- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Greyhound Lines plans to separate passengers from bus drivers with Plexiglas shields within the next year as federal officials expand their transportation security network.

Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officials said yesterday they are turning their attention to making intercity bus equipment, personnel training and passenger screening more secure now that airline security has been addressed.

Although the risk of terrorist attack on intercity buses is small, “This is just part of our national transportation system that cannot be ignored,” James Loy, TSA chief, said during a press conference at the Greyhound bus terminal at 1005 First St. NE.

The TSA gave Greyhound a $9 million grant to install the plastic shields on 1,700 of its 2,400 buses.

Other measures jointly funded by Greyhound and the TSA include use of global positioning systems to track buses, installing buttons next to steering wheels for drivers to send radio signals to 911 call centers in emergencies, and greater use of electronic hand wands to screen passengers for weapons or other prohibited items.

The TSA’s goal is “to raise our security profile,” Mr. Loy said.

Greyhound, the largest of hundreds of U.S. bus companies, carried 774 million passengers last year, more than all airline and rail companies combined. It spends $11 million a year of its own money on security.

About 20 percent of its passengers locally and nationally can expect TSA screeners to run hand wands along their bodies searching for weapons or other items prohibited on buses. The screened passengers are chosen randomly, the agency says.

That means about 3,000 passengers per week at the First Street terminal are screened with wands, said Ray Robinson, Greyhound’s Eastern District manager.

“We’re hoping the TSA funds will promote more of these programs,” Mr. Robinson said.

The TSA has given out $20 million in grants for 67 intercity bus-security projects. The $9 million for Greyhound was the largest. The Dallas company operates 80 percent of all fixed-route intercity bus service in the United States.

Congress approved the $20 million for bus security in fiscal 2003 and is considering spending another $10 million in fiscal 2004.

Since the September 11 attacks, the U.S. government has spent more than $4 billion on aviation security. Amtrak received more than $55 million.

“Drivers obviously need more protection than they have previously,” said Rep. Jo Ann Emerson, Missouri Republican who supported the bus-security grants.

Greyhound drivers have been victims of several violent incidents since September 11, including an attack on a California driver last year that killed two passengers when the bus rolled over. The driver was stabbed in the neck with a pair of scissors. His attacker, a transient man, was charged with murder.

A year earlier, a 29-year-old Croatian man attacked a Greyhound driver with a box cutter aboard a bus traveling from Chicago to Orlando, Fla. Seven passengers were killed in the resulting accident, including the attacker, identified as Igric Damir. The FBI said the assailant was deranged, not a terrorist with a political agenda.

Passengers yesterday emptied their pockets, had hand wands run along their bodies, or had their baggage searched as they boarded buses at the downtown Greyhound terminal. Most said the security procedures were a sign of the times.

“If it’s for safety, it’s not a problem,” said Jeffrey Harris, a hotel supervisor from New York.

His only complaint was longer delays in boarding buses.

“I would suggest they start the process a little sooner so people can get on the bus on time,” Mr. Harris said.

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