House Transporation and Infrastructure Highways Subcommittee Chairman Thomas Petri, R-Wis., said 42 percent of all terrorist attacks over the past decade around the world have been against rail and bus systems, which get less federal money for security than does the aviation industry.
Rep. Howard Coble, R-N.C., noted that 14 million passengers a day ride public transportation, compared to 1.8 million passengers on airplanes. Yet, he said in the past two years $11 billion have been allocated for aviation security, while only $115 million has been specified for public transit security grants.
Chet Lunner, a Transportation Security Administration assistant administrator, said the lawmakers' calculations should look at other expenditures, such as $100 million for Amtrak rail improvements. William Millar, president of the American Public Transportation Association, said a survey of public transit agencies showed that $6 billion is needed for security needs across the country. Most of that $5.2 billion is for capital investments -- such as radio communication systems, surveillance cameras and automated vehicle locator systems. Another $800 million is needed for security personnel and operating expenses.
While most subcommittee members sounded sympathetic to more funding for transit security, Rep. John Duncan, R-Tenn., sounded a note of caution.
"We shouldn't approve everything just because it has the word security attached to it," he said.
On Monday, Transportation and Infratructure Chairman Don Young, R-Alaska, introduced legislation that would authorize more than $1 billion in new funding for Amtrak and railroad security needs.