People use public transportation vehicles more than 34 million times each day. This is 18 times the number of people that board our nation’s domestic airlines.

Yet a recent U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) evaluation of mass transit systems found that 77 percent of the largest systems in the country are failing to meet Homeland Security guidelines, compared to a compliance rate of 96 percent for airports.

Despite this glaring need to strengthen our national commitment to securing public transportation infrastructure, each year, the government spends a fraction of the billions of dollars devoted to aviation security on securing mass transit systems.

In 2007, Congress enacted the “Improving America’s Security Act of 2007” (P.L. 110-28), which implemented many recommendations made by the 9/11 Commission, including improving the security of public transportation systems. The law authorized $3.4 billion in funding between fiscal years 2008 and 2011 for the Transit Security Grant Program.

Numerous Physical Security Needs

This money can be used by transit systems for a variety of physical security improvements, including the acquisition and installation of perimeter security, access control, video surveillance and fire suppression systems. During a recent congressional hearing, Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Assistant Administrator John Sammon noted the importance of electronic security products to public transportation, saying they make “transit systems more secure by expanding the deployment of surveillance, monitoring and detection technologies to improve intrusion and anomaly detection, strengthen access control measures and otherwise add layers to harden facility security.”
The Transit Security Grant Program provides funding for five distinct modes of transportation: freight rail security, intercity bus security, transit security, trucking security and ferry security. From FY03 to FY07, the Department of Homeland Security allocated approximately $570 million in grant funds. In FY08 and FY09, the program received $388 million, which was far less than the authorized amount. The Security Industry Association (SIA) is advocating for full funding of this program to ensure that end-users have the resources needed to make physical security enhancements.

Depending on Transportation

According to SIA, “With nearly 11 billion Americans taking trips on public transportation to save time and money, there is no greater moment for Congress and the federal government to reaffirm its commitment to safeguarding our nation’s public transportation infrastructure and protecting the Americans who ride these systems each day. This can be accomplished by fully funding the Transit Security Grant Program at $900 million in FY2010 and ensuring that these critical resources are sent directly to transit authorities without a match requirement.”
Officials must also work to ensure that all of the money that is appropriated is actually distributed to transit systems. Unfortunately, that has not been the case over the past few years. Rep. David Price, D-N.C., the chairman of the Appropriations Committee’s Homeland Security Subcommittee, noted at a recent hearing that “99 percent of allocated 2007 rail and transit grant funds have not been spent, in addition to 93 percent of 2006 funds.” Rep. Price went on to stress the obvious need for funding to reach end-users: “While thus far we have been spared the violent attacks that have occurred elsewhere, we must be ever vigilant in our efforts to prevent incidents from occurring here.”
SIA and its members feel this same urgency. We as a nation must work harder to protect the nation’s public transportation infrastructure. SIA will continue to work with policy makers to advocate for full funding of the Transit Security Grant Program and adoption of additional policies that will improve the overall security of mass transit systems.