Friday, July 15, 2011

Champing at the bit to 'secure' Amtrak

It will come, it's just a matter of time. That is, unless, more Americans join you and I in opposing the TSA. There was an article titled Amtrak train wreck reveals security weakness. The title says it all: after a deadly train wreck, it was unclear exactly how many people were on board the train at the time of the accident. "What!?!" you say, "They aren't tracking and monitoring the every move of train passengers?!? People can buy tickets and board without ID? They can get off early if they choose to do so? Their luggage is not screened for drugs, bombs, and money? They can move around on the train as they please without an assigned seat? What country is this? The wild, wild west of the American fronteir?!?"

I think that rant pretty clearly illustrates what I think about "securing" the rails against imaginary threats. Although I can see that knowing exactly how many people are alive or dead in an accident is desirable information, the fact remains that this will never be possible and trying to correct this will erode liberties in a way that will change riding the train for the worse. If they want to open up competition on rails and stop subsidizing Amtrak and regional rail, then we can see if "Secure Rail" starts operating with draconian security measures. I won't hold my breath (for either free rails or "Secure Rail").

I do want to comment on something coming from a politician that was noted in the article:
In response [to concerns but no imminent threat about bin Laden targeting American rails], U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-New York, pressed the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to institute a "no-ride" list similar to the Secure Flight program used by airlines, in which passenger lists are compared with terrorist watch lists.
I fully believe this is likely to happen. And it's disgusting. I also fully expect that, down the line, we'll hear people say "Taking the train is a privilege. If you don't like it, don't ride!"

One final note directed at Amtrak: Due to the draconian airport security measures, I and many others will not be taking commercial airlines until the TSA and its ilk are disbanded. This means increased ridership on your trains including sleeper-car purchases. Don't make us boycott you, too.