Ramos: LIRR, NYC Mass Transit Shouldn’t Take Back Seat in Anti-Terror Funding

The tragic July 7 terrorist attacks in London were a painful reminder of how the world has changed since September 11, 2001. I, along with all other Americans, extend my deepest condolences to the victims of these horrific attacks and their families.

The citizens of London stood by our side when New York was attacked in 2001, and we fully support them as they begin healing from this horrific, senseless attack. Here at home, these bombings should serve as a wakeup call to the Bush administration. It is clear that metropolitan areas throughout the U.S., including New York City, remain at great risk.

The Long Island Rail Road is the busiest commuter railroad in North America, carrying an average of 274,000 customers each weekday on 730 daily trains - not to mention the millions who ride subways and busses in New York City. Every day, these commuters are at risk of becoming victims of another terror attack. Inexplicably, New York State is grossly under-funded when it comes to protecting these vital arteries.

Equally outrageous are Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff’s comments that subway and bus safety should take a back seat to airline security in federal anti-terror funding.

Chertoff said airline security deserves more resources than mass transit because more lives would be lost in a plane crash. What he is failing to realize is that an attack on Penn or Grand Central Station could be a huge disaster. But the loss of even one life is too much, something one charged with America’s safety should never forget.

Further, it is astounding that in the past four years, the Bush administration’s state and local homeland security grants totaled a pitiful $5.41 per capita in New York. Meanwhile, in Wyoming, the administration is providing $37.74 per capita. This unfair funding system must be corrected immediately.

Currently, the best defense available at train stations, bus depots and subways consists of bomb-sniffing dogs, video surveillance and manpower. While new technologies are being developed and tested, leading terrorism and security experts – as well as New York Senators Chuck Schumer and Hillary Clinton – all agree that terrorists have moved from airlines to mass transit as their "target of choice." Therefore, we must ensure that funds and training are available to provide the safeguards necessary for our millions of commuters across the state.

Law enforcement officials are doing a great job and we owe them a debt of gratitude – but we need to make sure they have all the tools necessary to continue keeping our families safe, no matter what form of transportation they may happen to be using. The threat to public transit is real. We’ve already seen it in Madrid and London – twice now. New York’s transit system is a target and we need our president and federal authorities to provide the resources necessary to safeguard our citizens.