- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 4, 2001

The fatal knife attack that temporarily shut down Greyhound bus service nationwide yesterday will force the industry which has suffered along with other forms of public transit since Sept. 11 to take a closer look at security, industry officials say.
The American Bus Association, a trade group for bus operators, said it was already studying new safety measures for buses when a passenger on a Greyhound Lines Inc. bus slit the driver's throat early yesterday, sending the vehicle careening off a Tennessee highway.
At least six passengers were killed, police said. Greyhound shut down all of its service for about seven hours, but resumed by 1 p.m. Company officials said the incident did not appear to be linked to the Sept. 11 terrorist strikes on New York and Washington.
The industry began scrutinizing its security measures after the terrorist attacks, according to Michele Janis, spokeswoman for the bus association. Beefing up security will be tough because most bus operators are small, mom-and-pop operations, she said.
There is not a central system that all operators use to screen passengers, Miss Janis said. Also, while intercity buses like Greyhound only pick passengers up at terminals, tour buses often pick passengers up at shopping centers, park-and-ride lots and hotel lobbies, she said.
"Security is challenging in our industry. And the very definition of the word 'security' is so fluid these days," Miss Janis said.
Buses are traditionally a safe mode of transit, said David Longo, spokesman for the federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, an agency that monitors the bus industry. There were only three bus-related fatalities in the United States last year, Mr. Longo said.
It is unclear if the federal government will step in and take over bus security, he said. "We see [the Greyhound attack] as an isolated incident," he said.
To help Greyhound catch up after the seven-hour delay yesterday, the administration will waive the rules that prevent bus drivers from driving more than 10 hours without a break, Mr. Longo said. The waiver will apply only to Greyhound drivers and will last today and Friday, he said.
The Sept. 11 terrorist attacks hurt the bus industry, Miss Janis said. Commercial buses carried about 774 million passengers a year last year, she said. Since the attacks, customers have canceled about 500,000 trips a day.
"That hurts, because the operators rely on the money from the fall to get them through the slower wintors rely on the money from the fall to get them through the slow winter months," she said.
At least 20,000 bus-industry workers have been laid off since Sept. 11, she said.
Laidlaw Inc., a Canadian company that owns Greyhound, filed for protection from its creditors under Chapter 11 of the U.S. bankruptcy code in June. It also filed a petition to reorganize under the Companies Creditors' Arrangement Act in Canada.
Laidlaw lost more than $3 million last year and more than $1.5 million in 1999. Net sales in 2000 were $4.3 billion.
Analysts said the company's troubles began when it started an ambulance service that failed to make money, and invested in a financially troubled environmental-services company.
"The combination of those two things left them in a situation where they ran out of cash," said Horst E. Hueniken, an analyst for TD Newcrest, a Canadian securities firm.
Customers who experienced delays at the Greyhound terminal in Northeast Washington said they were frustrated.
Some arrived early because they expected delays.
One bus that arrived from West Virginia took an unexpected three-hour layover in Pennsylvania, passengers said.
One of the passengers, 18-year-old French native Dja Dja Diop began her trip the previous night in Detroit. She was supposed to be in Baltimore by 12:20 p.m. yesterday, but arrived at 4:20 p.m.
"I'm really tired," she said in broken English. "And mad."
Staff writer Gerald Mizejewski contributed to this report.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide