It’s been a busy couple days in train news, what with the PATH and Second Avenue subway tunnel breaches, plus that mishap on the PATH that injured 30. There’s also a new call from Senator Charles Schumer to increase rail security, which comes after reports that Osama Bin Laden may have been planning an attack on U.S. trains. Schumer wants a “no-ride” list, like the “no-fly” list for airplane passengers, which would require Amtrak passengers to show photo ID that would be cross-checked against the name on their tickets and suspected terrorist lists.
“Anyone, even a member of al-Qaida, could purchase a train trip ticket and board an Amtrak train without so much as a question asked from an Amtrak official,” Schumer said at a news conference. “That’s a glaring loophole.”
Of course, this isn’t a new concern. For a long time, there have been worries that trains (Amtrak and subway) are a weak security spot and that terrorists might target them. But given the nation’s ever-increasing discontent over TSA measures, it’s hard to imagine a no-ride list will be met with much pleasure — after all, at best, it’s an annoyance to prevent greater evil.
Then, of course, come the inevitable questions as to where we draw the line on compromises between personal freedom and security — and how far we go. Shoes? Body scans? Trains, planes, cars, subways, buses, bicycles, pedi-cabs? Not to mention logistics. The only thing we really know is that it’s going to be an ongoing debate for a while, if not always, and an ongoing struggle to achieve any kind of balance. And until something happens that convinces people that trains aren’t safe (and we’re crossing our fingers this doesn’t happen) it’s going to be a challenge to implement security changes that inconvenience travelers and Amtrak itself, we’d venture.
Newsday reports that an Amtrak spokeswoman said they would review Schumer’s proposal.