yea sure terrorists are going to attach valley metro buses!!!! sometimes i wonder if the driver of the bus is a terrorist and is planing on being a sucide bomber and killing himself and the only passenger on the bus - me. but then i quickly come to my senses and realized the driver wont explode his bomb till there are at least two passengers on the bus.

Audit finds flaws in transit security By Garin Groff, Tribune February 6, 2006

If a terrorist or common criminal wanted to target an East Valley transit facility, he would find:

A gate left open so anybody could access a lot where buses and other vehicles are stored.

Keys left in the ignitions of maintenance vehicles

A video security system that sends images to Iowa, where nobody watches live footage.

Employees who say theyve never had security training.

These security problems were revealed in a study Valley Metro ordered to measure its vulnerability to terrorist incidents and everyday crime. The study of two Mesa sites and one Scottsdale facility found door locks that had been broken for months and employees who were unaware of security plans.

Security did not appear to be a priority for the facility, the studys authors wrote of one Mesa site.

Security is becoming more important to transit operators after attacks on public transportation in London, Israel, Madrid and in the U.S. on Sept. 11, 2001. Local and federal authorities consider Arizona an unlikely target but, nonetheless, Valley Metro looked at major and minor crimes that affect public safety.

Transit authorities said recent attacks have already led to improved security measures and more money to fix the kind of problems found in the study.

Its concerning, said Bryan Jungwirth, a deputy executive director of Valley Metro. I think we now have some financial resources to address the situation.

Jungwirth insists the bus system is safe.

He said many of the weaknesses cited in the report have been fixed or arent as serious as they appear. The study itself is a signal Valley Metro is concerned about security, he said.

The study ended late last year after several months of work by Arup and Partners Consulting Engineers. It found the biggest problem at a bus maintenance yard in east Mesa. During one visit, the consultant found the receptionist was unaware that a duress button under her desk could be used to alert police of an incident.

The public could enter the facility more easily than they should because a driveway gate was left open. The gate was too heavy and didnt operate properly, the study said, so it was often open. Any intruders would find keys in vehicles. The report notes a man had recently stolen a vehicle from the yard while fleeing from police.

Security is normally more robust, Jungwirth said, adding the consultant dropped by when the receptionist was a temporary replacement.

I think it was a bad day that they came, he said.

Valley Metro is working on a new gate and has ordered employees to keep ignition keys in the building, Jungwirth said. Police would have an advantage if somebody targeted the facility, Jungwirth said, because the Mesa Police Departments SWAT training facility, where the SWAT team practices every six to eight weeks, is less than a mile away.

Security cameras monitor the facility and send the signal to an Iowa facility where the recordings are viewed if necessary. Valley Metro has plans for live monitoring of that and other facilities.

A visit to the Loloma Station in Scottsdale found a ticket agent who said shed never had security training in the 16 months shed worked there. The station didnt have an employee security manual because no security plan had been developed for the facility.

The consultant found keypad door locks were broken for months. The study also recommended replacing a ticket window with glass that would withstand a .38-caliber bullet.

The study noted the woman had some security lessons in her training though she didnt identify what shed learned.

Some study findings are inexpensive to address and are getting attention now, Jungwirth said. More expensive issues such as an extensive security camera system will take longer.

And some of the consultants recommendations arent likely to warrant action because of questionable benefits compared with the cost, Jungwirth said. For example, the ticket window bulletproof glass isnt a high priority, given the low threat and meager sales there.

A robber is going to have a much better time ripping off a Circle K than getting the $20 or $30 dollars a day at the Scottsdale facility, Jungwirth said.

Valley Metro which operates most buses in cities surrounding Phoenix plans a more comprehensive study of its entire system later this year as it plans to roll out other improvements, including better video security. It also plans to hire its first regional security director to oversee stronger efforts.

Its difficult to gauge crime levels on Valley bus service because police dont separate transit reports from other statistics, said Phoenix police Cmdr. Chris Shawkey, who oversees security on Phoenix bus service.

Anecdotal evidence indicates the biggest crime problem involves quality of life issues, Shawkey said, such as aggressive panhandling, graffiti, liquor consumption and trespassing.

The security shortcomings werent a surprise to Rod Diridon Sr., executive director of the Mineta Transportation Institute at San Jose State University in California. Nearly every U.S. transit agency would have the same problems, Diridon said, because theres historically been little need until recently.

Transportation systems need better security, he said, though terrorists are probably only interested in striking the busiest subways or trains in a handful of major cities.

Theyll go after the target that gives them what you might call the highest atrocity value, he said.

That probably rules out a strike on Valley buses, Diridon said. But that doesnt mean low-risk communities should do nothing. Everyday crime has plummeted where security has been increased to defend against terrorism, which Diridon considers a worthwhile public safety improvement.

The publics fear of terrorism on transit system exceeds the threat, even given gaps in security, Diridon said. He considers public transportation less risky than driving.

I dont think anywhere in the United States you need to be fearful of terrorism on a transit system, Diridon said. The probability of it occurring when youre there is so low that it cant even be measured.

Contact Garin Groff by email, or phone (480) 898-6554

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