Exclusive Q&A: ADT's Barry Einsig on Securing Mass Transit Facilities

Einsig on why it's unfair to compare with airports, why we need to integrate systems, and how the culture of security is changing

In advance of his webinar on MassTransitMag.com, SIW editor Geoff Kohl sat down with ADT's chief Transportation Security Specialist Barry Einsig to get his perspective on what's happening in security for transit systems today.

Having worked on some of the nation's top transit systems, including Atlanta's MARTA system, D.C.'s WMATA system, and the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA), Einsig has a unique perspective of what is driving security policy and technology changes. His involvement with committees of the American Public Transportation Association keeps him abreast of what's happening at a variety of agencies, whether they're small city systems or of the large metropolitan variety.

He'll be sharing more of those insights in a free webinar hosted by ADT and Mass Transit Magazine on Wednesday, Nov. 2 - sign up here -- but enjoy this exclusive Q&A with SecurityInfoWatch.com to hear how Einsig's thoughts on incident command changes, access control and why it's time to integrate electronic security and operations for the mass transit industry.

Barry, you're often in the thick of designing and consulting on transportation security systems, so what are you seeing in terms of trends of integrating electronic security systems (and video) in mass transit operations today?

I think it's safe to say that the integration of these systems is in its infancy. Prior to some of the recent incidents, most transit agencies really had very minimal security systems. They may have had a basic intrusion detection system for crime and break-ins, and they may have had cameras running for liability issues like slip-and-fall scenarios, but these systems were typically separate.

Even today, I'm seeing electronic security built as separate technology systems. I think that some of that is due to the design and contracting work, but even beyond that, we're seeing individual RFPs -- an RFP here for a video system, an RFP there for an access control system. But we're not often seeing RFPs for truly integrated systems.

Is that mindset starting to change? Are transit agencies starting to see security as a mission critical process?

I think it's starting to change. There are some people in the industry who are visionaries on this. The APTA recently polled its members to find out what funds they needed for security improvements. The members said that $6 billion was needed, with $5.2 billion of that for capital expenditures and $800,000 for operational expenditures. What I think that says is that, conceptually, they're starting to get it. But you're still changing the mindset of an entire industry that in some cases even saw badging as a separate system than access control.

Immediately following the Spain bombings, then the London bombings and then recently with the false alarm against the New York metro system, there were a number of cries from politicians and even the general public saying that we need to screen everyone who seeks to use a transit system. Is this type of screening feasible at all? Is it in mass transit's future?

Nothing drives people in transit crazier than being compared to the airports. Part of it is that there just aren't as many locked-down doors. I think someday transit security will be more similar to airport security, but before that can occur the technology and policies are going to have to change.

People have to understand the transit culture and environment more closely. You find some [persons] who talk about biometrics and other cutting-edge technologies. But the reality is that transit is a harsh environment, when you have concerns like train brake dust which interfere with technology like biometrics.

There are also policy differences. It's now a TSA requirement that you have to be checked in 40 minutes before your flight to get on the plane. But how do you do that in a transit environment, when 20 seconds is too long and they have to be at their desks in 20 minutes?

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