The next time Senator John Ensign (R-NV) gives a speech during which he calls for “national vigilance,” or wants us to “engage in the war on terror,” someone needs to gently remind him about his vote on July 7, 2009 to eliminate the appropriations for the Over The Road Bus Security Assistance recommended by the Transportation Safety Administration. [roll call 218]
The McCain amendment (S.Amdt 1400 to S.Amdt 1373) would have stripped a program that funds the development of security plans for intercity and charter bus services, the development of vulnerability assessments, preparing security plans, implementing response training, training front-line personnel to be aware of potential security threats, providing live or simulated exercises for improving responses, launching public awareness programs, modifying over the road buses to improve security, installing cameras and surveillance equipment on buses, terminals, garages, and bus facilities.
A person would think that planning, training, and equipping to improve over the road bus security would be a priority after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, or are the Republican tired of the whole “security thing” now that they don’t control Congress or the White House?
Why else would they try to strip out funding for modifying terminals and facilities to improve security? Are they tired of issues like isolating and protecting bus drivers? Improving emergency communications systems linking the bus drivers to their operation’s centers? Are they all over being concerned about funding projects to detect chemical, biological, radiological, or explosive matter on buses? [TSA]
The American Bus Association reports that independent bus operators provide 631 million passenger trips each year; and more people travel by bus in a two week period than travel by train in a year. 2007 estimates for bus ridership were around 700 million total passenger trips. [ABA]
One can’t help but imagine that not so long ago the Republicans in the Senate would have been supporting the Over The Road program, and citing this admonition from the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials: “The nation’s public transportation systems are vulnerable to disruption from natural disasters and security-related incidents. Funding assistance from the Department of Homeland Security is needed to protect critical public transportation infrastructure from terrorists’ attack and to improve surveillance and detection. Inter-agency communications capabilities need to be improved. And a joint program involving police, fire and transportation agencies at the local and state level and justice, homeland security and transportation agencies at the Federal level needs to be developed to improve emergency response capabilities.” [AASHT]
But, perhaps, that was then and this is now?