New Jersey begins screening rail passengers
Commuters heading to work in Manhattan walk through metal detectors at a busy train station and feed their bags into X-ray machines — marking the start of a test of an airport-style security screening program.
The $1 million test program began in February as a response to a congressional directive to explore methods for preventing nuclear, chemical, biological and explosive terrorist threats after the attacks on London and Madrid.
The program at the Exchange Place PATH station in New Jersey is designed to see how well the technology works for large numbers of daily rail travelers. The equipment was desensitized so that keys, loose change and cell phones would not set off alarms.
The scanners are intended to detect large quantities of metal, as in the explosives vests used by suicide bombers in the Middle East, Doug Bauer, an official with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, tells The Associated Press.
The 30-day pilot project, led by the Department of Homeland Security, is part of a two-phase program with a $10 million price tag. In 2004, the Transportation Security Administration conducted a similar pilot program at New Carrollton and Union Station in the Washington, D.C. area and in New Haven, Conn. But federal officials used different equipment and passengers were selected randomly for testing.
“What they are expecting out of this project is to collect information on customer wait times and impact on operations,” says Larry Orluskie, a DHS spokesman. “The idea is to not hinder people.”In an effort to keep passengers moving quickly through the system, commuters will not be required to take off their shoes or empty their pockets. The screening process should take about one minute, officials say.
If the test is considered successful, similar equipment could be used on the rest of the Port Authority Trans-Hudson train system and on other mass transit systems around the country, authorities say.