More bombings in London yesterday made me wonder again about Metro security.
A July 18 editorial said that the best security was invisible but shouldn't be nonexistent. Karen Robb [letters, July 18] commented about packages recently left unattended all day at a Metro station in Virginia, and just last week I witnessed suspicious behavior at another Virginia Metro station. I reported the behavior to the station manager and followed up with a call to Metro police about an hour later to confirm whether the station manager had, indeed, reported the situation. I was concerned that he might not have been able to report it because he was so busy providing instructions to those unfamiliar with Metro's Farecard machines. The machines have written instructions on them as well as an audio component to aid first-time Metro users. They even have instructions in Braille. If none of this is understandable, plenty of regular Metro users should be willing to assist the uninitiated.
Perhaps it's time for Metro to exercise, in the interest of security, a little tough love and let first-time users figure out how to use the Farecard machines without the aid of the station manager. Station managers need to keep their eyes on suspicious behavior. It's difficult to do this when they are surrounded by people clamoring for help with Farecard machines.
A July 18 letter said that only Verizon cell phones "can get normal phone service in the underground parts of stations and in tunnels." But Sprint says that its phones will roam onto the Verizon system in the Metro.
A July 9 letter suggested that it would be safer if cell phones could only phone out from Metro, not in, which seems a better idea than shutting the cell phone system off, as happened in transit tunnels in New York. More than a year ago, communications were botched during the evacuation of the Dupont Circle station. Part of the problem was that the Metro staff could not communicate adequately with people in the station. My inexpensive suggestion: Equip every station manager's post with a bullhorn or two.
Another level of sophistication: Install electric signage where it would be visible to those about to enter the station. I understand that Metro rejected this idea before the Dupont Circle incident on the grounds that it would encourage passengers to race for trains. But the remedy is simple -- just use it for emergencies.
Regarding the July 19 Metro story "Balancing Safeguards With Symbolism": As a commuter who has had to navigate the Lincoln Memorial reconstruction for 18 months, I've tried to be understanding of security measures in this post-Sept. 11 world. But we are pouring millions into securing granite landmarks while our public transit systems go begging for security funding. While it would be undeniably sad if such a historic structure were destroyed, something is wrong with security priorities that put monuments ahead of people.
ALLEGRA M. SENSENIG