Does Aviation Security Trump Public Transportation Security?

By Matthew Harwood

With deadly terrorist atrocities in London and Madrid revealing the vulnerability of the nation's public transit systems to attack, a Boston television investigative team wants to know why aviation security receives so much funding as opposed to public transport security.

According to Team 5 Investigates, part of an ABC-affiliate in Boston:

... more than 26 million passengers travel through Logan Airport each year, slightly more than the 20 million who ride the [Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority] during the average month, according to the MBTA transit police chief.

But the American Public Transit Association told Team 5 Investigates that more than $30 billion have been spent on aviation security since the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, compared to just $1.5 billion for security on public transportation.“That translates to less than four cents on the dollars for public transportation versus aviation security,” said MBTA transit chief Paul MacMillan. “Terrorists have attacked mass transit systems overseas. It's clear it is a vulnerable target and we have to do all we can to protect it.”

Nevertheless, Team 5 Investigates stressed how important public transport riders are to security. With the cooperation of MBTA Security, one unattended backpack was left between two ticket machines and another one was left in front of the fare gates where the morning rush pushes through. Watching over security's surveillance system, the team says the bags sat there for 10 minutes before a commuter alerted security to one of the unattended and suspicious bags.

During the hour-long test, Team 5 Investigates reports only a handful of commuters alerted security to the bags.

♦ Photo by Kingdafy/Flickr


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