After September 11, 2001: How Transit Agencies Prepare for the Threat of Terrorism


Aaron Eder

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

planning - terrorism, land use - planning, mode - mass transit, mode - subway/metro


Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, U.S. Federal Transit Administration, TriMet (Portland, Oregon), Tri-County Metropolitan Transportation District of Oregon, Transit, Terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Terrorism, Security measures, Security, San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District, Public transit, Planning, New York City Transit Authority, New York City Transit, Mass transit, Local transit, Case studies


On September 11, 2001 (9/11), terrorists turned commercial aircraft into missiles and directed them toward high-rise and federal buildings, striking the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. After this tragic event, Congress’s attention was naturally focused on airport security, and for good reason: the attacks happened via the aviation system. Yet an equivalent amount of attention was not given to the nation’s public transportation system. To address this issue, the FTA, an organization within the U.S. Department of Transportation, began an ambitious five-part security initiative to improve the security of America’s public transportation systems and assist their oversight agencies in addressing these new threats. The objectives of this paper are to reveal the vulnerability of America’s transit system, identify typical pre–9/11 security planning, and show how the terrorist attacks that occurred on 9/11 have changed the way in which government and transit agencies address security concerns. An analysis of post–9/11 security measures adopted by the FTA; New York City Transit, New York; Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, D.C.; and the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit, California, is provided. A case study of the Tri-County Metropolitan Transportation District of Oregon is included to reveal how this agency in particular has responded to the threats that public transportation agencies face.