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In today's world, the possibility of terrorism exists at home or abroad. 

In our article, we examine the threat of terrorism to public transportation.  We discuss alternate  modes of transportation and their advantages and disadvantage.  As always, you should decide safety issues based on your beliefs.

During a visit to Paris a few years back, we had a "close encounter with terrorism".  We continue to travel, believing that the benefits outweigh the risks



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Travel Advice -   Public transportation and terrorism concerns

We are proponents of the use of public transportation by tourists, as it is the most convenient and economical way to travel the world’s major cities.  Recently, terrorist plots aimed at mass transportation have caused us to re-think our position.

In March of 2004, terrorists struck Madrid, Spain with coordinated, simultaneous bombing of commuter trains  during rush hour.  In 2005 terrorists struck the London Underground.  In the light of terrorism, every traveler should consider whether the terrorist threat to public transportation outweighs the conveniences offered by these accessible, low cost methods of traveling in major urban areas.

We define mass transportation systems as buses, subways, commuter trains, and ferry systems.

  •  Mass transportation systems are targets of terrorism for two reasons:
    • They are used by large numbers of people, allowing the terrorist to maximize the damage of their efforts
    • Mass transportation systems are so complex that rigid security measures are usually  unworkable. 
      • From an operational point of view, there are few practical measures that can be taken  to prevent terrorist attacks on mass transportation systems.
      •  In other words, the problem will not go away.  

Why is rigid security impractical in a mass transportation system?

  • Consider the problem of using scanning and security checks on major subway systems.
    • The cost of the infrastructure to support screening at all station entrances, train entrances, and, then, handling system alerts would exceed our ability to pay.
    • The system delay due to screening would be unacceptable, perhaps extending rush-hour travel by several hours.
    • Moving large numbers of people in brief, amounts of time can be accomplished only with the barest of security.

Yes, security could be improved but doing so will likely provide only the illusion of security. So, what should a traveler do? We believe that there are several choices and suggest the following:

1. Continue to use mass transportation, but follow our recommendation to use during non-peak hours (see our articles In Europe, use public transportation  and our article on Safety recommendations for using taxis, trains, and buses).

2. Use taxis.

  • Taxis are usually more expensive than public transportation but offer more safety from direct involvement in a terrorist attack.

3. Drive.

  • We offer the automobile as suggestion but do not recommend it since we believe, that for tourists, it is impractical to drive and too expensive to park in most large cities.

4. Walk.

  • We feel that walking cities is a great way to see and experience the local geography but walking is not a practical means of conveyance over the distances that tourists need to cover in large cities.

Whether you choose to use or avoid mass transit due to security concerns is an issue for you to decide based on your level of comfort with traveling on mass transportation systems. If you have any hesitation about using mass transportation, find an alternative that meets your security standards.

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