San Fran Transit System Anti-Terror Efforts Focuses on Riders

Posters and rider education comprise boost in security at BART system


The Bay Area Rapid Transit District unveiled anti-terror posters Tuesday that urge riders to be on the lookout for bombs, as part of a security campaign that also includes better cell-phone service in underground sections and a new e-mail system to help investigators track down terrorists.

Under the words "bomb detectors," the stark white posters display a pair of eyes and text urging riders to report suspicious packages and people.

"What makes the new BART campaign bold is its simplicity, yet directness," said BART board member Lynette Sweet, who also chairs the transit district's security committee.

Once rejected as too "scary," the 700 posters come in response to last month's subway bombings in London.

"After London, we needed to start scaring people," Sweet said.

The posters are part of the transit district's "eyes and ears" campaign, which has been urging riders to remain alert for suspicious activities since 2002.

Sweet said the fear of riders unfairly "profiling" other riders or falsely reporting suspicious goings-on is outweighed by BART's desire for information needed to stop attacks.

"What we're afraid of is people being too afraid to say something," Sweet said.

After the deadly explosions in London last month, BART began upgrading equipment in stations and tunnels so riders can use their cell phones.

BART is also developing a new e-mail system so riders with popular camera phones can send in photos to investigators, Sweet said. The e-mail address will only be published after a disaster, she said.

"I hope we never have to use it," she said.

BART is also publishing pamphlets detailing suspicious behaviors that riders should report, such as nervous, sweaty riders, strange chemical odors or even people taking photos.

"We constantly review, upgrade and improve our security measures but we need the public's help to make BART a hostile environment for those who would do us harm," said BART General Manager Tom Margro.

Since 2002, BART has spent $40,000 on its "eyes and ears" campaign, which includes the posters, brochures and other information for riders.

Federal grants are expected to reimburse about $25,000, said BART spokesman Jim Allison.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press