NARP Asks For Balance in Proposed Measures to Protect Rail Passengers
August 28, 2015
For Immediate Release (#15-17)
Contact: Benet J. Wilson
WASHINGTON, D.C.—The National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP) applauded three American passengers—Spencer Stone, Alek Skarlatos, and Anthony Sadler—whose swift action helped thwart a tragic attack on a train from Amsterdam to Paris. If not for the courage shown by these two members of the U.S. military and a Californian college student, many lives could have been lost at the hands of the shooter.
In the wake of this narrowly averted tragedy, as Americans turn their eyes to the security of U.S. rail systems, NARP is calling upon policymakers and the passengers they represent to exhibit the same resolve shown by Stone, Skarlatos, and Sadler. Rail safety is the number one priority—however, there must be a balance between protecting passengers and preserving their mobility.
Transit and rail systems allow people and goods to move freely between home and work, enabling access to critical goods and services; efficient operation of these systems is essential in maintaining a healthy economy. Transit rail carried 6.12 billion trips in 2014 and Amtrak carried more than 31 million passengers, and policymakers must not allow the threat of terrorism bring the U.S. rail system grinding to a halt. If Americans must take off their shoes every time they ride a subway, the U.S. will be weaker for it.
Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.)—both strong supporters of rail—wrote in an August 25 letter to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) that “while aviation security is a vital focus of the TSA, your agency also has a critical role to play in protecting rail and transit passengers.” The two Senators called upon the administrator to move forward on the implementing recommendations outlined by the 2007 9-11 Commission Act which requires, among other things, the TSA to create a regulatory framework to address threats facing passenger rail and transit agencies—including approving security plans for all railroads that are considered vulnerable, high-risk targets for a terrorist attack.
NARP is calling upon the TSA to recognize the unique characteristics of rail, and recognize that what works for airports will not work for train stations. There are more than 500 Amtrak stations in the U.S., along with thousands of transit stops. Many of these stations are located within the center of downtown areas, serving as centers of commerce and community gathering points. It is simply not feasible to completely seal off access and screen every passenger.
Additionally, NARP is committed to working with Congress to ensure that any additional safety and screening provisions that are passed are done as part of a funded package. The association would also like to see more funding for Amtrak's police department, budgeted at only $67.5 million in FY2014, according to its 2014 annual report.
Too often transit providers and passenger rail operators are given unfunded safety mandates and left to figure out how to pay for these directives on their own. While instituted with the best of intentions, these provisions can have a negative impact on other safety-critical capital investments.
The U.S. rail transportation system is too important to our economy and mobility for us to allow the threat of terrorism to endanger a connected America.
About the National Association of Railroad Passengers
NARP is the only national organization speaking for the users of passenger trains and rail transit. We have worked since 1967 to expand the quality and quantity of passenger rail in the U.S. Our mission is to work towards a modern, customer-focused national passenger train network that provides a travel choice Americans want. Our work is supported by more than 28,000 individual members nationwide.
"Saving the Pennsylvanian (New York-Pittsburgh train) was a local effort but it was tremendously useful to have a national organization [NARP] to call upon for information and support. It was the combination of the local and national groups that made this happen."
Michael Alexander, NARP Council Member
April 6, 2013, at the Harrisburg PA membership meeting of NARP