Rail Commuters Balk at Proposed 'No-Ride List' for Trains

Chuck Schumer is calling for one, but riders don't want the TSA in stations

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On Sunday, Sen. Chuck Schumer proposed a "no-ride list" for Amtrak trains, similar to the no-fly list for air travel. The Democrat from New York cited news that Osama bin Laden had been eyeing trains as possible targets for terrorist attacks, including one on the 10th anniversary of the Sept 11, 2001 attacks.

But the proposal is getting a lukewarm reception from rail fans, in part because Amtrak has already clashed with the Transportation Security Administration and won. In February, after TSA agents inappropriately searched passengers in Savannah, Georgia, Amtrak Police Chief John O’Connor ordered TSA security teams off Amtrak property. The outcry then was over the invasion of privacy inherent in a federal agent patting down a 9-year-old kid after he had already gotten off a train.

The no-ride list idea has elicited a whole range of protest, from those worried about ever-limited travel options to those who think it would be totally ineffective. Train fans are an avid bunch, and many have offered their responses online. In a Yahoo Amtrak group, "Joe" points out how transit options have diminished in smaller communities: "Even Greyhound has pulled out of a lot of smaller towns. Besides, if a "no-ride" list for trains is even attempted, what then would stop them from applying "no-ride" lists to bus carriers too?" On Reddit, user faintdeception points out, "terrorist[s] don't need to get on the train to blow it up, they're on rails."

Many have pointed out the difficulty in enforcing such a list, especially on long-haul trains, which often operate out of stations with minimal personnel (or even none). Back on the Yahoo group, user Doug gives an example:

Each station would have to add a security person of some sort in order for this "list" to be enforceable, and you'd have to have a security person at every door on the train. Try to imagine the lone ticket agent in Salinas, CA enforcing a No Train list or someone who gets on in Winnemucca, NV and the conductor has to have access to "the list". People get on a train and it could be 30 minutes or more before his ticket is piked up - by that time things could have happened. Unwieldy is the key word here and totally unenforceable unless you cordon off every station and add a guard at every entrance, etc.

Comedian Neal Brennan, in a tweet, points out a limit to a possible TSA push into ground transportation: "Bin Laden: 'We should bomb Amtrak.' Guy #1: 'What about Greyhound?' Bin Laden: 'No. Those people are suffering enough.' "

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.