security theater comes to the metro. er, i mean metrolink

As gas prices leave the “um, really?” territory and speed into the “are you fucking serious?” range, a whole lot of Angelenos are finally considering using our fair city’s subway commuter rail system.*

That’s awesome. Getting cars off the road is great for the environment, and anything we can do to reduce congestion on our over-crowded freeways is always a good idea. The metro doesn’t really go to as many places as you’d expect (thanks, City Council Board of Supervisors!) and it doesn’t run as late as it does in . . . well, every other city in the world, but you go to work on the metro you have, not the metro you wish you had.

Sure, it’s a little inconvenient to take the metro, but with a some sacrifice and extra planning, it can be a pretty pleasant experience (as long as you don’t want to take pictures, you goddamn terrorist-fist-jabbing America hater) and it’s certainly cost effective.

However, the experience of riding the metro is about to become as annoying and frustrating as trying to get on an airplane, because security theater is coming to town:

In June 2008, Metrolink’s Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Bureau will begin deploying its Passenger Random Baggage Search Program to further strengthen rail security and discourage and deter violent criminals from carrying weapons, explosives, or other dangerous items onto Metrolink trains. According to the Transportation Security Administration, random baggage inspections are an effective security tool for deterring individuals who may pose a threat to passengers on board commuter trains.

If the Transportation Security Administration says it’s an effective security tool, you know that shit is seriously vetted, dogg. Remember, according to the Transportation Security Administration, 3.1 or more ounces of any liquid is deadly (3.0 is fine, though), shoes are dangerous, we should be scared shitless all the time, everywhere we go, and people who aren’t too keen on having some guy shove his fist up their ass to take a look around whenever you want to ride in a plane, train, or bus is worthy of tremendous suspicion. In fact, those people probably want to take pictures of things while they’re in public! OMG TERRORISTS! OH NOES! EVERYBODY PANIC!

The MTA tells us that this the best thing since cupcakes. It’s going to keep us safe because it’s totally random and the big scary bad guys won’t know where the cops will be stopping and searching people. See, when they don’t know where the cops will be, they won’t be able to plan . . . uh, what are we scared of today? I haven’t watched cable news in a long time, so I’m going to use a reliable old standby: the suitcase nuke that takes 3.2 ounces of toothpaste and a pair of tweezers to activate!!!1!

Being random is the opposite of being predictable, so that’ll make this really effective. The Terrorists (OMG) will never know where the security will be, so they’ll take their bomb vests and go home. This makes a lot of sense, right?

Wrong. This isn’t even random like it is at the airport, where everyone goes through the same checkpoint, and someone randomly wins the “I’m not a criminal, I’m just being treated like one” lottery when they’re late for a flight. This particular bit of security theater randomly moves from station to station, where:

Prior to initiation of a screening event, signs will be posted at all entrances to the station parking lots and platforms to notify passengers that the deputies are present and the random security screening will be conducted.

GENIUS! Let’s schedule random searches, but make sure everyone knows exactly where the random searches will happen! Good thing criminals and terrorists don’t know how to read signs and go to a different station! Oh, wait, they don’t have to read. All they have to do is refuse to be searched:

Any passenger may refuse to permit an inspection of his or her baggage. A refusal to permit inspection will result in the individual’s not being permitted to access the Metrolink system. Deputies will request that the passenger leave the station facility.

Now, this may seem like it’s kind of a stupid idea. It may seem like the police could use this as an excuse to harass people who aren’t doing anything wrong, but might be . . . undesirable. It may seem like this is just happening so people are constantly afraid. It may seem like this is happening to justify the existence of a giant government bureaucracy that’s really pretty pointless.

Yes, it may seem like any or all of those things, but I’m here to remind you that we have to do things like this prevent THE TERRORISTS from taking away our precious freedoms, like the freedom to ride the subway without being subject to constant surveillance and random security theater. And if you think this is a stupid idea, maybe you should just stare at the terror alert warning for a moment until you remember that it’s your patriotic duty to shut up, keep shopping, and vote for McCain.

God bless America! Fuck yeah!

(Terrorist fist-jab to Opher Banarie.)

*Bert Green points out in the comments that this random screening is coming to Metrolink, not Metro. Metrolink is, of course, the train service that runs from city to city, while MTA (Metro) is the Green, Gold, Red, Orange, Blue, etc. lines that still don’t serve Dodger Stadium. I regret the error, but still scoff at the security theater.

14 thoughts on “security theater comes to the metro. er, i mean metrolink”

  1. Random searches or extra security measures would be a nuisance in any REAL subway system, but there’s actually plenty of time for that on our beloved Metro since there’s a fucking 15 minute wait or so between EVERY FUCKING TRAIN.

    A real subway train would come about every two minutes, leaving very little time for alleged undesirables to have there baggy pants and guitar cases containing tommy guns searched.

    And really, why would any terrorist choose to blow up the pretend LA subway system? How many people would you kill? Maybe 100 or so? Another 100 people would be slightly inconvenienced as you could probably just walk or bus it to wherever it is you’re going. You’d kill more people suicide bombing the Hollywood Farmer’s Market on Sunday or a crowded afternoon in front of the Chinese Theater.


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  3. Um, the METROLINK is not the METRO. Metrolink is the long distance commuter train system that runs out of Union Station to Inland Empire, OC, and Antelope Valley. There is NO plan to add baggage screening to Metro.

    Also, the City Council has nothing to do with Metro routing decisions, it is the County Board of Supervisors and the Board of the MTA, which are County-wide bodies. The City does not have a subway system, the County does.

  4. Whoops. I guess I was so whipped up with patriotic fervor, I didn’t realize it was Metrolink and not the good old Metro line.

    Good catch, Bert. I’ve updated the post with a note.

  5. Either Metrolink or Metro, this still doesn’t make sense. It more seems like the false sense of security Disneyland puts up just for PR reasons. Randomly stopping people, delaying them from catching the not frequent enough trains? Maybe they should start with some basic security first. This “Random” screening is going to either delay trains or make people rushing form work to make it home miss their train if the warning is not in advance. If it is, then unless the offender is dumb, I don’t think they will catch anyone.

    Right no there is really no pre-boarding security on either system. I have taken the Metrolink from OC to LA and then onto the Metro many times, and a few times, could have done is without a ticket. The conductors on the Metrolink do check the tickets after one is in the middle of the trip, but there is no such check on the Metro.
    As opposed to MARTA in Atlanta, or the Tube in London, or the Muni in San Francisco, so far the only thing my purchased Metro ticket has been used for is a bookmark. In those other locations, you need to use the ticket to enter AND exit the stations.

    Does this mean I will be labeled a terrorist or violent criminal for carrying the pocket knife I have been carrying for 18 years? or will they be too busy looking at my bag to notice it clipped to my pocket the way the Disneyland Cast Members Security does?

  6. Are they worried about a commuter train taken out like had happened in 2004? Or the London Tube/bus bombings in 2005? If so this seems to be an extremely late knee jerk reaction. If so this is a really delayed reaction.

  7. Doesn’t this policy bring to mind images of the Third Reich’s “Final Solution?” All those unsuspecting people lining up in queues at train stations.

    Don’t you feel safer already? I’ll certainly be relieved to know that I won’t be sitting next to a violent criminal.

    I’ve got a problem though. I don’t yet have my non-violent criminal identification card yet. And how are the sheriff deputies going to pick and choose whose baggage they inspect? Isn’t profiling politically incorrect and racist? And don’t violent criminals have rights too?

    I guess you could observe the frequency of the baggage inspections (1 every nth passenger?), and then get in line so as not to be the nth person through the checkpoint. That assumes, however, that the deputies are good at keeping count of anything other than their overtime hours?

    Or could you just wait until the train pulls into the station and then go through? Are the sheriff’s going to inspect your baggage when you might miss the train and violate Metrolink’s stated policy to “ensure that [the passenger] commute schedule is not affected?”

    Of course, the waiting strategy will virtually ensure that you’ll have to stand because there won’t be any seats left due to the gross overcrowding caused by Metrolink’s abject failure to plan beyond what they’re eating for lunch. But isn’t that a small price to pay to protect your constitutional rights?

    And what about Union Station? Will riders boarding there be subject to these random inspections too? Or is it presumed that no terrorist would ever dare to board at Union Station? What a joke!

    And you better leave your pocket knives, scissors, and nail clippers at home. After all, there’s no telling what the deputies might consider “weapons, explosives, or other dangerous items.”

    Curiously, there’s no mention of what they’re going to do if the deputies find something objectionable. Will they confiscate it and let you ride the train? Will you be able to get it back later? Will you get an infraction ticket? (Is there such a thing?)

    I would guess that postal service employees (with apologies) would come under special scrutiny. And, if you want to shoot up your office that day, just don’t take the train, or a take a later train after the deputies have packed up their tables.

    At the Industry station, the 5:24 a.m. passengers are known to use filled water bottles to hold their places in line. (I know, those people at Industry are very curious birds.) Those bottles hold well over three ounces of liquid. Will they now have to innovate?

    And for you parents who bring toddlers on the train with you, you’ll have to do without the talcum powder — anthrax, you know.

    And for you closet weirdos, you better stop carrying anything that you might be embarrassed to have exposed to your fellow train riders.

    And for all you drug users riding the trains, you better start leaving your stash at home.

    Oh, wait. I’m sorry. Drug users don’t “ride” the trains, they “run” the trains.

  8. On May 2nd, California Homeland Security handed Metrolink $9 million of Proposition 1B money.

    Instead of putting in something permanent and valuable, like stop-light cameras at grade crossings to cut down on crashes, the idiots running Metrolink have decided to fritter it away on a transient security program. When the money’s gone, there will be nothing to show for this boondoggle.

    The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD) already gets millions of dollars a year for occasional fare inspections and other “random” security tasks. While the rest of the public has to pay for using Metrolink, uniformed LASD employees get a free ride.

    Of course with County Supervisors running the Metrolink Board, it’s simply a way to give more money to LASD for what amounts to, basically, nothing. It’s the political equivalent of three-card Monte. Where’s the money now?

    Metrolink has no problem violating the constitutional rights of its passengers. In May, it lost the first of it’s attempts to suppress free speech on the Internet. (Wil, you mean you didn’t know about Metrolink’s “famous” trademark? That’s what it alleges in its trademark infringement actions.)

    So, after violating its passenger’s First Amendment (speech and assembly) rights, violating its passenger’s Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable searches and seizures is a no brainer.

    And all this from an agency that can’t consistently get its passengers to their destinations on time.

    Taxpayers should be outraged at this misuse of Proposition 1B money by self-serving politicians. The fare payers that Metrolink has lured to depend on its service have little recourse.

    There should be no more funding of public transit until the politicians are removed from the Boards of the transit agencies.

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