Commentary Magazine


Schumer’s “No-Ride List” for Amtrak

With the nonexistent security on Amtrak trains, the only surprising thing about this proposal is how long it took for someone to bring it up. Sen. Chuck Schumer called for a Amtrak “no-ride list” on Sunday, saying that it would be similar to the no-fly list that (in theory) prevents suspected terrorists from buying plane tickets.

It’s hard to stress just how terrible the security is on Amtrak. You don’t even need to show an identification card to buy an Amtrak ticket or board the train, which is something that would obviously have to change if the government created a no-ride list.

But the overall security on Amtrak is so bad that Schumer’s proposal probably would do little or nothing to make rail travel safer. Without metal detectors and bag scanners, Amtrak wouldn’t be able to spot a terrorist unless his suitcase started ticking.

And if Amtrak decided upon security screening, it would eventually have to adopt the same procedures as the airlines. Shoes would soon have to be removed at security. Liquids would be confined to 3.4 oz. containers. Even body scanners might have to be installed in train depots.

Many passengers ride Amtrak to avoid the unpleasant process at the airport, and heightened security would leave them with no reason to ride the rails. Amtrak is already a money pit. Tack on the price of security, subtract the income from lost passengers, and putting a screening process into place just doesn’t seem feasible.

So while Schumer’s proposal might sound like a good idea, securing the rail system sounds like a lost cause at the moment.