Public Transportation and Terrorism Safety
Predictably, the recent London subway bombing has brought scrutiny to the safety of subway and other transit systems worldwide. Many have asked the question: "How do we keep our public transportation systems safe from terrorism?" Some, including the UCLA International Institute, recommended some solutions. While I certainly applaud efforts to make public transit safe, I think any attempts to secure transit systems from terrorist attacks are unnecessary.
Terrorism is a very unpredictable thing. There is no way to conceive of the variety of ways an attack can occur. This being the case, it is likely that any security measure put into place could be breached by a person with enough conviction and perseverance. The only sure ways to keep transit systems safe from terrorism are to either subject every passenger to intense scrutiny by security personnel, or have nobody ride the transit system. Neither of these solutions are palatable.
Given the unpredictable nature and rarity of terrorist attacks, I don't believe terrorism safety should be a priority for transit systems. Transit systems remain one of the safest modes of travel, as documented by the Victoria Transport Policy Institute. As tragic as terrorist attacks can be, they should not be a daily cause of fear for transit riders, nor should they be used as a vehicle to promote design solutions intended to prevent crime. Let's spend our time and energy on improving the quality and reliability of service instead of wasting time trying to prevent terrorism.