Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

January 4, 2006

Designing safer transit security: a new report

Filed under: Ground Transport Security,Infrastructure Protection — by Christian Beckner on January 4, 2006

The UCLA International Institute has just published an article highlighting a new report on designing safer transit security, soon to be released by the Ronald W. Burkle Center for International Relations at UCLA and the Mineta Transport Institute. Although the full report is not yet available, the main ideas in it are previewed in this article.

Some of the key findings:

According to UCLA Urban Planning Chair Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, who led a team of researchers in a study of post-9/11 mass-transit security in the United States and foreign capitals, casualties in bombing attacks on mass transit result mainly from flying shrapnel, and replacing glass and other materials is cheaper than many upgrades. Good environmental design, which is easiest to achieve when transit stations are first built, also makes packages hard to hide and has the welcome side-effect of reducing petty crime.


One contentious issue among policy-makers is whether to ask for passengers’ assistance in identifying suspicious packages and other threats. In the United States, Loukaitou-Sideris said, educational campaigns designed to involve transit riders in security are not advanced.

Loukaitou-Sideris contrasted the approaches of officials in London who encourage input from riders and some in Madrid who fear that announcements about suspicious packages will scare people away. She prefers the British approach and argues that, with concerns about terrorism running high globally, “I don’t think that announcements over the microphones are really going to scare people.”

This looks like a sensible, well-researched study at first impression, and the survey data from nearly 250 transit agencies worldwide should provide a valuable baseline assessment for future transit security initiatives. I look forward to seeing the full report.

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