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

  • Wow. Truly mind blowing. The lack of logic and reason on the matter is stunning. Turnstiles to stop terrorists? Give me a break.

    Was there any mention of TAP? The Metro Press Release devoted at least two paragraphs to it, semi-confirming my suspicions that this all has to do with the stupid little contactless fare cards that simply make no sense on Metro Rail without gates.

    Great reporting Damien. I can tell Streetsblog LA is really going to pwn.

  • M

    This makes no sense. So the trains will be safer because there are machines guarding the entrances instead of people within the stations and on the trains? Are the machines going to chase after the “terrorists”? Are they just going to alarm everyone to run out of the station immediately? Are they going to drop a cage on top of the potential evil-doer?

    I recently got a TAP card and although the ways of “reloading” are nicer than buying passes in the past, constantly taking it out is a pain! I liked the old paper passes because I *didn’t* have to take it out and potentially misplace it 6 times a day. I also have found myself tapping my card on half the machines twice before it is picked up and read correctly.

    The TAP system honestly makes me feel very uncomfortable as well. I can see how it will easily be used to track individuals activity within the stations since, with some carefully placed cameras, they can know who you are as soon as you walk in and where you go (based on statistics from your past trips). Since they know when, where and how you reload it and they can get related credit card information(if that is how you pay), they know where to find you and contact you. They also ask you to “register” your TAP card, asking for information like your name, address and phone number. (I kinda suspect if they aren’t putting that special bomb technology in the turnstiles now because the TAP cards will already give them way more personal information on each individual.)

    Are any of the people that made this decision every-day riders of the metro system?

    I recall reading that someone had calculated it would take the flood of people coming off a MetroLink trains something like 69 minutes to make their way through turnstiles at Union Station. Have you heard of this number and do you know what happened with that study and if it was taken into consideration for this decision?

  • Yo, there is only one reason I can think of that these asshats would bring up “terrorism” to fund their unpopular capital improvements: federal dollars.

    Here is my hypothesis: the MTA is so top-heavy that it needs to beg and borrow its way to keep its staff and equipment on the payroll, even though it has a massive budget of several billion dollars.

    There is probably a small team of grant writers on the MTA, and a congressional aide or two, working to bring some “anti-terrorism” money to the MTA through some ridiculous grant program.

    This is just a guess as to why this idiotic line of reasoning is being used.

  • calwatch

    Literally, the fare increase brought in $6.2 million to the rail side of operations. The cost for operating gating will be $7 million a year. Therefore, gating wipes out the fare increase, and presumes that enough of those one and two stop fare evaders on the Red Line will pay the $1.25 instead of just walking or taking DASH to their destination.

  • How the hell are these clowns getting anti-terrorism money for doing this?

  • Simon

    I just hope this isn’t a prelude to distance-based fares via TAP.

    Day passes and monthly passes make a metro system so much easier and smarter. If you can spend 70 bucks and get a monthly pass, it really puts into perspective how much more you’d be spending on a car. It provides the perfect contrast.

  • What Yvonne Burke (in her usual confused way) was making reference to is she initially pushed for gates because many of her constituents complained about having to go to court for tickets they got as scofflaws on the Blue Line. And ironically this proposal only puts gates in some light rail stations, so it does nothing to address the scofflaw problem that started this whole sorry mess.

    This is why we need an elected Metro Board; the current structure provides no accountability. Maybe we should ask the incoming Assembly Speaker Karen Bass if she’d carry legislation on this topic.

  • Damien Goodmon

    C’mon man, you think electing these guys would make it better? I think it would make it worse!

    And almost all of them ARE elected – just not solely on the issue of transportation.

    If anything we need an unelected board, with well defined conflict-of-interest laws. But then comes the question of who appoints them and for how long.

    I heard a person tell me back in the old days the CTC or RTD boards used to have Q & A with the audience. That’s what we should push for!

    You would have to put John Walsh vs. Antonio and Bernie on Pay Per View and charge $100 a ticket.

    Congrats on the new site Good Damien. ;-)

  • Ed Von Nordeck

    Sometimes I wonder, just how much money under the table is going to staffers and board members.

    This whole issue is insane. Revenue will not make up for it, as fewer riders will use the subway.

    So LA is the only subway not to have gates.
    Great, LA is in the 21 Century. The other cites were built in the 19 Century.

    Better security is available with more fare inforcers, gates will not stop a gun or bomb.

  • I get sick for a week and this insanity happens. You know the turnstile bs didn’t start with that vote with the only sane person being Katz, it started in 2002 when Cubicle go the contract for the TAP cards. The TAP cards are actually in my opinion in the long term worse than the turnstiles, but it’s all connected.

    All of it’s bad, bad, bad, especially considering all of those silly meetings they had the last few weeks and no one at METRO thought to have a public meeting on this.

    More reasons that METRO needs to be given a plan to be forced to run on profit, so they they would actually listen to the customers….

    “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. ” dn

    Outfu*kingrageous, hey how about the people who got shot at the bus stop in South LA, they look pretty vulnerable, how about 80 million to stop that…idiots, idiots, idiots.

    Great piece DN

  • Better question what exactly are we going to do about this? Seriously we should do something about this, I wish we could do a boycott, but that won’t work since METRO doesn’t get money from doing it’s job…does letter writing work. I would be onboard to actually help out anyone who would want to actually do something.

    I’m not doing a sit in or anything 1960s like, I’m not a dirty hippie ;)

    Also went to the Evergreen Cemetary tour DN owing to your calendar of events. It was very interesting found out the founder of Ralph’s Grocery store (who is burried there) was crushed by a boulder (his wife was on top of it, maybe I’m implying something maybe I’m not) while hiking in Lancaster, which was I thought was pretty cool.


  • Damien Goodmon

    It’s rather funny, but going the John Walsh route and forcing increased media scrutiny and an investigation into the “conflicts of interest” is maybe the only way to stop it at this stage.

  • Rather than make a xerox of my posting, I’ll just give you a link to the other place on this blog where I give everyone an opportunity to come ask these embarrassing questions to Metro’s chief gating architect …


  • Wad

    Another funny point on the arrant stupidity of the fare gates:

    Cubic, of San Diego, installed the very same system as TAP on the county network. It’s called Compass, and works the same way as TAP is supposed to.

    You’ll see the same pylons as the Metro Rail stations along the Trolley.

    San Diego’s Compass system does not need fare gates. There is also no way San Diego can install fare gates on the Trolley, since the stations are open access and many of the split-platform stations allow pedestrians to walk across the tracks.

  • Presently there are several varieties of security take into account when it comes to protecting a building. Security turnstiles is highly recommended quickly given that it acts as the first line of defense in opposition to possible dangers that can affect the occupants and properties of a establishment.

  • Jin Cooper

    “The hijackers of 9-11 paid for first class tickets. Terrorists are not going to be stopped by a $1.25 fare” – just empty demagogy. For example integration of man’s height security turnstile (photo 1) with a metal detector or x-ray gates (photo 2) can be a great solution against 9-11 repeat. Any questions?
    Photo 1: http://bit.ly/1EMv3Cl
    Photo 2: http://bit.ly/18hpMZq


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