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Expert: Timely Security Intelligence Needed to Protect Railways

In testimony before the House Homeland Security Committee's Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Science and Technology Homeland Security, the president of the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) called for more timely receipt of warnings and better access to information.

"A vital component of ensuring public transit's ability to prepare and respond to critical events is the timely receipt of security intelligence in the form of threats, warnings, advisories and access to informational resources," William Millar told the subcommittee.

The subcommittee, responding to the terrorist railway attacks in London and Madrid, called the special hearing to address rail security in the United States and how to make rail transit more secure. Needs, vulnerabilities and best practices were shared with subcommittee members, with emphasis on communications with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and funding requirements.

Representatives from Washington Metro, New York MTA and Los Angeles MTA testified on behalf of the transit industry. Members of the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Transit Administration, as well as Millar, also testified.

Shortly after the London attacks, Millar noted that increased transit security included increased police presence, security sweeps, canine patrols, and ridership alerts. "Every day on Orange Alert costs transit systems at least $900,000 a day," reveald Millar, who added, "National security is the responsibility of the federal government. This responsibility goes beyond mandating a national alert level."

He said it is the federal government's responsibility to bear the cost of a federally mandated Orange Alert.

Last year, a survey conducted by APTA revealed that U.S. transit agencies need $6 billion to improve transit security; this figure does not include the cost for maintaining Orange Alert security. The Senate narrowly defeated legislation to fund transit security at $1.16 billion in FY 2006 and instead voted to provide less than one-tenth that amount – $100 million – for transit security in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Appropriations bill. Earlier, the House voted to provide $150 million for transit security. A conference committee will meet to ultimately determine the amount of money that DHS will provide for transit security in FY 2006.

"Public transportation has been a target around the world for 25 years," continued Millar. "How many attacks will it take – successful or failed – before Congress and the Department of Homeland Security decide that transit security is as important a priority as aviation security?"

Some 32 million times a day, people take public transportation – a figure that is 16 times more than travel on domestic airlines. However, the aviation industry has received $18.1 billion from DHS in the period from 9/11 through May 31, 2005, while the public transportation industry has only been allotted $250 million from DHS in the same period.

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