If this is how Metro is going to spend our money, then I want my fare increase back.

4 minute read

December 16, 2010, 7:31 PM

So Metro posted this little gem on YouTube today:

So Metro really thinks that security theater will make us safer? Really? Didn’t we like just discuss this a couple of years ago? I still firmly stand by what I said two years ago, and that is that it’s a waste of time and money.

When will Metro get the idea that security theater will not make us safer? If they are going to screen everybody, then that’s security. However, if you do that, you’ve also defeated the purpose of the subway, transporting people between points within the city or region in a relatively fast amount of time, by creating long security lines at every mezzanine and elevator. If you’re going to randomly screen people, you’re only inconveniencing a few, but for what benefit? If thirty terrorists with bombs all go in at once…?

On that same note, local cable channel TBD, in an article about the screenings, wrote, “Taborn declined to say how frequently they would screen passengers, saying that would undermine the program, but he said the agency would be considerate of how busy stations are and would avoid creating bottlenecks.” So they make an already ineffective method even more ineffective. So if they’re trying to prevent someone from blowing up a crowded Metro station during rush hour, they’ve just defeated themselves. So they might as well just pack up and go home, since Taborn just admitted that even with their new “security” methods, it’s still going to be wide open at the big, well-used stations. So you won’t be able to smuggle your bombs in at little stations that no one cares about like Benning Road and its single entrance, but it’s open season at Metro Center with its four entrances and zillions of riders.

Additionally, realize that their idea of having a choice is that you can refuse the search, but you have to leave the items that they want to search outside of fare control. So the terrorists will detonate their bombs in the mezzanine rather than on the platform. Or, wait – leave entirely, and walk a block or two to the second entrance that many stations have and go in over there. Or perhaps an entirely separate elevator entrance. Judiciary Square, for instance, has four completely separate entrances: an escalator outside of One Judiciary Square, another escalator at the National Building Museum, and then two elevator entrances that bypass the mezzanine completely and go straight to the platform. So hypothetially, someone intent on causing chaos could go into Judiciary Square station via the One Judiciary Square entrance, get called over for a random screening, refuse it, leave the station, take an elevator down to the platform, stand next to the faregates (which are directly on the platform) while still outside fare control, pull the pin, and kaboom. Bye bye Red Line service. And we would have wasted all this money on alleged “security” procedures that are very dependent on authorities guessing the movie plot threat correctly.

Realize that the case where the person who was plotting against several Metro stations was caught was a case of the system actually working. Most of the work occurred in private, no one was ever endangered, the public did not know that there was reason for concern until it was over, and no one had to get stopped in the middle of a station mezzanine.

Additionally, truth be told, going by numbers, the entity that is most likely to kill or seriously injure you on Metro is Metro itself. Let’s just go by the numbers. Terrorists have killed exactly zero people on Metro since the system opened in 1976. By comparison, by my accounting, Metro has killed 21 people on Metro due to its own errors since it opened in 1976. That breaks down to 10 employees, and 11 customers. So rather than harrass passengers to make the system safer, Metro really should consider looking inward to find ways to make their crumbling system safer. For instance, Metro is still running rail cars that are rolling death traps (otherwise known as the 1000-Series), despite that the NTSB has repeatedly recommended that these cars be retired sooner rather than later, or thoroughly strengthened for greater crashworthiness. Likewise, Metro can’t seem to make the escalators and elevators work reliably, and they fail in so many interesting ways, such as with escalator brakes failing and dumping more than a dozen people at the bottom of the escalator in a heap. So Metro should take whatever money it’s wasting in ineffective security measures and plow it into infrastructure improvements. However, here’s the problem with that. Fixing our crumbling infrastructure to actually make the system safer for riders doesn’t make politicians look like they’re doing something like some good, old-fashioned security theater will. However, with Metro’s infrastructure problems needing more attention than alleged “security” to make the system safer, it seems quite irresponsible to be throwing good money at an ineffective solution…

And of course, let’s not forget that the last time Metro announced that they were going to begin random bag checks, that they never checked a single bag. And the first time was before a large collision that killed nine people, bringing Metro’s infrastructure problems (a bigger problem than terrorism) to light. What reason do we have to think this announcement will be any different? This just seems like more hot air out of Metro’s PR department in an attempt to scare people into surrendering their civil liberties. Let’s not forget that current Secretary of Homeland Scrutiny Janet Napolitano recently recorded security announcements for Metro. Hate to tell you, but I find it hard to take advice about security on Metro from someone who likely doesn’t ride Metro. The day I see Napolitano tap a SmarTrip card and board a Breda rehab is the day I take her security advice about Metro seriously.

So all in all, Metro throws good money at bad ideas once again. It’s unfortunately par for the course, with Metro more than happy to throw good money at bad ideas and then raise our fares with two biggest-fare-increase-in-Metro’s-history fare increases in a row. And if this is how Metro is going to spend our money, I want my fare increase back.

Web site: Security expert Bruce Schneier discusses random bag checks from the last time Metro tried to pull this nonsense.

Song: By the way, photography is not against the rules on Metro (it starts on page 9). If you see random screenings going on, please DO document them.

Quote: Of course, the fundamental problem here is that Americans are too willing to surrender their civil liberties in the name of security (theater). Americans have given the government no reason to fear them. I've said it before, and I'll say it again - government should fear its people, not the other way around.

Categories: Security, WMATA