USA Flag

Official website of the Department of Homeland Security

Mitigating High Consequence Risks

Mass Transit

TSA has focused awards under the Transit Security Grant Program to achieve the most significant reduction in high consequence risk for the investment. The program particularly emphasizes enhancing posture six core Transit Security Fundamentals: securing high risk underwater and underground infrastructure; securing other high risk infrastructure identified in system risk assessments; employment of visible, random security activities; front-line employee security training; drills and exercises; and public awareness campaigns.

Through the national tunnel security initiative, an interagency effort brings together subject matter experts from a range of relevant fields among DHS and DOT organizational elements to identify, assess, and prioritize the risk to mass transit systems in the United States with underwater tunnels and assist transit agencies in planning and implementing protective measures to deter and prevent attacks and blast mitigation and emergency response strategies in the event of a terrorist attack and/or all hazards incident or event. Through regular meetings, this working group has developed mitigation strategies, engaged stakeholders, analyzed and applied the results of risk assessments, prepared statements of work for testing and modeling programs, and integrating the overall risk mitigation effort for a cohesive, coordinated, and effective approach. The initiative has:

  1. Identified and assessed risk to underwater tunnels.
  2. Prioritized tunnel risk mitigation based on risk to drive grant funding to most pressing areas.
  3. Developed strategies for funding future technology research and development aimed at producing novel approaches to this challenging problem.
  4. Produced and disseminated recommended protective measures transit agencies may implement to enhance security with available resources or through targeted grant funding.

To advance this concerted effort, the Transit Security Grant Program makes projects to protect high risk underwater and underground assets and systems a top funding priority.

Expansion of the National Explosives Detection Canine Team Program (NEDCTP) to Mass Transit - In just over one year, TSA has augmented the explosives detection capability of thirteen critical transit agencies nationwide by partnering with local law enforcement/mass transit agencies to provide partial funding, training, certification, and management assistance of over 50 canine teams from the NEDCTP. The expansion of the NEDCTP to mass transit builds upon the successful airport program. TSA-trained and certified teams provide a visible and effective detection and deterrence capability in the public transportation system and can be surged to other venues as threats dictate. Their mobility enables deployment randomly and unpredictably in patrols throughout passenger rail and mass transit systems and postings at key junctions or points within systems, stations, terminals, and facilities.

The NEDCTP has deployed TSA-certified teams in response to periods of heightened alert for mass transit systems, notably in the immediate aftermath of the London mass transit terrorist bombing events. TSA has established protocols for other agencies and departments to request the use of certified explosives detection canine teams during National Special Security Events and Visible Intermodal Protection and Response (VIPR) team deployments. Highly trained canine teams continue to be one of the more effective explosives detection methods in the transit environment, integrating a highly mobile and flexible deterrent capability.

Beginning in 2006, the NEDCTP entered an interagency project with the FBI to train canine teams in detection of various improvised peroxide explosives. The FBI Laboratory has provided various peroxide explosive training materials to multiple locations across the nation. NEDCTP Field Canine Coordinators have collaborated in this effort to expand training of NEDCTP canine teams and local teams to enhance deterrence of this growing threat by imprinting these unique odors on the canines. Training has already occurred at several areas and more is being scheduled for the remainder of this year.

As part of its training facility in San Antonio, TX, TSA assembled a training lab specifically for mass transit canine training that includes mass transit rail cars. Through a partnership with DOT's Federal Railroad Administration, the NEDCTP obtained two rail cars at no cost for use as canine training aids. In addition, the Canine Support Branch has partnered with Amtrak to conduct operational training exercises at its rail station in San Antonio, with in-depth safety briefings for all teams participating in the training. As a result of newly acquired classroom space, along with additional training staff, the TSA Canine Support Branch now has the ability to train 108 new canine teams each calendar year.


TSA provides funding and support for initiatives to enhance mass transit passenger and baggage explosive-detection technologies, anomaly detection, smart surveillance, and transit vehicle control. Testing of security technologies has occurred in a number of areas, with new initiatives planned for the near future. Examples include the three Transit and Rail Inspection Pilots, the Moveable Security Checkpoint (or 'Screening-in-a-Box') pilot, bus control technology testing, and deployment and testing of various types of video surveillance systems. Additionally, the DHS Directorate of Science and Technology has tested emerging anomaly detection technologies in a pilot program conducted in the Port Authority Trans Hudson (PATH) system's Exchange Place station. All of these pilot programs benefit substantially from the active participation and support of the selected transit agencies.

In coordination with the DHS Directorate of Science & Technology, TSA has developed an operational concept to employ a range of capabilities in an integrated approach for informed random security screening of passengers in rail and mass transit systems. Informed random screening unites information and indicators from multiple sources in an integrated approach that more effectively focuses security screening activities based on risk. Tools employed to drive the informed random screening process include:

  1. Behavioral recognition training for law enforcement and transit system employees, through Federally-sponsored or approved training programs such as Screening Passengers Observations Techniques (SPOT) and Behavioral Assessment Screening System (BASS). As noted above, TSA expedites funding for security training, with focus on enhanced security awareness and behavior recognition, in the streamlined application process implemented under the Transit Security Grant Program. Transit agencies received notice of this initiative through Information Bulletin (IB) 243, published by the DHS Office of Grants & Training under the Transit Security Grant Program.


  2. Explosives detection canine teams, deployed extensively through TSA training and certification as discussed above. A new initiative is exploring means to expand availability of this resource through a program under which TSA would approve training and qualification of canines trained through qualified non-TSA sources.


  3. Security technologies, such as active and passive millimeter wave screening systems, smart surveillance cameras, hostile intent and facial identification software integration into video surveillance, explosives trace detection equipment to supplement informed random screening of passengers and bags, including hand-held systems, table top baggage screening systems, and document scanners to screen tickets or fare cards handled by passengers.

Pilot testing and exercises with individual transit agencies will assess the informed random screening concept and validate program effectiveness. The joint effort specifically aims to produce concepts of operations unique to the operating environment of particular systems. This resource, and the experience it reflects, will facilitate procurement decisions and preparation of grant funding proposals for security technologies. Additionally, the concepts of operations will delineate how TSA resources may effectively supplement security in the particular transit systems, advancing collaboration and facilitating future exercises and deployments, as circumstances warrant.

Latest revision: 24 December 2012