The National Academies

TCRP J-10J [Completed]

Public Transportation Passenger Security Inspections: A Guide for Decision Makers

  Project Data
Funds: $100,000
Research Agency: Countermeasures Assessment & Security Experts, LLC
Principal Investigator: Mr. Ernest R. Frazier
Effective Date: 11/16/2006
Completion Date: 2/28/2007


Worldwide terrorist activities create many security-related concerns for government leaders, security agencies, and transit agency managers. In response to these concerns, many transit agencies are assessing and introducing activities to reduce the risk of attacks on their systems.

Most public transportation agencies have instituted security measures and continue to re-assess their situation as new threats are identified. One measure receiving more consideration is the introduction of passenger security inspections. However, there are many policy and logistical issues associated with implementing these inspections. Public transportation agencies could benefit from assistance in defining their options for conducting passenger security inspections. Apart from determining whether security inspections are feasible for one's agency, there is also a need to determine appropriate methodologies for implementing such measures.

Some of the questions asked by agencies regarding the potential introduction of passenger security inspections include:
  • When are passenger security inspections warranted?
  • What are the legal bases for conducting passenger security inspections?
  • What are the liability issues associated with implementing--or not implementing--passenger security inspections?
  • How can such measures be implemented with minimal impact on operations?
  • What are the precedents in the public transportation environment? What are the "lessons learned"?
  • What public responses will result from implementing such measures?
  • What public outreach or stakeholder input should be considered?
  • What human resources (staffing, training, etc.) are required?
  • What types of passenger security inspections are possible, and what technologies are available to support those inspections?
  • What financial implications/cost considerations are involved?
  • How effective are passenger security inspections expected to be? What are the metrics?
  • What other challenges must be addressed in implementing passenger security inspections?

Public transportation agencies need guidance on how to determine whether passenger security inspections should be implemented at their agency. If they decide to go forward, they need to know how to implement security inspections.


The objective of this project is to develop guidance that a public transportation agency may use when considering whether, where, when, and how to introduce a passenger security inspection program into its operations.

Accomplishment of the project objective will require the following tasks.

TASKS (1.) Identify and review relevant practices, findings, and other information related to passenger security inspections in the United States and abroad. Determine how agencies conduct passenger security inspection programs and how their effectiveness is measured. Prepare a working paper on the Task 1 results. (2.) Prepare an interview guide that will be used in Task 3 agency interviews. Identify agencies proposed to be interviewed. Metropolitan Transportation Authority-New York, New Jersey Transit, Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority, Port Authority Trans-Hudson, and Utah Transit Authority are among those agencies in the United States with recent experience conducting passenger security inspections. Large agencies that have not implemented passenger security inspections, as well as smaller agencies, should also be interviewed. (3.) Conduct interviews based on the panel approved interview guide and list of agencies. (4.) Develop a structured methodology in the form of a guide for use by public transportation agency senior staff or policy board staff, law enforcement, and security service providers in assessing the advantages and disadvantages of establishing a passenger security inspection program. Focus on (1) the policy decision and (2) implementation issues. (5.) Submit a final report, documenting the entire research effort and including (1) an executive summary and (2) a user-friendly guide or tool for use in considering whether, where, when, and how to introduce a passenger security inspection program into public transportation operations. Appendices should include items such as sample policies, standard operating procedures, and general orders.

Status: Complete.  Published as TCRP Report 86: Public Transportation Security--Volume 13: Public Transportation Security Inspections: A Guide for Policy Decision Makers.  Report Appendixes are published as TCRP Web-Only Document 38.

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