Amtrak Releases Security FAQ

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AlanB

Conductor
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Q: Is there a security threat to Amtrak passengers?
A: Federal law enforcement authorities have stated that there is no specific or credible security threat to passenger railroads at this time. However, Amtrak continues to maintain a high level of vigilance at stations and on trains.

Q: What measures are Amtrak employees taking to ensure passenger security?

A: With the help of the Amtrak Police Department, employees have taken a number of measures to improve security. All employees have been advised to be alert to suspicious activity or suspicious packages in stations and on board trains. Ticket agents are required to check the identification of passengers purchasing tickets. Passengers checking baggage are also required to provide identification and tag all bags. Amtrak has also established a Security Information Center to increase employee awareness about security issues and to directly provide security tips, bulletins and specific information on security policies and procedures.

Q: Has the Amtrak Police Department increased security measures?

A: Yes, in a number of ways. The Amtrak Police Department is operating at an elevated state of alert and readiness in conformance with the Homeland Security Advisory System threat level "Yellow."  In major stations, the police conduct regular patrols of waiting areas and platforms. K-9 patrols have been increased as well.  Since Sept. 11, 2001, Amtrak has added twelve explosive detection dog teams.  These teams are used to conduct random sweeps of baggage rooms, ticket windows, platforms and other station areas. The department is in continual communication with federal law enforcement agencies and regularly receives intelligence information on security matters.

Q:  Will Amtrak institute commercial airline-type baggage and passenger screening systems?

A: There is no plan at this time to do so. Amtrak is part of the nation's ground-based transportation system, interconnected at thousands of points over 22,000 route miles.  Unlike the airlines, with a single point of access, rail systems have multiple points of access.  Like most rail systems worldwide, Amtrak shares facilities with commuter rail operations and city transit systems handling millions of daily passengers at thousands of stations.  It is an open system with connectivity and a free flow of large numbers of people between modes. [For identification purposes, Amtrak does require all baggage to be tagged with the owners name and contact information.]

Q: Will Amtrak work with the Transportation Security Administration to test baggage and passenger screening?

A: Yes, the TSA wants to conduct a pilot project to test the feasibility of screening baggage and carry-on bags. However, the TSA has said that the pilot project will not resemble an aviation-type solution, but instead provide the federal government with a venue to test new technologies and screening concepts. Amtrak will assist in this project.  (For more information, see the Department of Homeland Security Web site at http://www.dhs.gov/dhspublic/).

Q: What about Amtrak services that operate over tracks owned by the freight railroads and others?

A: Amtrak and its police department have been working closely with the freight railroads and others who own tracks Amtrak uses to operate rail passenger services.  Those railroads also have their own police departments.  Those companies and agencies report they have also increased security patrols and made other improvements.  (For more information, see the Association of American Railroads Web site at http://www.aar.org or the American Public Transportation Association at http://www.apta.com/.)
The full press release can be found at Amtrak's website.
 

amtrakmichigan

Lead Service Attendant
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Oct 5, 2003
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I really hate to say this.... but, besides the increased teams of bomb sniffing dogs, I will have to come to this conclusion...WHAT A JOKE!

1) "We require ID from anybody purchasing tickets". What exactly is this supposed to do?????? Is a picture ID supposed to say ' I am a terriost with a bomb' in the special notes box? I have yet seen a Amtrak employee check ID since 9/11 except for maybe paying with a check or possibly a credit card. How about someone like myself that always uses the internet to purchase tickets? I have never shown ID to anybody including the conductor when purchasing over the internet or phone.

2) "passengers must have all bags marked with an ID tag" .... again, the point of this is...? Is this supposed to stop a terrorist or something?

They should just be honest and say... You know what general public? The railroads would be the best and most simple target for a terriost attack. We have no way of making it a safe way of transportation, as long as people are willing to blow themselves up. So we need your eyes peeled wide open at all times for anything that may not look right.

I really hate to sound like I have a bad or poor attitude about this, but good grief, a 12 year old could figure out that most of the stuff outlined is very elementry and will not even phase someone that really wants to do dammage.
 

AlanB

Conductor
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amtrakmichigan said:
1) "We require ID from anybody purchasing tickets". What exactly is this supposed to do?????? Is a  picture ID supposed to say ' I am a terriost with a bomb' in the special notes box? I have yet seen a Amtrak employee check ID since 9/11 except for maybe paying with a check or possibly a credit card. How about someone like myself that always uses the internet to purchase tickets? I have never shown ID to anybody including the conductor when purchasing over the internet or phone.
A terrorist's greatest asset is to stay anonymous. Therefore a terrorist would like nothing more than to walk up to the counter and buy a ticket under the name of Joe, when in reality his name is Sam. He's now free to bomb the train and the police will never be able to figure out who he is and add his name to the terrorist lists.

By requiring photo ID, said terrorist must buy the ticket under his real name or at least take the extra effort to obtain a false photo ID. It's not infallible, but it does make the terrorist’s job harder. It creates one more place for them to make a mistake and show their cards.

As for internet purchases, you must have a valid credit card in the same name as your ticket. Those names are washed against a list of known terrorists. Additionally, I have seen conductors here in the NE who have spot checked ID's with tickets while on board the train.

amtrakmichigan said:
2) "passengers must have all bags marked with an ID tag" .... again, the point of this is...? Is this supposed to stop a terrorist or something?
No, it's not going to stop him from trying to bomb the train, but it might thwart his plans. Consider the following. In Spain, several people did notice the bags containing the bombs before they went off, but they did nothing. Now at least many Americans are aware to watch for abandoned bags. So a passenger spots a bag that they think belongs to someone who got off the train at the last stop.

They call the conductor. He/she looks at the name tag and then makes a quick check of the manifest. They discover that the passenger is book through the next 4 stops or worse they discover that name was never on the manifest. At this point alarm bells should be going off in their head. If it does belong to a valid passenger, then they make a quick public announcement asking for that passenger to please come and claim their bag.

If indeed the pax shows up, then problem solved. If not or if the bag doesn't belong to a valid passenger, then it's time to evacuate that car and maybe the surrounding ones if possible, and stop this train at the next station or crossing to await police.
 

amtrakmichigan

Lead Service Attendant
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Oct 5, 2003
Messages
444
Alan,

Terrorist obviously are not a dumb and stupid group of people, considering the high technology used in the Spain bombings using cell phones to actavate bombs. This in mind a terrorist, especially one on a suicide mission wont care if people know who he really is after he is dead.

Let's just say you are right about a terriost biggest nightmare is to uncover there identity while purchasing a ticket. Well that would be simple enough, just board the train at a unmanned station with your backpack with no ticket. When the conductor comes around to get the ticket...press the button. I hate to say this, but it's that simple. Checking ID may make a amature think twice, but not to a professional. They obviously didn't care about giving up there ID's when they went to flight school. Why would you think this would matter to them when buying a train ticket. We can get into a whole other matter with this ID stuff when purchasing a subway or commuter train ticket from a machine paying cash, or purchasing a Amtrak ticket from a travel agent using cash. You also stated that a false ID would be one more thing a terriost would have to worry about. Again, if you have the smarts and know how to make a bomb, you sure will know how to make a false ID. And is Amtrak ticket agents trained in how to spot thousands of different types of false ID's ? A simple one to make would be to make one from a far away college or university or state. The ticket agent in Portland Maine probably would't know what a Alaska ID is supposed to look like, so would't even know if it's false or not.

My point is this, there is SO MANY ways of doing severe dammage to a railroad or train that it really worries me. And for Amtrak to come out and make these silly statements to try to make people feel better is just that, trying to make people feel better... when they really know that there is no way in the world that they could ever protect the 20,000+ route miles & 300+ rail stations. Let's be frank Alan, I hope that Amtrak's 'solution' to security really doesn't make you feel safer riding on a train in today's violent world with crazy people running around.

I will always ride Amtrak, security of not. But for me to say that I have a sense of safety because a ticket agent is supposed to have checked (but probably didn't) someones ID or someone put there name tag on there bag in a baggage car (false information or not ..it doesn't matter) would be an insult to my common sense.
 

battalion51

Conductor
Joined
Aug 23, 2002
Messages
7,193
They call the conductor. He/she looks at the name tag and then makes a quick check of the manifest. They discover that the passenger is book through the next 4 stops or worse they discover that name was never on the manifest. At this point alarm bells should be going off in their head. If it does belong to a valid passenger, then they make a quick public announcement asking for that passenger to please come and claim their bag.
Alan, your theory has a couple flaws. First of all manufests don't carry a list of all passengers on the train (otherwise it'd be an additional 20 pages on top of the 10-15 already there), they only carry a list of unticketed passengers and the names of the folks riding in sleeping accomodations. Also, even if they did carry a list of all passenger names, most NEC trains are unreserved so it's impossible to keep a manufest on it. In order to do a crossmatch on the passenger name they must either A: go through the hundreds of tickets already collected or B: call Space Control or a station and run a check on a passenger name for the city pairs they're travelling between, no quick job by any means.
 

AlanB

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battalion51 said:
Alan, your theory has a couple flaws. First of all manufests don't carry a list of all passengers on the train (otherwise it'd be an additional 20 pages on top of the 10-15 already there), they only carry a list of unticketed passengers and the names of the folks riding in sleeping accomodations.
While I'll admit that I've never actually looked at a manifest, I was under the impression that it did contain passenger names. If however I'm wrong, then I see no reason why it can't include the passenger names. Even with 2 columns of names, and they could probably do 3 columns on a page, that's 120 names per page. That's 1 page for every two cars, so even a 10 car train would only add 5 pages.

battalion51 said:
Also, even if they did carry a list of all passenger names, most NEC trains are unreserved so it's impossible to keep a manufest on it.
Sorry, most trains on the NEC are reserved these days. In fact reserved trains outnumber unreserved trains by almost a 2 to 1 margin. Consider southboud from NYP to WAS. On a given weekday, there are 25 reserved trains and only 14 unreserved.
 

battalion51

Conductor
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Aug 23, 2002
Messages
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Alan, yet another small error. Even if they do go with two columns per page, there's another problem, passengers don't stay on the train for the entire length of the trip. Most get off at intermediate stations and are replaced with other passengers. Look at a Regional between WAS-BOS, usually the train empties out at NY and you get a whole nother set of characters. Now, you might say, well they could just print the passengers a certain Conductor will see, well ARROW isn't exactly bright. It will print all the information for the trip from the Conductors initial point until the train terminates. So a WAS-NYP Conductor sees everything from WAS-BOS, while a NYP-NHV Conductor only sees NYP-BOS, and a NHV-BOS Conductor sees NHV-BOS. Also, a Conductor would have to look through the 1000 or so names that will appear on the manufest to see if any of them match up. I'd say if it ain't broke, don't fix it, stay with the current system, and crossmatch if necessary with someone who has a Computer.
 

AlanB

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amtrakmichigan said:
Alan,
Terrorist obviously are not a dumb and stupid group of people, considering the high technology used in the Spain bombings using cell phones to actavate bombs. This in mind a terrorist, especially one on a suicide mission wont care if people know who he really is after he is dead.
Using a cell phone implies that the terrorist isn't on a suicide mission. If he can phone in the explosion from miles away, then he has no intention of dying.

amtrakmichigan said:
Let's just say you are right about a terriost biggest nightmare is to uncover there identity while purchasing a ticket. Well that would be simple enough, just board the train at a unmanned station with your backpack with no ticket. When the conductor comes around to get the ticket...press the button. I hate to say this, but it's that simple.
Sure he can do that, but at least he won't be back again. If however he can drop the pack, walk away, and then phone the explosion in, now he lives to fight another day. It's a mixed bag and I'm not saying that a determined terrorist can't blow up the train. But the terrorists can do far more damage to us, if they can keep walking away and be in a position to strike again tomorrow, than if we at least force them to sacrifice themselves.

amtrakmichigan said:
Checking ID may make   a amature think twice, but not to a professional. They obviously didn't care about giving up there ID's when they went to flight school.
Actually the 9/11 terrorists did obtain fake ID's. Plus it may stop some idiot copycat at least, even if it doesn't stop a terrorist.

I'm not suggesting that this is a fool proof plan by any means. It is mearly one more layer poured on top of another and still another. Each layer makes it a little harder, creates another place for the terrorist to make a mistake and show his hand.

amtrakmichigan said:
My point is this, there is SO MANY ways of doing severe dammage to a railroad or train that it really worries me. And for Amtrak to come out and make these silly statements to try to make people feel better is just that, trying to make people feel better... when they really know that there is no way in the world that they could ever protect the 20,000+ route miles & 300+ rail stations. Let's be frank Alan, I hope that Amtrak's 'solution' to security really doesn't make you feel safer riding on a train in today's violent world with crazy people running around.
No it's not going to make me feel safer, because I know too much about RR's. However, I bet it will make some people feel at least a little safer. Additionally this wasn't just released to make people feel safer, it was released to explain why they are being asked for ID's.
 

AlanB

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battalion51 said:
Alan, yet another small error. Even if they do go with two columns per page, there's another problem, passengers don't stay on the train for the entire length of the trip. Most get off at intermediate stations and are replaced with other passengers. Look at a Regional between WAS-BOS, usually the train empties out at NY and you get a whole nother set of characters. Now, you might say, well they could just print the passengers a certain Conductor will see, well ARROW isn't exactly bright. It will print all the information for the trip from the Conductors initial point until the train terminates. So a WAS-NYP Conductor sees everything from WAS-BOS, while a NYP-NHV Conductor only sees NYP-BOS, and a NHV-BOS Conductor sees NHV-BOS.
Well Arrow may not be that bright, but it's a computer program. So trust me it can be easily changed to do just that. Technically one doesn't even have to actually change Arrow, all one has to do is to write a new report that properly sorts the info.

battalion51 said:
Also, a Conductor would have to look through the 1000 or so names that will appear on the manufest to see if any of them match up. I'd say if it ain't broke, don't fix it, stay with the current system, and crossmatch if necessary with someone who has a Computer.
If you have an alphabetical listing, then one doesn't have to look through 1,000 names. One just flips to the correct page and searches though maybe 100 to 150 names.

Ps. None of the above issues however stops the conductor from making an announcement asking said passenger to come claim his or her bag. If you get no results, then you stop the train and evacuate.
 
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