Justice Gaines (D)- Florida
Senate Committee: Commerce, Science, and Transportation
Security in Public Transportation Systems
Public transportation is highly important to the United States. Public
transportation can be defined as any form of transportation that charge set fares, run fixed
routes and are available to the public. 1 Buses, subways, trains, ferries, taxis, and airplanes
are the most common forms of public transportation. In major cities, subways and taxis
are exceptionally popular transit though almost all forms are used. In more rural areas of
the nation buses and trains take a more active role. Airports are spread out across the U.S.
making airplanes one of the most used forms of public transportation. Public
transportation is very beneficial to the citizens across the nation especially in times of a
recession. It is both quick and usually affordable to almost everyone. In nearly all cases it
is less expensive than one driving their own car. According to a recent survey, using
public transportation can save a person over $8,000 a year. 2 Citizens have seemed to
notice this as well. The number of Americans who used public transportation from 2007
to 2008 increased 4%. 3 Simultaneously, the miles citizens drove on American roads
decreased by 3.6%.4 It is obvious that public transit is an incredibly significant part of the
American way of life. However, it is also very important the government keep these
systems safe, affordable, and fast.
Public transportation has been the target of many terrorist attacks.
In 1993, the first main land terrorist attack on the U.S. occurred. A car bomb exploded
beneath the World Trade Centers. It killed six people and injured over 1000. However,
the bomb was designed to kill thousands more. 5 This attempt represented a new, more
violent from of terrorism. Less than a decade later, a far worse assault took place in New
York, New York. This was the attack of September 11, 2001. On this day, terrorists
hijacked four transcontinental airplanes. They flew one into each Twin Tower, one into
“Transit News Features.”Public Transportation. 11 Mar 2009. <http://www.publictransportation.org/>
“Transit News.”APTA. 9 March 2009. <http://www.apta.com/media/releases/090309_ridership.cfm>
“February 1993 Bombing of the World Trade Center in New York City.”CNS. 12 Sept. 2001.
the pentagon, and attempted but failed to hit the Whitehouse thanks to the amazing
courage of the passengers of Flight 93. The weapons the terrorists were using were not
the planes, but rather the jet fuel within them. This is why those chose to hijack
transcontinental flights. 6 Almost 3,000 people died in the attacks of 9/11. 7 It was a date
that changed America forever. It also showed that terrorist organizations had found a new
way to attack the U.S., public transportation.
Almost instantaneously after the attacks of 9/11, the Transportation Security
Administration (TSA) was formed as a component of the Department of Homeland
Security. The TSA is in charge of overseeing and setting guidelines for all public transit
in the 50 states and the commonwealth of Puerto Rico. 8 This organization has stepped up
the security in mass-transit tremendously since it was founded with new rules,
regulations, and restrictions. However, not a year passed from the forming of the TSA
that a new terrorist threatened the lives of civilians. Richard Reid is known as one of the
most bizarre terrorist America has seen. In 2002, Reid made a bomb in the sole of his
shoe and attempted to blow up American Airlines Flight 63. 9 Luckily, a flight attendant
smelled the burning of a match and a few passengers saw a fuse extruding from the shoe
of the bomber. In a conjoint effort, the passengers and crew of the flight stopped Reid’s
attack and no one was hurt except possibly Reid. Effective immediately, the TSA set new
guidelines on airport security. The TSA is a key element in securing public
Since 2002, there have been no major main land attacks on the U.S. However,
there were recent terrorist bombings in the UK, one of the U.S.’s close allies. Once again,
the public transportation system was targeted. In early July of 2005 in London, three
suicide bombers struck the subway system killing 52 people and injuring over 700 more.
A little later, another bomber targeted a double-decker bus. 10 These attacks devastated the
“The Physics of the World Trade Center Tragedy.” Muller. <http://muller.lbl.gov/teaching/Phys
“Death, destruction, charity, salvation, war, money, real estate, spouses, babies, and other September 11
statistics.” New York Times. <http://nymag.com/news/articles/wtc/1year/numbers.htm>
“What is TSA?” Transportation Security Administration.
“The Shoe Bomber’s World.” TIME. 16 Feb. 2002.
“7 July Bombing.” BBC News.
capital of England. Exactly two weeks later, terrorists attempted another attack with the
same strategy. Fortunately, the explosive devises failed this occasion. 11 These attacks
caused the United States to take a second look at its subway and train security. TSA
heightened security measures in many of the railroad companies including Amtrak. A
year directly after the attacks, TSA once again added more restrictions on airlines. Yet,
even with the occurrence of these bombings in London at least 75% of bus and rail
systems in the U.S. have not met Homeland Security guidelines. 12 This number is
outrageous compared to the 96% of airlines that do meet the standards. 13
The state of Florida feels that security in public transportation is of utmost
importance in the U.S. Three days after the destruction of September 11 th, Governor Jeb
Bush called on the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) and the Division of
Emergency Management (DEM) to assess Florida’s ability to prevent, mitigate, and
respond to terrorist attacks. 14 FDLE was in control of leading crisis management, while
DEM was in charge of consequence management. 15In these assessments the issue of
public transportation security was addressed multiple times. They both strengthened
security in the main sectors of mass-transit used in Florida. To help spread instruction to
public transport agencies the University of South Florida assembled the Florida Public
Transportation Anti-Terrorism Resource Guide. 16 This guide also provided information
on resources to help the agencies improve their security measures as well as protect their
systems against potential terrorist threats. However, the state of Florida believes that
more can still be done to further secure public transportation.
The Democratic Party fervently feels that security in public transportation needs
to continue to be strengthened. Since 9/11, Democrats have tackled this problem
whenever possible. They have even reached across the isle to introduce bills such as the
“21 July Bombings.” BBC News.
“Rail lines, bus systems show security shortfalls.” USA Today. 28 Jan. 2009.
“Florida Public Transportation Anti-Terrorism Resource Guide.” University of South Florida. Apr. 2002.
Public Transportation Terrorism Prevention and Response Act of 2004. 17 Democratic
Sen. Harry Reid also supported reaching across the isle on this topic as he wrote letters to
Republicans to build support for additional bills that addressed the same issue. 18 The
Democratic Party believes that the federal government should be a huge factor in the
reinforcement and improvement of public transportation security. The funding for any
project put forth by this committee to solve this problem should be from federal agencies.
Democrats have written letters to Homeland Security stating the concern that this has not
been happening on a big enough scale. 19 Ever since the call for increased security in
mass-transit, the railroad industry has spent $2.5 billion in increased measures. The
Department of Homeland Security currently has only given only to $384 million to the
American Public Transportation Association for this cause. In response, APTA President
William Millar stated, “You can pay me now, or you can pay me later; it’s that simple.” 20
Not only does government need to help fund projects to increase security, it also needs to
make sure that public transportation companies are complying with APTA, TSA, and
Homeland Security standards. As stated above, at least 75% of bus and rail systems do
not meet these terms. The government should require that these transportation industries
write annual reports to prove they are fulfilling most if not all safety and security
requirements. It has been suggested by citizens and Democrats of Florida that this issue
be addressed in the bailout package. However, the Democratic Party will not push this
suggestion, as it is only important that this problem is solved. It is imperative this
committee can work together to resolve this issue and reassure security in public
transportation to confirm the safety of Americans and tourists alike in Florida and across
“Public Transportation Terrorism Prevention Bill Introduced In U.S. House.” Tom Petri. 15 Sept. 2004.
“REID: The Senate Should Address the American People’s Priorities.” Democrats.Senate.Gov. 6 June
2006. < http://democrats.senate.gov/newsroom/record.cfm?id=256547&>
“Debate rises over funding for public transportation security.” Government Executive.com. 5 Apr. 2004.
“Transportation Industry.” BNET. May 2007.