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Transit Security Seen and Unseen

Lauren Williams, center, and Sherie Mayz, standing, ride the Blue Line. Mayz said she had not noticed much of a difference in security measures.
Lauren Williams, center, and Sherie Mayz, standing, ride the Blue Line. Mayz said she had not noticed much of a difference in security measures. (By James A. Parcell -- The Washington Post)

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By Paul Duggan and Lyndsey Layton
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, July 14, 2005

A week after bombs killed dozens of subway and bus passengers in London, transit officials in the Washington area said yesterday that they are maintaining high security for rail commuters, using cameras, explosive-sniffing dogs and scores of police officers to protect stations, tracks, bridges and other potential terrorist targets.

Some of the security measures that authorities described were clearly visible to riders on suburban commuter trains and Metro subway lines yesterday. Officers were on duty at some Virginia Railway Express stations, for example, and some Metro riders were on platforms guarded by officers toting automatic weapons.

"At the station, there are definitely more cops, more security," said Joe DiBello, 25, who commutes from Baltimore to Washington on Maryland's MARC trains.

Yet elsewhere on commuter and subway lines, heightened security was nowhere in evidence.

"I haven't seen much of a difference," said Sherie Mayz, 20, riding Metro's Blue Line to the Pentagon. "They need to show it more."

MARC and VRE officials said their rail lines have increased the use of surveillance cameras and bomb-sniffing dogs at "critical infrastructure" locations and beefed up patrols by officers in uniform and plainclothes, on foot, in vehicles and aboard watercraft. "Some of it you will see," said Mark Roeber, a VRE spokesman. "Some of it you will not see."

Meanwhile, Metro Transit Police Chief Polly L. Hanson said the system is considering inspecting passengers' bags at random. She said officials have begun researching the legal issues associated with such a practice.

"It's something I very much want to do," Hanson said. "The timing is important on something like that, and I feel that this is a time when it would be received well."

Other transit systems have stepped up their security.

At the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority in Boston, officers have been working extended shifts since the London bombings, with some workdays stretched to 15 hours and others lasting 11 hours, Deputy Chief John Martino said. Transit police are performing random checks of commuter rail trains with bomb-sniffing dogs during rush hours, he said.

In New York, the police department has posted one officer on every train since the London bombings.

"I wish I had what New York has," Hanson said.

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