TSA Spotted at Chicago Union Station

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SubwayNut

Conductor
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Nov 17, 2011
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I'm in Chicago and noticed them too. I arrived yesterday from the Milwaukee Airport where there were about four TSA inspectors and a Milwaukee County Sherrif with his dog. Luckily for me I got my full photo essay and they didn't say anything nor do any searches. My next stop of the day was a two hour layover at SVT there was also a TSA inspector as his jacket said on the platform watching both my trains pass through. He dissapeared during the 2 hour layover and didn't bother me except we did chat about trespassing when a man looked like he was going to try and cross the tracks with his luggage to avoid the overpass after we got an announcement that the train would be wrong-railing into the station. We both yelled at him to use the overpass which he luckily did.
 

OlympianHiawatha

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Feb 7, 2008
Messages
4,311
Location
Norman, OK
They show up in Norman OK from time to time when the southbound Heartland Flyer comes through but generally just piddle around on the platform, look around a bit and watch pax board. The most I've seen them interact is casual chat with passengers, possibly a result of the passenger asking them a question.
 

berkyo

Service Attendant
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Dec 30, 2011
Messages
115
I have seen them board the train many times in Buffalo. Guns at their side. They question folks on where they born and where they are going. Did not see them last trip. Saw them last May on the EB west of Chicago, but cannot remember the station. They spent quite a lot of time with an elderly oriental traveling with family, who did not have his cards with him. Daughter translated that he does not realize he needs them. Frustrated TSA's just told the daughter to make sure he has them in the future. They were all very polite and then got off the train.
 

PRR 60

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I have seen them board the train many times in Buffalo. Guns at their side. They question folks on where they born and where they are going. Did not see them last trip. Saw them last May on the EB west of Chicago, but cannot remember the station. They spent quite a lot of time with an elderly oriental traveling with family, who did not have his cards with him. Daughter translated that he does not realize he needs them. Frustrated TSA's just told the daughter to make sure he has them in the future. They were all very polite and then got off the train.
Not TSA. Border Patrol. TSA agents are not armed.
 

jerichowhiskey

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Jul 5, 2012
Messages
161
Location
New York
TSA were on the NYP concourse when I went up to Boston a couple weeks ago. It looked like they were going to do random checks.
 

CelticWhisper

Service Attendant
Joined
Jul 11, 2012
Messages
130
I don't like this. I'm going to PVD from CHI in about a month and a half and I refuse to have anything to do with those blue-shirted...things.

I can hope that getting my ticket and making a beeline for the Metro Lounge, then hanging out in there until boarding, will be enough to keep me away from them, but if I wanted to be treated with suspicion by a pig-thug I'd have taken an airplane instead.

I have AmtrakOfficial as a news channel on Flipboard (tablet news software) and they released a new video about RAIL-SAFE. I really hope this isn't a sign of more TSA nonsense in train stations. Maybe it was just a 4th of July thing, but I worry anyway.

I feel much LESS safe whenever TSA is around.
 
D

David McDonough

Guest
I don't like this. I'm going to PVD from CHI in about a month and a half and I refuse to have anything to do with those blue-shirted...things.
I can hope that getting my ticket and making a beeline for the Metro Lounge, then hanging out in there until boarding, will be enough to keep me away from them, but if I wanted to be treated with suspicion by a pig-thug I'd have taken an airplane instead.

I have AmtrakOfficial as a news channel on Flipboard (tablet news software) and they released a new video about RAIL-SAFE. I really hope this isn't a sign of more TSA nonsense in train stations. Maybe it was just a 4th of July thing, but I worry anyway.

I feel much LESS safe whenever TSA is around.
Well, today for the SWC, they had 2 lines, people with suitcases and no bags were free to go, but people with backpacks were forced to a search of all there belongings. They had 2 machines set up on the table but I am not sure what they were for.
 

CelticWhisper

Service Attendant
Joined
Jul 11, 2012
Messages
130
I don't like this. I'm going to PVD from CHI in about a month and a half and I refuse to have anything to do with those blue-shirted...things.

I can hope that getting my ticket and making a beeline for the Metro Lounge, then hanging out in there until boarding, will be enough to keep me away from them, but if I wanted to be treated with suspicion by a pig-thug I'd have taken an airplane instead.

I have AmtrakOfficial as a news channel on Flipboard (tablet news software) and they released a new video about RAIL-SAFE. I really hope this isn't a sign of more TSA nonsense in train stations. Maybe it was just a 4th of July thing, but I worry anyway.

I feel much LESS safe whenever TSA is around.
Well, today for the SWC, they had 2 lines, people with suitcases and no bags were free to go, but people with backpacks were forced to a search of all there belongings. They had 2 machines set up on the table but I am not sure what they were for.
Any other details? Did they open up bags and rifle through possessions? Take anything out of bags? Ask any questions?

Who was doing the search - APD/CPD officers or TSA clerks?

Did anyone refuse? If so, what happened?

On a related note, just penned this letter which I intend to send to Amtrak customer relations as well as APD. (JoeBas and anyone else who frequents TUG will be familiar with my lengthy letters)

Anyone know the best way to send it to them? Mailing addresses for Amtrak and/or APD?

UPDATE: Revised edition of letter.

Re: RAIL-SAFE and TSA interaction when traveling by rail


To Whom it May Concern,

I am a hitherto-satisfied Amtrak customer writing out of concern over a news video and picture I’ve seen recently and what they may mean for my future of travel with Amtrak.

I saw, via Amtrak’s YouTube channel, a video promoting the Amtrak Police Department’s RAIL-SAFE initiative. The video featured images of US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) personnel interacting with rail passengers and included a statement from DHS secretary Janet Napolitano. The video is here: (video link)

Additionally, a Twitter user recently posted a picture of a uniformed TSA clerk at Chicago Union Station (my home train station), accompanied by what appeared to be an APD officer. As of this writing, the image can be found here: https://twitter.com/actingdork/status/352830848262885376/photo/1

My concern is for my rights, my privacy, and my freedom to be left alone when traveling. I travelled with Amtrak for the first time last spring when I went from CHI to PHL and back, and I instantly fell in love with America’s Railroad. The comfort, amenities, and pleasantness of Amtrak staff are second to none in the travel world. Most of all, however, I loved the fact that I could go from my own front door all the way to my destination and back without a single security check of any kind. This, to me, is positive and highly desirable, and is a crucial point in my continuing to patronize Amtrak as my preferred method of travel. I know that APD is active behind the scenes and I have never needed checkpoints to know I’m in good hands.

I will be going from CHI to PVD and back this August, opting for upgrades on each leg of travel. Roomettes to and from CHI and WAS, Business Class on the Northeast Regional from WAS to PVD, and First Class on the Acela Express on the way back from PVD to WAS. This has cost me over $1000 in rail fare for this trip alone. Please understand that I have family who work for Southwest Airlines – this is a trip I could have made free of charge, but I feel it is well worth $1000 primarily for the purpose of avoiding TSA interaction at the airport. These recent developments are deeply disturbing to me and are causing me no small degree of apprehension about a vacation that, until last night, I regarded with a sense of eagerness and relaxation due to the understanding that I would not need to navigate security checkpoints.

Amtrak Police Department, in discussing and describing the RAIL-SAFE initiative, talks at great length about safety. However, I cannot feel safe until certain other concerns are addressed. My privacy, my rights, and my freedom to be let alone are of paramount importance. I concern myself with my physical safety only once those things are guaranteed.

Please understand also that I am in no way criticizing Amtrak, its staff, or the sworn officers of APD. The best air and cruise lines in the world combined don’t come close to the customer service I’ve seen from Amtrak. More to the point, the few interactions I’ve had with Amtrak Police have seen them conducting themselves professionally and courteously. Websites and news reports abound, however, with accounts of a very different tone with regard to TSA and it is no tall order to find these reports. I feel profoundly unsafe in the presence of any TSA personnel due to their observed conduct in airports.

To reiterate, I take Amtrak to avoid TSA. Since my trip to PHL last spring, I’ve gone all-in for rail travel. I’ve joined AGR, acquired an AGR MasterCard, retooled my travel scheduling, destination selections, and luggage to best fit train travel, and have generally made an annoyance of myself to my family and friends with how enthusiastically I extol the virtues of traveling with no security theatre by taking Amtrak. I would consider it extremely unfortunate to have to transition away from rail due to increased TSA involvement when traveling on Amtrak trains, but am willing to switch to driving if I must.

As a freedom-loving individual, a sufferer of severe anxiety, and an avid railfan who considers Amtrak to be the pinnacle of travel in the US, I’m politely asking Amtrak and/or the Amtrak Police Department to help allay my concerns that I will be stopped, searched, questioned or otherwise harassed at any point along my trip next month.

Please feel free to contact me anytime via the information at the top of this letter. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely Yours,

(CelticWhisper)
 
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EMDF9A

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Oct 24, 2011
Messages
269
Homeland Security was all over Portland Union Station today between the departure of #11 and the arrival of #14. About a half dozen agents in black with "Homeland Security Police" on them and about another 6 plan clothes agents that you could obviously tell were "packing heat" I was standing in the boarding area in full T&R Uniform wearing my ID and they questioned me about why I was there and asked for further ID. I did not see them take away anyone
 

AmtrakBlue

Conductor
Gathering Team Member
Joined
May 6, 2011
Messages
12,194
Location
Delaware
Yesterday was a National Holiday. Why are people surprised to see increased security?
 

MiRider

OBS Chief
Joined
Jun 13, 2011
Messages
834
Location
Michigan
Two questions....

What or where is TUG?

What is T&R and why would wearing a T&R uniform cause further ID checks and questions?
 

AmtrakBlue

Conductor
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Delaware
T&R is, I believe, Trails & Rails. He does narratives on the train.

No clue regarding TUG, but suspect it's anti-TSA.
 

CelticWhisper

Service Attendant
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Jul 11, 2012
Messages
130
TUG = Travel Underground. Sorry, I get so used to using the abbreviations at that site I don't notice when I'm using them in unfamiliar company.
 

MiRider

OBS Chief
Joined
Jun 13, 2011
Messages
834
Location
Michigan
TUG = Travel Underground. Sorry, I get so used to using the abbreviations at that site I don't notice when I'm using them in unfamiliar company.
Thanks, CW - I'm going to check it out.

I DESPISE TSA and won't fly because of it.

I experienced crappy, typical TSA ugliness on my last flight in 2011.

Like you, after my first Amtrak trip I became a full blown rail aficionado.

The thought of having to deal with security theater anywhere enrages me.

For me, it's either the train or drive.

I don't drive long distances or on highways at all so, for all solo travel, it's the train for me.

I'd be sad if the train wasn't an option anymore because I love it so much, but not so much that I'm going to subject myself to TSA BS.
 

CelticWhisper

Service Attendant
Joined
Jul 11, 2012
Messages
130
That's where I'm at. We took a road trip to Houston this January since I'd never been on one and we figured it'd be an adventure, and it was. Again, no security anywhere, and a LACK of security is GOOD.

I'm still trying to find a mailing address to send this letter to in hopes that someone at Amtrak will care and give me a meaningful response. Anyone know the best way to get a long document like this to them? I'm assuming it's well beyond any character limits that would be imposed on web comment forms.
 

MikefromCrete

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Mar 24, 2009
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Location
Crete, IL
That's where I'm at. We took a road trip to Houston this January since I'd never been on one and we figured it'd be an adventure, and it was. Again, no security anywhere, and a LACK of security is GOOD.
I'm still trying to find a mailing address to send this letter to in hopes that someone at Amtrak will care and give me a meaningful response. Anyone know the best way to get a long document like this to them? I'm assuming it's well beyond any character limits that would be imposed on web comment forms.
Put it in an envelope and mail it to them?
 

CelticWhisper

Service Attendant
Joined
Jul 11, 2012
Messages
130
That's where I'm at. We took a road trip to Houston this January since I'd never been on one and we figured it'd be an adventure, and it was. Again, no security anywhere, and a LACK of security is GOOD.
I'm still trying to find a mailing address to send this letter to in hopes that someone at Amtrak will care and give me a meaningful response. Anyone know the best way to get a long document like this to them? I'm assuming it's well beyond any character limits that would be imposed on web comment forms.
Put it in an envelope and mail it to them?
Right, that's my plan, just trying to track down a mailing address. They don't make it easy to find on their website.

...Aaaaaaaand found it. http://trainweb.org/crocon/contactamtrak.html

Now just need to do the same thing for Amtrak Police Dep't.
 

CelticWhisper

Service Attendant
Joined
Jul 11, 2012
Messages
130
Yesterday was a National Holiday. Why are people surprised to see increased security?
It's not that I'm surprised, per se. I wish I were, but I'm not. Dismayed, however, is something I would certainly say about my feelings regarding this.

Safety is not universally self-justifying. There are times when it is okay, preferable, or even necessary to remain unsafe in the service of some other goal. In a(n ostensibly) free country, preserving privacy, dignity, rights and a well-founded perception of liberty is one such goal that should supersede safety and security in importance and vigor of pursuit. The fact that the holiday in question is a celebration of exactly that kind of goal is only further grounds for objecting to an ever-expanding, ever-encroaching (and ever-incompetent) security apparatus. Doubly so when the incident whose response entailed the creation of such an apparatus (9/11) is physically impossible in the paradigm of rail travel - plainly, no train can be driven off the rails into a skyscraper - and when there are far, far easier ways to threaten a train than by bringing something onboard by way of a large, metropolitan rail terminal.

No, TSA has no place in train stations, nor should they ever be allowed to think they're welcome. APD is actually good at what they do and has no need for incompetent federal clerks (not officers, not agents) causing problems for them, Amtrak employees, or (most importantly) Amtrak passengers.
 

RobertB

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Apr 26, 2011
Messages
88
Location
Union Station, Dallas
Yesterday was a National Holiday. Why are people surprised to see increased security?
Yeah, why are people surprised to be searched and surveilled while in the process celebrating their independence?

Irony much?
Not that driving gets you as much freedom as it once did. Ever hear of "No Refusal Weekend"? I like to call it "What Fifth Amendment? weekend". :(
 

gmushial

OBS Chief
Joined
Jun 21, 2013
Messages
852
Location
RDD
Yesterday was a National Holiday. Why are people surprised to see increased security?
Yeah, why are people surprised to be searched and surveilled while in the process celebrating their independence?

Irony much?
No kidding!

Next thing you know, the sheeple will be thanking the TSA for their service. :p
Sheeple, yes; real people, ones that remember this country for what it was once: don't think so :(
 
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