Bomb Detectors for Subway?

Airline-style security measures just won't work in mass transit, Sen. Charles Schumer said yesterday in proposing that yet-to-be-developed bomb detectors be installed atop all subway cars.

"It's not there yet, but it is certainly technologically feasible," Schumer said. "If someone was carrying biological, chemical, explosive or nuclear weapons, it would go beep, beep, beep and the police would come find them."

He said the devices would function like a smoke detector and be posted on train cars and at station entrances.

Based on conversations with experts, Schumer said such detectors could be developed for $500 million.

Schumer's amendment to a bill that would provide $50 million for research into such technology was defeated earlier this month. "I think we let our guard down on homeland security and transit security. Look what just happened in India, what happened in Madrid and London. Mass transit is target of choice these days."

Current technologies, such as the ones being tested at Exchange Place on the PATH trains, require passengers to walk through detection devices or have their clothes or bags swiped, then analyzed. Other experimental technology will analyze things such as MetroCards for hazardous materials.

Last month, researchers at Purdue University announced they had developed miniature chemical and biological detection prototype devices that could be linked by wireless networks in subway systems.

Trade groups estimated the U.S. market for these kinds of explosive and other detection devices could grow from $3.5 billion a year now to more than $10 billion in 2010.