Posts Tagged ‘Transportation Security Administration’

Face Mandate Extended to Sept. 11

May 3, 2021

The requirement that face masks be worn while aboard public transportation has been extended until Sept. 13.

The mandate had been set to expire on May 11 but the Transportation Security Agency said it was extended because the COVID-19 pandemic remains a danger to public health.

“Right now, about half of all adults have at least one vaccination shot and masks remain an important tool in defeating this pandemic,” TSA said in a statement. “We will continue to work closely with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to evaluate the need for these directives and recognize the significant level of compliance thus far.”

The mandate applies to air and intercity rail travel. Those refusing to comply will be subjected to fines of $250 to $1,500.

Amtrak, Unions Seek ‘No Ride’ List

January 15, 2021

Amtrak and two labor unions are urging the federal government to create a “no ride” list similar to the “no fly” list maintained by the Transportation Security Administration.

The proposal was made in the wake of rioting on Jan. 6 at the U.S. Capitol in which a mob invaded the building and sent members of Congress and their staffs seeking shelter.

“There is nothing more important than the safety of our employees,” Amtrak CEO William Flynn said in a statement.

“Since the start of the pandemic, our dedicated front line employees have kept our trains running, providing a vital transportation service to essential workers,” he said.

“We join our labor partners in continuing to call upon Congress and the Administration to make assaults against rail workers a Federal crime, as it is for aviation workers, and to expand the TSA’s ‘No Fly List’ to rail passenger service.”

The two unions that called for the “no ride” list included the International Association for Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers-Transportation Division, and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen.

The unions sent their request seeking an emergency order to the Federal Railroad Administration and Department of Homeland Security.

The unions noted that there are no laws or regulations that penalize those who interfere with or do harm to members of train crews.

Nor is there a screening process for passengers similar to that conducted by TSA agents at airports.

The FAA in the meantime has announced that it is tightening enforcement of its rules for how airlines will handle unruly passengers aboard flights.

That action followed multiple reports of members of Congress being verbally harassed and threatened about flights and in airports.

Flying Like its 1954

April 14, 2020

Air travel numbers have dropped to the levels of the early 1950s.

On April 8 the Transportation Security Administration said it screened 94,931 people at U.S. airports, the second consecutive day that the number of those screened fell below 100,000.

Air travel statistics show that the last time the U.S. averaged fewer than 100,000 air passengers per day was in 1954.

Airline industry observers say the number of passengers flying may be smaller than TSA numbers indicate because those figures include airline crew members and some employees of airport shops and restaurants located beyond the checkpoints.

The decline in TSA screenings was 96 percent less than it was on April 8, 2019.

TSA said that on March 1 this year it screened nearly 2.3 million passengers at U.S. airport.

The plunge in passengers began in the second week of March and has only shown signs of slowing in recent days, perhaps because it has just about hit its floor.

Back in 1954 the only commercial jetliner was the British-built de Havilland Comet and it had only been flying commercially for two years.

The Boeing 707 was still in development and would not make its first flight until 1957 and enter commercial service on Oct. 26, 1958.

Industry trade group Airlines for America said airline capacity has been slashed by 71 percent although some reports have placed the figure at 90 percent.

Anecdotal reports have surfaced in the news media that some flights have operated with just one passenger aboard.

The trade group said on average only one in every 10 seats on domestic flights is occupied.

Flight cancellations have been widespread in the past four weeks.

U.S. Airlines have reported taking out of service 1,800 planes or about 30 percent of the airline fleet.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, TSA workers are now wearing masks and in some instances face shields.

TSA said 327 of its employees have tested positive for the virus. The union representing flight attendants at American Airlines said 100 of its members have tested positive.

Industry observers expect demand for air travel to grow slowly once the pandemic subsides.

Airline traffic took a major hit following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York and Washington and air travel once restored didn’t begin to grow until 2003.

Some believe air travel will grow even slower following the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Associated Press reported that Polling firm Public Opinion Strategies found fewer than half the Americans it surveyed about 10 days ago say they will get on a plane within six months of the spread of the virus flattening.

The firm Stifel Nicolaus projects that in a best case scenario air travel demand won’t return to pre-pandemic numbers until the middle of 2021.

Those traveling tend to be health care professionals on their way to pandemic hot spots and a few traveling to be with family.

United Airlines reported it is losing $100 million a day while Delta Air Lines put its losses at $60 million a day.

U.S. carriers are expected to accept federal emergency grants to cover their payrolls through September.

The industry expects carriers to be smaller in the post pandemic era.

How quickly air travel recovers will hinge upon a number of factors including social distancing rules and how quickly those thrown out of work during the pandemic are able to resume their jobs or find new employment.

TSA to Require Security Training

March 26, 2020

The Transportation Security Administration will require effective June 22 railroads and public transit agencies to provide security training to certain employees to help them identify terrorist-related threats.

The requirement is part of a new rule recently published in the Federal Register.

The rule applies to higher-risk freight railroad carriers, public transportation agencies, passenger railroads and bus companies.

They must provide TSA-approved security training to employees performing security-sensitive functions.

“The training curriculum must teach employees how to observe, assess and respond to terrorist-related threats and/or incidents,” the rule states.

The rule also pertains to security coordinators and the reporting of security concerns to include bus operations. Currently, that requirement applies only to rail operations.

TSA Forms Committee to Advise on Security Issues

April 21, 2019

A committee has been formed to advise the Transportation Security Administration on security issues related to rail and other modes of surface transportation.

The agency said in a news release that members of the committee will represent freight and passengers railroads. Some members will come from the ranks of federal departments and agencies with surface transportation oversight.

Voting committee members from the freight railroad sector include Thomas Farmer, assistant vice president of security at the Association of American Railroads; Herschel Flowers, homeland security manager at Kansas City Southern Railway; Edward Gelnar Jr., vice president of safety and compliance at the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association; Greg Bretzing, senior vice president of global security, safety and corporate affairs at The Greenbrier Cos. Inc.; and Donald Loftis, principle software engineer at Olin Corp.

Voting members representing passenger-rail service include: Lisa Ann Shahade, deputy chief of police for strategic operations at Amtrak; Edward Bruce, director of intelligence, New Jersey Transit; Robert Gatchell, chief safety and security officer of Brightline/Virgin Trains USA; Polly Hanson, director of security, risk and emergency management at the American Public Transportation Association; Ronald Pavlik Jr., chief of police at Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority; Joe Perez, chief of police and security at Metra; Jaime Becerra, chief of transit enforcement and deputy chief of safety and security at North County Transit District; and Robert Finnegan, captain, police administration at Delaware River Port Authority.

TSA said the committee will meet at least twice a year with one meeting open to the public.

Shutdown Does Not Yet Affect Amtrak

December 22, 2018

The partial shutdown of the federal government that began at midnight on Dec. 22 will not affect Amtrak for the time being.

The passenger carrier will continue to operate with cash on hand and revenue that it continues to take in.

Some federal employees will be furloughed while others will work without pay because their jobs are considered to be essential.

Of the 420,000 government employees who will remain on the job despite not receiving a paycheck are 53,000 Transportation Security Administration  employees and 54,000 Customs and Border Protection agents and customs offers.

About 30 percent of those working for the U.S. Department of Transportation are expected to be furloughed, which is 18,300 workers.

Amtrak, TSA Test Explosives Detector

March 2, 2018

A new explosives testing device is being tested by Amtrak and the Transportation Security Administration. Both said it can help detect such explosives as suicide vests.

The device is known as a stand-off explosive detection unit and it triggers an alarm if someone carrying or wearing an improvised explosive device passes it.

In a news release, TSA said the device identifies objects that block naturally occurring emissions from a person’s body.

Security forces operate the device on a laptop in a train station. The security officer will see either a green image of a person alongside the actual image of the individual, or a color-indicator bar overlay.

The tests are being carried out at New York Penn Station. One device is mounted on a tripod while the other is contained in a trunk. The equipment is mobile, which allows agencies to move it to different stations.

Similar detection devices were tested last year by the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

Trump Budget Also Targets Air Service, Fees

February 15, 2018

Amtrak is not the only form of transportation with a target on its back in the Trump administration’s budget proposal for fiscal year 2019.

In the same way that the budget seeks to slash funding for Amtrak, particularly its long-distance trains, the administration wants to cut funding for essential air service to small airports.

The budget proposed cutting expenditures for the EAS program from $150 million to $93 million.

The budget would also raise fees related to transportation security, and customs and immigration fees paid by airline and cruise passengers. The federal air traffic control system would be privatized.

Amtrak funding would fall from $1.5 billion to $738 million. The budget proposal said Amtrak’s long-distance trains suffer from poor on-time performance and carry just 4.7 million of Amtrak’s nearly 32 million annual passengers. It also said the long-distance trains lose more than $500 million annually.

These proposals are not new. Most of them were in the FY 2018 budget, but Congress did not heed them.

The Trump administration budget proposal calls for appropriating $15.6 billion for the Department of Transportation, a cut of 19 percent from what Congress gave it in FY 2017.

The most recent data available from the U.S. Department of Transportation, dated October 2016, shows that the federal government funded commercial airline flights to 120 communities in the continental U.S and Hawaii.

The program, which began in 1978, also makes 237 Alaskan communities eligible for funding.

The rational for the EAS program was to enable remote towns to remain in the national air traffic network following airline deregulation, which resulted in scores of airports losing commercial service.

“However, today many EAS flights are not full and have high per-passenger subsidy costs. Several EAS eligible communities are relatively close to major airports,” the budget proposal says.

The recommendations were part of the $4.4 trillion budget proposal the administration sent to Congress on Monday.

Among the travel security-related fees that the administration wants to increase are the 9/11-passenger security fee that is assessed on airfare from the current $5.60 per one-way trip to $6.60 in 2019 and then to $8.25 beginning in 2020.

Although the 9/11 fee is supposed to fund Transportation Security Administration airport operations, Congress has sent about a third of it to items unrelated to security.

The administration said raising the fee would result in the traveling public paying for the full cost of aviation security.

The custom inspection fee would increase from $5.65 to $7.75. This fee is assessed on air and cruise ticket prices for people arriving in the United States.

The immigration fee, which is also assessed on tickets held by air and cruise passengers entering the U.S., would go from $7 to $9.

The proposal includes ending an exemption on that fee for passengers arriving via sea from Canada and Mexico.

The budget proposal said that the customs fee and immigration fee were last increased in 2007 and 2001, respectively.

Air traffic control is now overseen by the Federal Aviation Administration, but the Trump administration wants to shift it to an independent private organization.

Doing this, the administration believes, would speed implementation of a satellite-based NextGen system while removing air traffic control from contentious appropriation debates in Congress.

Critics have said doing this would reduce public accountability and harm the interests of private aviation.

An ATC privatization bill has twice made it out of the House Transportation Committee, but has failed to pass either the full House or the Senate due to bi-partisan opposition.

Amtrak Routes Said to be Eyed by Terrorists

August 20, 2017

Amtrak’s Empire Builder and Lake Shore Limited might be targeted by terrorist groups the Transportation Security Administration has warned.

The TSA has told mass transit agencies, freight, and passenger rail lines to be vigilant in the wake of a propaganda video released by the terrorist group Al Qaeda.

TSA said there are no known plots against transportation operations in the United States, but that the terrorist group has listed dozens of rail routes that it considered to be vulnerable.

Many of those routes serve Chicago Union Station. Al Qaeda listed the Chicago-New York Lake Shore Limited and the Chicago-Seattle/Portland Empire Builder.

“The Al-Qaeda video is an important reminder that mass transit, passenger-rail, and freight-rail operations are a potential target for terrorist activity,” TSA officials said.

The federal agency said employees should keep a close watch on their environments and to exercise caution with equipment and materials that could be used to obstruct or derail trains.

Transportation officials has indicated that airport-style screening systems are unlikely to become common in rail transportation, including mass transit lines, but testing is being conducted of systems that would enhance existing security measures.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority in Los Angeles conducted a test run of new technology designed to scan passengers to detect firearms or explosive vests.

“While we’ll never become a fully secured environment like you’d have in the airport, we do want to find a way to more effectively screen passengers,” Metro security executive Alex Wiggins said. “We are trying to stay ahead of the threat.”

One reason why airport security measure have not been implemented for rail passengers is because they cannot process transit and intercity rail passengers fast enough.

The technology being tested in Los Angeles can scan up to 600 passengers per hour. Riders are not required to remove their shoes or take out laptops, keys and phones from their bags.

The scanners cost about $60,000 each and 20 would be needed for Union Station alone.

TSA Mandates RR Workers get Security Training

December 20, 2016

In a regulation published on Dec. 16, the Transportation Security Administration said it will require all “security sensitive employees” of Class I freight railroads, commuter lines, and Amtrak to have formal security training. The rules also will apply to intercity bus companies.

tsa-logoTransportation companies will be required to establish a TSA-approved training program within a year.

Railroad employees expected to be affected by the training requirement are locomotive engineers, conductors, dispatchers and maintenance of way employees.

TSA said in a statement that the security training will focus on the ability “to observe, assess, and respond to security risks and potential security breaches.”

In particular, this will apply to railroad workers engaged in the transport of explosive, toxic, or radioactive cargoes through “high threat urban areas.”

All transportation companies covered by the regulation must appoint security coordinators.
TSA put the estimated cost of implementing the regulations at $90.7 million for freight railroads, and $53.4 million for commuter railroads.

TSA expects to extend the rules it is proposing for railroads and bus companies to maritime operations.