The Illusion Of Transportation Security

Fences, concrete barriers and checkpoints surround airports, seaport docks and access points to railroad yards.   Securing mass transit and cargo shipping falls to multiple agencies … but gaps still exist. The far and distant corners of some airports have crumbling fences, or no fencing along waterways. Nearly all commercial and passenger seaports are vulnerable from the water and railroads have vast sections of unprotected stretches of tracks.


Securing transportation in the United States, and The World, is extremely important, but the more I dig, the more I find gaps. Some transportation security gaps are hard to spot, but blatant, such as gaps in the fence near the U.S. Customs and Border Protection offices at New York’s JFK International Airport; the ability to easily walk through a metal detector offered by TSA PreCheck with a 20oz bottle of liquid hidden in deep pant pockets … but today I was reminded about not just what some refer to as ‘Security Theater.’


Personally I tend to avoid the term ‘Security Theater.’ There are many aspects to aviation security the general public sees as useless that is actually functional. Yes, not everything does what security agencies would like you to believe they do … but overall I think ‘Security Theater’ is just a catchy term for many things that aren’t actually theater.


Today, while doing some research on the overall view of Transportation Security I encountered something I have seen before, but today it really stuck with me. What I drove up upon is it something found along railroad depots all around the Northeast Corridor, and from what I can tell, all over the United States. As I stood looking at what was in front of me, the whole concept of The Illusion of Transportation Security raced through my head.


So what was I staring at?


A muddy driveway from a roadway into an area of three mainline Amtrak Tracks, mainline signals, switch tracks, a few freight sidings and two freight spurs. The drive way is lined with barbed wire fencing, along with signs stating that entry into the driveway is prohibited … however … there is no gate. There is no way to close off the muddy driveway. The fencing just ends and leaves the area it is protecting wide open.


I spent 15 minutes walking around, studying the area, looking in all directions. I walked into the open driveway. I drove my truck into the open driveway. There are no cameras on the entryway, there is no lighting in this area, an area where electric high speed trains race through the switch tracks as they share the lines with electric regional trains, diesel commuter trains and freight trains.


What is the purpose of fencing and barbed wire if there is no need to climb the fence? Forget climbing the fence, anyone can just drive their vehicle right in, up to the tracks, up to the signals, up to the overhead power lines.


The purpose is The Illusion Of Transportation Security. If someone sees the barbed wire fence, it appears that the area is protected, but at this depot the reality is so many different entities need to have access that it would be impossible for everyone who needed to enter the area have a key.


So rather than install a fence, with a gate, that locks, the solution was just an open corridor of foreboding chain link fencing and barbed wire.


In general when people think of transportation security they think of airports and air travel, but the need to secure railroads and ships is just as vital.   Nothing can really stop people dead-set of causing havoc, many will always find a way, and we as a society cannot protect everyone and everything, but if there an effort to make something appear secure and it is not secure, the threat actually increases as people try and exploit that Illusion Of Transportation Security.


Look around; I am sure you’ll see it also.


Below is my photo of the barbed wire fencing that provides no security along Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor.


Happy Flying!




a train tracks with a fence and power lines


  1. I’ve never thought it wise to post what is essentially a how-to guide on this sort of topic on the open internet.

    Might I ask what you hope to accomplish with this?

  2. Jake,

    What do I hope to accomplish? How about a change in security. A shift from just saying “we’re doing something” to actually doing something. How much money is wasted in erecting fences, and barbed wire, that do not good?

    Happy Flying!


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