Security has always been a large part of any public transportation agency, but with the change from keeping vandals out to preventing acts of terrorism, a whole new paradigm needs to be addressed.
"For years, transit systems have had to make their system vandal-resistant, employ 'defensible space' concepts to discourage and prevent the incidents of crime - typically robbery, theft, etc. The station architecture in Washington, D.C., for instance, is a direct response to those concerns and features an absence of columns (potential hiding places), walls offset behind barriers (to discourage graffiti), clear sightlines, and durable, maintainable materials," says STV's Linn.
"The need to now factor in terrorist acts has meant that terrorist concerns are increasingly being addressed during the design stage or planning stage, and for systems already in operation, retrofi tting effective layers of security to 'harden' and make areas more secure. Many transit systems are employing reactive measures to curtail or limit damage (i.e. blast-resistant trash cans) while some of the larger systems also employ proactive measures such as working with a police force that actively seeks to acquire intelligence on planned terrorist acts before they happen. New York City's police department is one that comes to mind of the latter approach."
Ron Thorstad, Earth Tech's vice president and national transit director, agrees that in the past five years, how transit systems protect themselves from attack has changed. "Since Sept. 11, transportation consultants have also been playing a vital role in improving our security by conducting vulnerability assessments, developing emergency plans, installing surveillance and controlled entry systems, and implementing features that will help a transit system recover more quickly after an incident.
"For example, tunnel experts can help limit the amount of damage caused by fire or other emergencies by taking measures to contain an incident within that area."
Most agencies we visit have, or are planning a comprehensive system analysis. We wanted to know from the consultant side, what factors are of most concern to agencies when doing one. Not surprisingly, cost was the No. 1 factor.
"Agencies are most interested in the total cost and in the efficiency of the system. The questions to be answered are: (1) can I afford it? And (2) what is being accomplished in relation to my expenditure of resources required to achieve those accomplishments?" says HDR's Stephen Beard.
"Resources will always be limited. There are elements of the system that are vulnerable to a wide variety of risks. Existing or future transit services must be effectively integrated to maximize productivity and minimize cost. Productivity must be maximized."
DMJM Harris' Stephen Polechronis agrees. "In a very constrained capital funding environment, the greatest challenge agencies face is striking the balance between capital cost and protecting the ability to effectively expand their system to meet future demand, protect future revenue, and provide sufficient, safe and secure infrastructure."
"For more general systems analysis, capital and operating costs, maintainability and whether proven concepts are employed are typical concerns," says Kenneth Linn of STV.
"The fi rst three factors are self-explanatory and relate to costs to procure, to operate and whether a system will be overly diffi cult to fund or maintain. Proven concepts refer to whether specific ideas are being tested or implemented for the first time - often it is easier to follow and learn from other systems that have taken the plunge first and let someone else take the bugs out of a system.
"An example of this might be hydrogen fuel cell buses. Unless bequeathed with demonstration funds, a transit agency may wish to let another agency take the lead, and then based upon industry experience, later jump in after the technology has been perfected and production costs (economies of scale) realized," says Linn.