some unknown process to find themselves on the "no-fly" list, you might have the same concern about your security in the air that I do.  The late Sen. Edward Kennedy was on the "no-fly" list for a time.  All that said, I don't have any confidence in the security apparatus keeping me any safer on trains than in the air.  Recalling the Amtrak Sunset Ltd. derailment in Arizona is 1995, it's fairly clear that a would-be terrorist can wreck an Amtrak train from outside the train; he or she doesn't need to be on the train.  Remember, the object of terrorism is to terrorize.  

  • I agree with both repliers.. (is that a word) Tickets would have to be purchased in advance, showing your name,  baggage would have to be screened , I believe that the confusion and waste of time at each stop would not justify the added time and cost. I also agree that most Railroad terrorism would be caused from outside of the train..

  • The 3:10 to YUMA did not have a "no-ride passenger consist"

  • Finally!  A comment from Railwayist that actually is worth reading.  Thanks for the chuckle.

  • The TSA, Patriot Act, NetNeutrality, etc. are tools to bring Americans more firmly under control rather than tools to control terrorism.

    To better control terrorism, we might bring our own border security under control.

    Let's keep Amtak free from this hysteria so we can build a system the public finds convenient, affordable and truly secure.    

  • Ugh.  As though we don't have enough political raving and ranting, we now have it invading the world of passenger rail.  Sky_Rail does an excellent job of hiding his identity, but it doesn't make his anti-government screed any more acceptable.  Yes, we should solve the problem of illegal immigration, but the fence that was decreed during the Bush Administration doesn't seem to have stopped many poor Latinos who come here looking for jobs and hopefully a better life for their families.  Yes, terrorists could come across the border, but remember, all 19 of the 9/11 murderers were here on government issued visas.  They didn't have to sneak across an undefended border.  Unfortunately, immigration reform has become a code-word for closing the door on immigration, something that would have kept my forebears and I suspect Sky_Rail's out of this country.  Until the 20th Century, there were no quota systems, except for certain "undesirable" oriental people.  

    As for Sky_Rail's initial sentence, I don't fear the government trying to bring me under control.  I don't think the people running the government are smart enough or good enough to do so.

    If there is any hysteria - and I don't believe there is - it is from the very people who would close our borders.

    Sky_Rail is to be commended for wanting an Amtrak free from hysteria.  As the creatures residing on George Orwell's "Animal Farm," might have said: Hysteria bad; Amtrak good.

  • In case we've forgotten, 9/11 involved using showed that aircraft could be used as ersatz guided missiles.

    Unless the terrorists lay track awfully fast, its hard to see an intercity train being driven into the side of a skyscraper to take it down.

  • No, but when you remember that the purpose of terrorism is to terrorize, the train doesn't have to be used as the weapon. Ahmed with and RPG can put one into a tank car and cause all sorts of havoc.  Or, he can derail and wreck an Amtrak train and really terrorize people.  

    The Sunset Ltd. was intentionally derailed between Phoenix and Yuma in 1995, killing one and injuring many.  The saboteur had separated a section of bolted rail without breking the signal wire connection, so dispatch didn't even know there was a problem.  Despite FBI boasts that "We'll get this guy.  We're the FBI, and we catch people like this," it's still an unsolved example of sabotage of a passenger train.  The same thing had been done years earlier.

  • While it is certainly true that an attack could be launched from inside a passenger rail car, the primary threat to rail comes from external sources. Bridges, tunnels, yard facilities, cars left unsecured trackside, alteration of switches, etc.

    As noted by others, most of the TSA security serves to give the passenger a "feel good" notion that all this personal attention makes us safer in the air. Such is hardly the case. I imagine most of us can (I know I can) relate anecdotal stories of someone passing security and boarding a plan with dangerous tools (I met a law enforcement officer who once passed through security not just once, but two times while accidentally carrying a live ammunition clip for his service weapon).

    Would any of this sort of security screening be worthwhile for passenger rail travel? I doubt it, and the cost in terms of dollars and time will be substantial. And the logistics? A total nightmare. Most rail stations are simply not physically adapted for efficient screening. And what about such facilities as Penn Station in NYC? Where would this security take place: at the entrance to the platforms (and there are how many in that station?), at the entrances to the station, on the platform itself? Would all subway passengers debarking at the many stops within Penn Station require screening just to pass from their train out through the station to the street? Can you even imagine the confusion?

    No-Ride Lists for Amtrak is a concept based on a poor understanding of the real threat to rail traffic. It is the infrastructure that is most vulnerable. Our limited security dollars should be directed at finding real solutions for that problem rather than wasted on efforts that will simply make passenger rail travel complicated, less efficient, and undesirable.

  • forgingahead's rational discussion of rail security should be mandatory reading for anyone who is involved in the security business or who even things about it.  With air travel security, just the design of airports makes a security screening operation feasible: all passengers for all flights of all airlines must pass through a single security point.  At Ft. Lauderdale, where the airport was not designed for such, people spill out into a corridor while waiting their turn to go through the screening.  

    As for cost, forgingahead is correct again.  We all pay a 9/11 fee/tax to pay for security screening.  I don't recall whether it fully covers or only defrays, but we do pay it; no free lunches for travelers in the U.S.

    Want further evidence that TSA, or in this case, its sister agency Customs and Border Protection, is a fraud?  All workers who enter "secure" areas of ports must have a Transportation Wolrker Idenfitication Card (TWIC).  Several hundred thousands have been issued at a cost of more than $100 each.  There is supposed to be biometric screening of the cards (you know, examine the retina, things like that) only the scanners/readers never have been approved or deployed.  So, at huge expense to businesses that only want to move freight efficiently and economically, we have a system that relies solely on a card that provides no more security than an ordinary driver license.  

    I could not be more pleased that TSA was created along with DHS following the 9/11 attacks.  I'd hate to think that DOT was responsible for this boondoggle.  And for all you conservatives anmd tea party advocates out there who adamantly demand government spending cuts, you might give some consideration to starting with Department of Homeland Security.  All of the agencies in that department existed before it was created, so its disappearance probably would not make us any less secure than we are now.

  • Hello there,

    The "No-Fly List" is a dangerously secretive, vindictive avenue which prevents good and bad from traveling. There is no court, no legal proceeding I have heard of and no recourse to protect against being on the list. When Amtrak trains need government, aka funds from the passengers, enforcing an entire expensive bureaucracy for a non-apparent threat is insane and pure definition of wasteful.

    I have flown several times in the last few years only to find "contraband" such as a screwdriver in my winter coat pocket last month which the vaunted TSA blew by as they were stealing my shaving cream and shampoo.

    The terrorist threat has circumvented railroads by utilizing rental cars which are more convenient, less suspicious, less expensive, more useful on each end of their travel. Case in point, terrorists who traveled between NYC and Denver, CO by rental car.

    Personally, when every other member of the economy is experiencing DEFLATION, we should strip Warren Buffet and other billionaires of some of the public pickpocketing they do and pay for down the national debt.


  • Well, RicU, you were doing just fine, if intemperate, until you got to Warren Buffett.  Then, you simply made a fool of yourself.

    Just a few points on security.  No one ever guaranteed that airport screening would snare 100% of the items that passengers are not allowed to bring on airplanes.  There used to a blade length standard that allowed the smallest size Swiss Army knife to get through; no longer.  The lotions and potions rule (3 oz. max, everything in a quart plastic bag, no gallon bags allowed) is mindless.  Let's also remember that it was a panicky Congress that created TSA and gave it the authority to be mindless.

    As for terrorists using rental cars to get from NY to Denver, you have it backwards.  The terrorists in that case happened to live and work in Denver and used the rental car to carry the bomb that was supposed to explode in Times Square.  Even a dumb TSA screener probably would have caught a bomb of that size, so of course they didn't try to fly to NY.  It's amazing how differently some things appear when you go to the trouble of ensuring accuracy.

    Finally, just what are you babbling about with your snotty comment about Buffett?  At the moment, you are unintelligible.  And, having experienced the inflation unleased on our nation by a series of Presidents of both Democrat and Republican persuasion, I am inclined to think that deflation is not the worst thing that could happen.  

    If you'd like to engage in dialog, come on in; the water's fine.  But if you just wish to rave and rant, you might consider doing so elsewhere.

  • Each mode of transportation is of a different nature, and if you're talking security, you really can't apply the same set of standards to every mode.

    If the issue is "taking control" of the vehicle and running it off course, rail is just about the only mode of transportation where you *can't* do that.

    If the issue is securing the people inside from other people inside that might have ill intentions, then really, why stop at trains (or, even, any mode of public transportation)?  Why don't we have "do not allow entry" lists into sports arenas, public shopping malls, university campuses, etc.?  You need a ticket to get into a sporting event, but it's not tied to any name or any list, and while most places will now take a quick peek inside your bag (mostly looking for people trying to sneak in their own alcohol), few, if any, are really giving a thorough security screening.  Few other crowded public places even require any kind of admission ticket, and virtually none of them require one to identify him/herself before entering.

    So, if the issue is to "stop terrorists," then the real answers are to either 1) secure every single public place out there (which is basically impossible), 2) stop terrorists before they get here (the various options of which are beyond the purpose of this board so I won't elaborate), or 3) just accept that there is a very small, but nonzero risk that something might happen somewhere, and remain vigilant (but not overly so that simply being in public becomes uncomfortable for everyone).

    The "no ride" list itself is ridiculous because, on most trains, passengers aren't even checked if they have a ticket until after the train has departed.  Even if they do have a ticket, Amtrak conductors on busy trains aren't going to be able to check ID for every passenger to see that it matches the name on the ticket (if someone was on the no-ride list, they could just book a ticket with someone else's name on it).  Lastly, what good would a "no-ride" list on Amtrak do, on a train with 200-300 people on it, when you have commuter trains, running on the same tracks, covering the same areas, with 5-10 times as many people on board, with absolutely no way of checking a single one of them to see if they're on the list?

    Like most other transportation security initiatives in the past decade, this would amount to security theater, but not result in any appreciable increase in actual security.

  • By jove, I think he's got it.  No disagreement here, homsar.