New MTA Security Measures Are Welcome
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority last Tuesday allocated $212 million for a new security system that will feature 1,000 cameras and 3,000 sensors deployed throughout more than 700 subway and commuter rail stations. The system includes closed circuit television cameras, motion detectors, and intelligent video software that can detect suspicious activity on subways, buses, bridges and tunnels and will be designed to foil terrorists and monitor the transportation network. A so-called “intelligent system”, the network is able to expand in the face of evolving threats. Subway stations, bridges and tunnels operated by the MTA and the Metro-North and Long Island Rail rRad commuter lines will be recipients of the upgraded security devices.
The MTA made the announcement approximately one month after a program of random bag checks was initiated in the wake of bombings on London subways. It was the first truly substantial outlay for security by the MTA. The agency had approved a $591 million security plan in 2002, but had spent only a fraction of the total until the deal with Lockheed Martin Transportation and Security Solutions to supply the security system was made public.
On Monday, the MTA also said it would request proposals from telecommunications concerns for building a wireless network in underground subway stations that would allow cell phones to be used. It’s a change in the MTA’s position—previously, the authority had suggested that building such a network would be too costly and risky, fearing that the devices could be used to detonate bombs, the case in terrorist attacks in London and Madrid. MTA officials, however, have decided that the ability to use cell phones would ultimately improve safety by allowing passengers and workers to call 911 operators and family and friends in emergencies.
There are caveats to any innovation. Cell phones will not be usable in subway tunnels, just on station platforms despite some subway riders’ claims that subway tunnels are one place where working cell phone connections are not only necessary, but vital. And we have to point out that eliminating the position of booth clerk and instituting one-person-operated trains will cost far more in passenger and employee safety in the long run than the MTA can possibly save at first glance. While we hail the new measures, we ask that the MTA reconsider its position on these.
Cavils aside, the new measures are a welcome development. The transit system—subways, buses, commuter trains—is a vital part of New York City. We applaud the MTA for its willingness to install a security system and a communications upgrade that will go far to inspire confidence and foster passenger safety, helping New York City to retain its title as Capital of the World.