From the Annals of Bad Ideas: A ‘no-ride’ list

By · Published in 2011

Let’s try this one on for size: Nine days ago, when President Barack Obama announced the capture and killing of Osama Bin Laden, the intelligence materials gathered from the terrorist’s Pakistani hideout revealed nascent plans to attack the United States’ rail system at some point in the indeterminate future. For terrorists looking for an easy strike, rail attacks aren’t a new idea. We’ve seen them in Moscow, Tokyo, Madrid and London, to name a few, and rail systems that cover vast expanses remain relatively porous.

So what would you say an appropriate response from the Senior Senator from the state with the most commuter rail passengers would be? Do you think he would propose shoring up weak access points? Or do you think he’d rather go in for the quick score that would bring travel headaches, higher costs and few real safety upgrades to the trains? As you can imagine, Chuck Schumer picked the security theater found in the latter.

In interviews with reporters on Sunday, Schumer called upon Amtrak to implement a “no-ride” list similar to the airlines’ no-fly list. The Department of Homeland Security would share its database with the train operator, and all they would have to do is check the ID of every single person who buys a ticket and boards a train. According to Schumer, this plan would come at “virtually no extra cost” to the government.

“Circumstances demand we make adjustments by increasing funding to enhance rail safety and monitoring on commuter rail transit and screening who gets on Amtrak passenger trains, so that we can provide a greater level of security to the public,” Schumer said.

As Gawker noted, that’s a pretty out-there claim by our Senator. Schumer, wrote Jeff Neumann, “of course failed to explain how that statement is even remotely true. He wants Amtrak employees to cross-reference names from the list with passengers. Amtrak alone last year had 28.7 million passengers. Now, just add all of the commuter rail lines across the country and that’s a whole lot of cross-referencing. Well, thanks for fighting the good fight, Chuck. And good luck with that!”

Schumer’s plan for Amtrak also doesn’t address the system’s real vulnerabilities. Terrorists boarding trains shouldn’t be our primary concern right now. Rather, thousands of miles of exposed tracks and bridges and tunnels that remain easy to access should be the focus of the government’s security efforts and dollars.

While Amtrak promised to “review Schumer’s proposal,” DHS seemed lukewarm. A spokesman told Newsday that the Department has expended over $1.6 billion on security enhancements over the past five years, and they’ve done so in a way that isn’t as confining as airpot security. It is the difference between a plan designed to make us feel safer and one that actually makes us safer.

Despite the uproar today — Schumer’s statements have gotten play from virtually every media outlet across country — his idea isn’t a new one. It was originally put forward by the 9/11 Commission back in 2004, but Amtrak has never acted on the “no-ride” list. It also comes at a time when the federal government cut rail security spending by $50 million.

Meanwhile, what of our commuter rails, equally as vital and equally as vulnerable? Schumer says passengers on carriers such as the LIRR and Metro-North wouldn’t have to show IDs, but he would like to see security expenses increased for commuter railroads across the country. It’s always just a matter of money.

Categories : Subway Security

14 Responses to “From the Annals of Bad Ideas: A ‘no-ride’ list”

  1. Alex C says:

    Chuck does some good things…but then he goes out and says stuff like this for attention. And yes, this makes no sense. Wanna put up full security gates and checks at Empire Corridor (just call it New York Central, Amtrak, please) stops like Hudson and Rhinecliff? Those are probably the most likely place a baddy would want to board, what with them being in the middle of nowhere and free of attention.

  2. Alon Levy says:

    Maybe they should just require internal passports for all inter-county travel.

  3. Bolwerk says:

    Eh, what do you expect? This guy has always been about non-solutions involving throwing lots of money away. He doesn’t want to offer real ideas because they might offend the suburban milquetoasts the Dems think they need to win over on every issue.

  4. pea-jay says:

    Airport screenings make sense cos planes are most vulnerable from within when they are airborne, which is a vast majority of time. Aside from a shoulder-air-missle there really arent a lot of threats externally during that time.

    Trains? You don’t even need to be on it when it is moving to cause serious damage or death. I remember a deadly derailment some years back in the UK when some guy’s trailer got stuck on the main line tracks. The problem with people is we tend to worry about the less likely things to occur that we can fully prevent as opposed to the more likely events we have little or no control over. The triumph of irrationality

  5. John-2 says:

    An idea that could only have come from a man who normally takes the Delta Shuttle between New York and D.C.

  6. Peter says:

    Can demands that all subway riders be frisked be far behind?

  7. Kid Twist says:

    Note that he made this “proposal” on a Sunday. That’s Schumer’s M.O. — throw out some half-baked idea on a slow news day so he can get his face on television.

  8. Harald says:

    I’ve heard that some terrorist are using car for planning and actually executing their horrendous attacks. I demand that the government immediately must institute a no-drive list. Extensive background checks should be put in place before drivers licenses can be issued. All cars must be equipped with ID-readers and GPS devices and passengers must check in and out at the beginning and end of the ride. Senator Schumer, please act and save our children!

  9. Phil says:

    No. More. Security. Theatre. Does he not realise that normal civilians are put on no-fly lists already? It’s a fail as it is for airlines, let alone rail. Part of the reason I enjoy taking the train is the lack of irritating security procedures that do nothing in improving safety.


  1. […] Security Theater for Rail? No Thanks, Senator Schumer (2nd Ave Sagas) […]

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