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Turnstiles Needed to Protect Us From Terrorists

Why Does Metro Need Turnstiles? 9-11, 9-11 and 9-11

When I moved to Los Angeles, I thought that my days of hearing unpopular proposals justified by invoking 9-11 were over. Yet, there were two members of the Metro Board and Metro CEO Roger Snobel using the Global War on Terror and 9-11 as reason for Metro to put turnstiles in along the Red Line and some light rail stops. The board overwhelmingly voted to allocate $60 million to add turnstiles to train stations on the red line. You can read the official Metro press release here.

And Metro's turnstile plan is unpopular. After a half-dozen speakers from various transit advocacy organizations spoke against the project Fix-Expo's Damien Goodmon noted that, "It should concern you (the Metro Board) when the Transit Coalition, Bus Rider's Union, Kymberleigh Richards and myself all oppose it."

Not just outsiders lambasted the proposal, Westside/Central Sector Council Chair Jerard Wright read most of a prepared statement (he was cut off by the time limit) noting that there were turnstiles, security check points and cameras in Madrid when its transit system was attacked, and it didn't do anything to stop the attackers.

With public comment completed, the board discussed the proposal and with Board Member Richard Katz continuing to attack the estimated financial gains that the gates would bring over time; Snobel gave a new reason for putting in turnstiles: to protect Metro's riders from terrorists. The CEO noted there is new technology available to detect non-medical radiation or whether or not passengers were carrying a bomb. Presumably, this technology would work best when people are going through a turnstile.

When pressed by Zev Yaroslavsky as to whether today's proposal had any of that high tech security included, Snobel admitted that it did not. Yaroslavsky also questioned how security would be able to do much to stop a potential attacker since a major part of Metro's savings from adding turnstiles is supposed to come from reducing the contract with the L.A. Sheriff's Office. Yaroslavsky eventually voted for the proposal.

But the argument that turnstiles were the first step in protecting metro riders from terrorists held sway with some board members. Board Member Doug Fleming intoned that "if London had this system, the would have stopped the attack." Presumably Fleming meant that if London had a system that could detect bombs or radiation at their subway stations they could have stopped the attack of 2005. London's series of fare gates and cameras is far more complicated than a row of turnstiles. While useful in identifying the terrorists after the fact, the system did nothing to protect the riders already in the tubes.

Los Angeles City Councilman and Metro Board Member Bernard Parks added that when the Red Line was being constructed, the LAPD wanted fare gates installed. "Since 9-11" it's important to look at how vulnerable Metro stations are. Parks also noted that one person behind a bank of monitors would be more efficient than the force Metro currently employs. A rumble through the audience (remember, public comment was already closed) wondered how that one person would stop terrorists with a bomb once they crossed the turnstiles and were close to the boarding area.

Homeland Security wasn't the only reason Board Members gave for voting for the project. Some believed that Metro would begin making a profit off this $60 million investment in a couple of years, and others believed it would make the stations "more orderly." Board Member Yvonne Burke somehow made the connection between using turnstiles and ending a backlog in the criminal court because resources that should be used to try murderers and gang members is being used to track down and punish fare violators. Burke claimed the next step would be creating a civil authority to handle tickets for fare evaders, but nobody I spoke with was able to answer what was stopping Metro from creating a civil authority without adding turnstiles.

Before the vote, Katz summed up the feeling of the audience when he said, "The hijackers of 9-11 paid for first class tickets. Terrorists are not going to be stopped by a $1.25 fare."

There you go, justification for the next fare increase.

The proposal passed 10-1, with Katz the lone dissenter.

Photo from the New York Times

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