To jolt commuters from the holiday lull, Amtrak will now greet passengers at Penn Station and elsewhere with bomb-sniffing dogs, machine-gun-wielding security officers, and random carry-on bag checks starting today as part of a program to boost security measures on domestic rail lines.
A long-time proponent of upping security on America’s vulnerable rail system, Senator Charles Schumer, supported the initiative but feared that cash-strapped Amtrak might not have the personnel to make the system work without “bringing service to a screeching halt.”
“Given that terrorists have chosen passenger rail as one of their targets of choice, provided this doesn’t slow things down or require additional longer lines and waits, this plan is certainly worth trying,” he said in a statement.
Amtrak insists the heightened security will not result in added delays or require passengers to arrive earlier at stations, but such a promise is hard to swallow for anyone who has had the pleasure of riding one of Amtrak’s perennially late, moth-eaten trains lately.
Earlier this month, the Department of Homeland Security earmarked $153 million worth of grants to be split between the MTA, NJ Transit and Amtrak, with 20 percent going to the NYPD. Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said a similar program for the subway system, dubbed “Operation Torch,” will be ready by the end of the month.