Creating a secure environment for any metropolitan transit agency is a daunting task — from the thousands of daily passengers, to hundreds of buses, to miles of railway, security planners must be cognizant of a slew of potential risks that can threaten such a sprawling, constantly moving operation. Put that operation in the Washington D.C. area, and the challenge becomes even more difficult — with your operations always a tempting target and security always under the microscope.
Connecting the District of Columbia, the state of Maryland and the commonwealth of Virginia, The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), has risen to this paramount challenge by implementing a robust security technology infrastructure to protect a riding population of 3.4 million that often includes key members of our government.
“This is one of the more challenging installations we have done,” says Tony DeStefano, National Director of Security Sales for Schneider Electric, the lead security integrator on the project.
Defining the Scope
WMATA operates transit service in the Washington Metropolitan Area. This tri-jurisdictional government agency includes rapid transit service under the Metrorail brand, fixed-route bus service under the Metrobus brand, and paratransit service under the MetroAccess brand. Created by an interstate compact in 1967 to develop a balanced regional transportation system in the national capital area, the authority began by building its rail system in 1969. It then acquired four regional bus systems in 1973, and started operating the first phase of Metrorail in 1976. Later, Metro began its paratransit service, MetroAccess, in 1994; which provides about 1.5 million trips per year.
Today, Metrorail serves 86 stations and has 106 miles of track. Metrobus serves the nation's capital 24 hours a day, seven days a week with 1,500 buses. Both the Metrorail and Metrobus serve a population of 3.4 million within a 1,500-square mile jurisdiction.
To monitor this expansive transportation infrastructure, the authority employs its own police force, the Metro Transit Police Department. As part of the police department’s commitment to serving the community and maintaining safe and reliable transportation options, it has implemented several anti-terror initiatives. To outline a few, the police department has a 20-member anti-terrorism unit devoted to deterring terrorist attacks in the Metro system; a robust chemical, biological, and radiological detection program that aims to mitigate the consequences of the release of a chemical, biological or radiological agent in the system; 438 portable radiological detectors from Smiths Detection; an Explosive Ordnance Detection team to respond to and resolve incidents involving suspicious packages and threats of explosives; and a canine program that teaches animals to detect a variety of odors associated with explosives. The Metro Transit Police Department also works closely with local and federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies to help join forces to combat crime and terrorism.
New Program Includes Massive Security Technology Upgrades
Aside from the comprehensive police department and anti-terrorism initiatives, WMATA also focuses on five strategic goals. One of those goals is to create a safer organization by improving customer and employee safety and security and strengthening the Metro’s safety and security response through prevention and reaction. As such, WMATA continues to invest in innovate security systems throughout the authority.
Recently, WMATA took part in a security upgrade process, dubbed the Electronic Safety and Security Program (ESSP), which directed the Authority to procure a new video management system (VMS), physical security information management software (PSIM), and video analytic software to monitor the various transportation modes within the authority. The overall goal of the ESSP is to establish a new platform that enhances situational awareness of emergency and operational personnel throughout the organization.