Transit security: Agencies emphasize technology, personnel to protect riders, employees and assets

A lone gunman’s attempt to attack passengers on a Paris-bound train last August elevated concerns over whether enough is being done to protect the security of train riders.

Although the gunman’s plan to commit mass murder on the Amsterdam-to-Paris high-speed rail line was foiled by a group of alert riders, the frightening event further heightened public anxiety over passengers’ vulnerability to similar attacks in the United States. U.S. transit agencies responded by tightening security in publicly visible ways, including increased police patrols, surveillance, and random checks of bags and trains at various locations. The agencies repeated those efforts following the deadly terrorist attacks in Paris in November and in San Bernardino, Calif., in December.

In New York City, for example, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority‘s (MTA) Police Department stepped up the presence of uniformed and plainclothes officers at Penn Station, Grand Central Terminal and other major stations throughout the Metro-North Railroad and Long Island Rail Road network. MTA’s canine teams and units armed with heavy weapons provided a noticeable level of increased security. Police officers also performed more “step-on/step-off” efforts on trains and implemented random bag checks at locations throughout the MTA system.

Moreover, more security information was shared among transit and railroad industry execs, local and state law enforcement agencies, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the FBI via the Surface Transportation and Public Transit-Information Sharing and Analysis Centers. The centers — in collaboration with the American Public Transportation Association, Association of American Railroads and Transportation Security Administration — disseminate a “Transit and Rail Intelligence Awareness Daily Report” on potential vulnerabilities, threats and/or risks to security.

Many transit agencies in recent months also have called on passengers to help beef up security by being more aware of their surroundings and report any suspicious packages, activity or behavior that they might witness on a train or in a station. The agencies stepped up visibility of their “See Something, Say Something” campaigns, which many began implementing in the days following the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001.

While such shows of force may have helped reassure train riders in the immediate aftermath of those high-profile incidents, the events also left passengers wondering what agencies do on a day-to-day basis to protect them from all kinds of security concerns. Although terrorism is certainly a top security issue to transit agency leaders, so is fighting crime. The more routine security violations on their systems involve thefts of personal and public property, vandalism, and non-terrorism assaults, harassment and nuisance acts committed against passengers and agency employees, transit agency execs say.

To that end, agencies are employing a variety of tactics that combine enhanced technologies and increased personnel as part of their security strategies. From the installation of increasingly sophisticated video surveillance systems, to the deployment of smartphone “Transit Watch” applications, to adding K-9 teams and armed security personnel, applying new ways to secure transit-rail systems is a high priority.

For example, last year Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) Chief Executive Officer Phillip Washington created a new security executive position and appointed Alex Wiggins to fill the role. As Metro’s executive officer of system security and law enforcement (see Page 16), Wiggins oversees all security operations, including the agency’s $100 million contract with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

Prior to joining L.A. Metro, Wiggins served as vice president of security services at Transit Safety and Security Solutions, where he assisted with system safety and security management on the Regional Transportation District of Denver‘s (RTD) Eagle P3 project.

Looking for a face in the crowd

Some of the latest developments in transit security can be found in video surveillance technology, says Wiggins.

Catching crooks in Chicago

Increasingly, some larger agencies are considering the use of facial recognition technology as a tool in their security arsenal.

1,000 subscribers and growing

RTD counts more than 1,000 Transit Watch subscribers, and receives about three contacts per day via the app. The most common security concerns reported on RTD lines involve boisterous behavior by an individual or group.

Law enforcement ties are key

Moreover, RTD makes use of the DHS Visible Intermodal Protection and Response (VIPR) teams, which regularly patrol — sometimes with a canine team — trains and stations to increase a security presence. In the future, RTD officials hope to establish the agency’s own canine team to increase the frequency of patrols with bomb-sniffing dogs

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Uber target of protests by cabbies, disability rights advocates

Yellow and green cab drivers rallied at City Hall on Tuesday with disability rights advocates to call for legislation that would make Uber wheelchair-accessible.

The app company has a service in New York City that connects passengers with wheelchair-accessible yellow and green cabs, but its black cars are not accessible.

Advocacy groups like the United Spinal Association and Taxis for All have been calling for Uber to have wheelchair-accessible black cars, and hope the City Council and Mayor wil back them.

“Nobody would put up with Uber if it was refusing rides to African-Americans, or gay New Yorkers,” said Edith Prentiss, who chairs the Taxis for All Campaign. “They shouldn’t put up with discriminating against us either.”

Bhairavi Desai, the executive director of the New York Taxiworkers Alliance, which represents thousands of cabbies and Uber drivers, hailed the accessibility of the yellow and green cab industries.

“This is a long-term battle for us, and we stand here united with the disability justice community,” Desai said.

The app company said ir does almost 4,000 wheelchair-accessible trips monthly through the app by connecting riders with yellow and green cabs, and that foldable wheelchairs can be stowed in their black cars.

“Uber has helped expand transportation options for New Yorkers with disabilities,” said a statement from the company. “Before Uber, these riders were too often left stranded waiting for one of the small number of accessible cabs to pull up. We are actively exploring new ways to build on this progress and better serve all people with disabilities.”

A study on apps like Uber released last week showed that slower speeds in the city have been driven by population growth and construction, and haven’t been spurred by the rise in the black car industry.

The City Council is calling for greater regulation of car service app companies in New York City.

By Rebecca Harshbarger


16 Lists to Make to Jump-Start Your Career in 2016

This story first appeared on The Muse, a Web destination with exciting job opportunities and expert career advice. 

There’s nothing I love more than a good list, especially at the end of the year, when reflecting and resolution-making abound.

You, too? Then here are 16 lists to make in 2016 that’ll help you do both of those activities, plus get a head start on that job search or promotion you’re planning to ask for.

Make one, or make them all–I promise every single one is more fun than your to-do list.

1. Companies you want to work for.

This is a no-brainer if you’re actively job-searching: Having a list with your favorite companies, their websites, any contacts you have there, and links to their jobs pages makes hunting for openings a whole lot easier. But even if you’re not, this is good to have as part of your career emergency plan. (You have that, right?)

2. 10 innovative ideas off the top of your head.

I got this idea from Muse master coach John Gannon: Start each day by writing down 10 ideas you have about a specific subject–something related to your job, an industry trend, whatever. As he writes, “[Entrepreneur James Altucher] says that if you generate 10 ideas a day, every day, for six months straight that you will become an ‘Idea Machine’–someone who can come up with great ideas in any situation about any topic. And you can use these ideas for your own benefit, or send the list to someone who could use them–whether that’s your boss, another team at work, or a friend.”

3. People you should know to get ahead.

Think: People who work for your dream companies, people who would be awesome mentors, people further ahead than you on your career path–really anyone who will inspire you to push yourself. Having this makes networking a whole lot more efficient. Oh, and don’t be afraid to put a few “reach” people on your list, too! Arianna Huffington was on mine, and I met her at an event a few months later.

4. Books you want to read.

Because next time you need a good read, you don’t want to spend hours browsing Goodreads when you could be deep into Chapter 3. Want a ready-made list to make your life even easier? Here are 20 books the world’s most successful people recommend you pick up.

5. What you want to happen in 2016.

A lot of us set resolutions for the year ahead, but I like framing this exercise as: What do I want to happen in the next year? Feel free to include both work-related goals and personal goals. And then couple this list with…

6. What you want to leave in 2015.

Are there bad habits you want to give up, work responsibilities you’d like to trade for more advanced tasks, even people you’d like to stop talking to? Add them to a list as a reminder that, come 2016, your time and energy is better spent elsewhere.

7. Your career bucket list.

Once you’ve done your annual planning, now’s the time to dream big. Do you want to work abroad? Write a book? Start a company? Found a nonprofit? Have a corner office with a view of Central Park? Add it to this list, then keep it somewhere you can refer to when you’re feeling aimless.

8. “Got a minute?” to-dos.

There are plenty of times you have a few minutes to spare–like when you’re on hold or waiting for a meeting to start. Rather than wasting those moments on Facebook, make a list of tiny to-dos you could get done. Here’s a starter list you can build from.

9. “Got a slow day?” to-dos.

There also might be times you have a few hours–even a full day–to spare. (Stuck in the office during the holidays, anyone?) Make a list of back-burner projects at work (or at home) that you want to get done…someday.

10. A “not right now” list.

Speaking of someday, if you want to achieve all those goals you’ve set out, you’re likely going to need to deprioritize less important tasks. So think of this an opposite-day list: Add things you’re absolutely, positively not going to spend time on–for now. As entrepreneur Frank Addante writes for Inc.: “It’s a list on which you put things that you don’t have time to work on right now, but you don’t want to take off your to-do list. As the adage says, ‘Out of sight, out of mind.’ If you unclutter your mind, you’ll be more effective in getting things done.”

11. Your biggest accomplishments.

Start by making a list of 10 things you accomplished in 2015 that you’re really, really proud of. Then, every time you do something awesome this year, add it to the list. It’s a great motivator when you’re feeling like nothing’s going right, and it’ll make updating your resume a whole lot easier.

12. Lunches to make.

In 2015, I had a goal to bring my lunch to work more. (I didn’t do as well as I’d liked.) But what helped the most was creating a list of recipes I could make, complete with the ingredients I needed to add to my shopping list. It’s sort of like your own little menu. A few of my favorites? Healthy lasagnamason jar salads, and Thai chicken lettuce wraps.

13. What you’re grateful for.

You’ve likely read about the benefits of focusing daily on the things you’re thankful for. Make that easier on yourself by turning them into a list and posting it someplace you’ll see often. (Bonus career karma points if at least a few of them are work-related.)

14. Things you do better than most people.

This idea comes from writer Minda Zetlin: Create a list of “your core competencies, the things you can build your success on.” This has several benefits (other than a confidence boost). For starters, it’ll help you really focus on what sets you apart from others when you’re writing cover letters, your LinkedIn profile, or your personal website copy. It’s also a good gut check–if you realize that your current job rarely lets you utilize your top skills and abilities, it might be time for a change.

15. Things you want to try.

There are probably activities you’ve thought about trying at some point–learning Photoshop, trying public speaking, mentoring a junior employee–but you don’t put them on any of these other lists because, well, you don’t really know if you’d like them. Put those activities here as a reminder, and next time you’re feeling bored, give one of them a whirl.

16. Sayings to live by.

This final idea comes from Artjournalist (which also has a great list of list prompts): A “Manifesto list.” The author asks, “What are some words and phrases to live by that are part of your life’s manifesto? Make a list of sayings to live by.”

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