Wednesday, October 26, 2005


NBC10 ran an investigative report (with video) on Tuesday night regarding security - or lack thereof - at SEPTA rail yards. As expected, and given SEPTA's track record, the results weren't pretty.

The apparent intent of the story was to expose lax security at SEPTA's regional rail yards on the heels of mass transit bombings in Madrid and London. Apparently, SEPTA learned nothing from the Powelton Yard fiasco last year.

The NBC 10 Investigators went to work when some SEPTA employees called them to tell them that they are worried about security.

The SEPTA trains you might be boarding tomorrow are sitting in an unsecured train parking lot tonight.

"We could have a picnic here, technically, and plant anything we want under one of these (trains)," said a SEPTA employee who did not want to be identified.

There are no cameras, no security guards and no fence to stop anyone from getting into the Warminster train yard. No one questioned the NBC 10 Investigators and the SEPTA whistleblower as they climbed onto the train. If The Investigators could get on board the train, anybody could -- even a terrorist.

Or, for that matter, vandals who happen to "accidentally" release brakes and send a train rolling unattended down the tracks.

"Anybody could easily plant something on this train all night and wait until it hits Center City," said the undercover SEPTA source.

"No signs telling you to stay off the property," the source said.

Perhaps at Warminster, that's the case, but at some stations, there are signs warning trespassers to stay off the property.

The SEPTA source took The Investigators to the Doylestown station where, once again, there was no one to see them or question what they were doing.

"You want to put a biochemical agent in that? Piece of cake," the source said.

The British found out how easy it was when terrorist bombs took a deadly toll on the London transit system last summer. SEPTA responded with pamphlets telling riders that security is tighter while you're on board and that employees are trained.

"That's a bold-faced lie. We're not trained in any kind of security for these trains as far as anything like 9/11 or the bombings in London or Spain," the SEPTA source said.

Surprise, surprise, surprise...

The Investigators and the SEPTA source went to Roberts Yard in Philadelphia and found one security camera, but nobody stopped them. The train doors were open. After about 45 minutes, The Investigators finally went into the office to alert security that they were on the premises.

"You're a supervisor?" (NBC 10's Lu Ann) Cahn asks.

"Yeah, stand by," the supervisor said.

While she stood by, Cahn talked to a SEPTA mechanic.

"What's your worst fear?" Cahn asked.

"Someone could come in here, put a bomb on the train, something like that," the mechanic said.

The supervisor makes calls to report the presence of The Investigators, but nothing happens.

Apparently, the "Transit Police" on duty were busy on other high priority calls, or were doing what they normally do - virtually nothing.

The Investigators showed Congressman Curt Weldon the video of their trip to the train yards. Weldon is the vice chairman of the Homeland Security Committee.

"That's ridiculous. It's outrageous," Weldon said. "That's just waiting for a disaster to occur."

And if anyone is qualified to make such a statement, it's Congressman Weldon, the former chief of the Marcus Hook fire department.

The Investigators also showed the video to SEPTA.

"So, what are you suggesting?" asked Richard Maloney, SEPTA's spokesman.

How about firing the morons in charge of public safety, starting with Hack Extraordinare James B. Jordan, and "Transit Police Chief" Richard Evans?

"I'm not being sarcastic. I have never heard of any terrorists planning an attack on, essentially, a train parking lot."

One, the Minister of Mis-information probably is being sarcastic; two, I highly doubt the NYPD or FDNY had heard of terrorists hijacking planes and slamming them into buildings either.

"That's a cop out. If you're a terrorist, you're going to plant something separate from the passengers, and you're going to leave a device, especially if it's a remotely-activated device, like they used in London," Weldon said.

And more than likely not get caught doing so...

"Why are train doors just wide open?" Cahn asked Maloney.

"Because we have had no reports of it being a vulnerable area," Maloney said.

Well, a**hole, now you do...

Maloney said that SEPTA has spent $7.5 million federal dollars on beefing up security where passengers come and go. But SEPTA admitted it hasn't spend any money on securing the rail yards.

As far as training is concerned, Maloney said the company spends one day a year on emergency procedures -- some in mock exercises -- that prepares employees for all types of emergencies.

"If I had people in those positions telling me that they had not had the training?" Cahn asks.

"Mistaken," Maloney said.

Does anyone else see Maloney's nose growing with each passing lie?

"I'm going to today ask for SEPTA's homeland security plan," Weldon said.

Good luck, Congressman. You'll have an easier time finding Jimmy Hoffa...

Riders want answers, too.

"It's terrible. It's a disgrace," one rider said.

"I'm shocked. You can walk right in," another rider said.

"This is America. We're supposed to have a free society and people aren't supposed to just wander in where they're not supposed to be on private property. There's a basic honor system here," Maloney said.

Honor, huh? Now there's a foreign concept at 1234 Market...

"If you really want to show these passengers you care about them, protect the yards because I don't think they're very safe," NBC 10's source said.

Local rail systems in New York, Washington DC and Los Angeles all told the NBC 10 Investigators that they have taken measures to secure their rail yards. Weldon has fired off a letter to SEPTA demanding to know what the transit system in Philadelphia is going to do to secure their rail yards.

Probably what SEPTA always does... virtually nothing...

In an alternate universe, however, SEPTA should at least reach out to the townships and boroughs that host rail layover yards at terminal points. This would include Warminster and Doylestown Boro in Bucks, Norristown (ha ha ha) and Lansdale boroughs in MontCo, Media (or Nether Providence) in DelCo, and Ewing Twp, New Jersey (for West Trenton station). It might not hurt to have East Whiteland do some supplemental patrols at Frazer Yard, nor for Philadelphia Police to check out the two Chestnut Hill stations and Fox Chase as well.

I remember one semi-regular contributor to the pre-blog site who was a Philadelphia Police officer who occasionally did patrols through SEPTA facilities to supplement any "security" that SEPTA may have. Don't know if SEPTA took too kindly to it, but hey, every extra set of eyes and ears helps. Right?

Meanwhile, rail yards aren't the only facilities that have security issues...

Some of SEPTA's bus facilities are also as vulnerable. In the past, I've personally seen, among other things, buses at Comly Depot parked along a side street adjacent to Bustleton Av. Additionally, one could just as easily walk onto the Frontier bus yard in Plymouth and either tamper with vehicles or even drive a bus off the property without anyone noticing.

In fact, over the past several years, there have been a few buses stolen from the Red Arrow bus yard in Upper Darby, the most recent being October 26, 2000 - five years ago today, as a matter of fact - the account from the pre-blog archives:

Two teens simply walked onto the Red Arrow bus lot in Upper Darby at around 23:30 on Thursday, October 26, and took off with 8859, which was in the fueling lane following that day's runs. Red Arrow operator Julius Major followed the stolen bus down Market St to 63 St, where he flagged down a Philadelphia Police officer. The chase ended at the corner of 62-Walton Sts in West Philadelphia, when 8859 crashed into a PPD cruiser and eventually struck a building. One Philadelphia Police officer was taken to the Hospital of the Univ. of Pennsylvania for minor injuries. 8859 suffered damage to the left windshield, front bumper, side panel, and frame.

This incident brings back memories of a similar incident [in 1997 - ed.] when Allegheny (at the time) #5267 was hijacked on Lehigh Av during a 54 trip early one weekday morning. 5267 - the only NABI to be officially listed as scrapped on the SEPTA roster [at the time - ed.] - crashed into the El structure at Kensington and Lehigh, and is now stored at Berridge, awaiting disposition.

... Maloney said that this was the third SEPTA bus to be stolen [in 2000 - ed.] (the other two buses were taken from Callowhill and Midvale), and that 8859 would be out of service temporarily, however may be scrapped, as a few 8800s have been retired recently. Maloney also told the Philadelphia Inquirer, "If neccesary, we could add more security, but it would come at the expense of ease of operations."

Nearly five years later, the lax mentality of SEPTA as is pertains to security still exists... God help the passengers...

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