Travel Security

This article was inspired by a multi-pronged adventure I recently took. I flew out to Chicago, took a train ride to Seattle, and then flew back to Houston. I was shocked at the varying levels of security I had to go through for each leg of my journey, and I pondered the other journeys I’ve taken in the past. In essence, the security protocols and requirements are different for the various modes of transportation either by: plane, train, bus, ship… and car.

Plane

Air-travel requires the most extensive security out of all modes of travel. My first encounter with airport security was with a not-so-nice TSA agent who acted like I was a waste of his time for not knowing every single post-Covid security protocol.

Before Covid took over the planet, I considered myself a veteran traveler and was shocked when this agent chastised me for wearing my facemask in a crowded line. 

Can you believe that?!  

Actually, he needed to see my face to verify my identity and chastised me for not using a 3rd hand to take off my mask fast enough for him to keep his part of the line moving efficiently. Unfortunately, my first hand was giving him my ID and my second hand was placing my barcode on the reader. Naturally, I should have evolved that 3rd hand to pull my mask down to reveal my true identity. 

After you get through the ID guy, you need to get your luggage scanned. Not only that, but you need to take your shoes off to be scanned… thanks to Richard Reid (aka the “Shoe Bomber”). But that’s not all you need to put into a tray to get scanned, you must also take every electronic device out of your bags. That means: phone, Bluetooth keyboard, tablet/Kindle, Switch or other mobile devices[1].

While your stuff is getting scanned, you need to get scanned too. You now need to step into a booth and place your feet onto yellow foot prints, while trying not to think about catching a foot fungus as you raise your hands above your head.

You somehow manage to get through the security checkpoint and are putting your shoes on, when you see an armored officer walk a drug/bomb-sniffing dog. That dog is the last part of ground-based airport security, but there’s a couple more layers of security to keep in mind while you’re up in the air. While you’re in the plane and flying over the country, the pilot is safely locked behind a bulletproof bulkhead, and there’s a possibility a Sky Marshal may be flying with you to thwart any pesky touristic-terrorist. 

That’s 6 layers of security at our airports. Airports must truly be the safest and most secure locations on the planet.

Let’s see how other modes of transportation match up.

Train

The last couple times I took the train, there was literally NO security at the train major stations I’ve boarded the train on. Your luggage does not get scanned at all. Amtrak reserves the right to randomly search your bags, but I’ve never seen it happen. 

Most often there’s no security either. Some of the major stations will have a drug-sniffing dog run through randomly. Other than that, it’s up to the maintenance people to kick out homeless or violent people[2]

So basically, you may get a K-9 unit and a janitor as your security guard… and the janitor is definitely not getting paid enough to double-duty as security (so be thankful). 

Do you truly need more security while traveling on a train? Meh… I guess not because you can’t fly a train into a building. But consider how anyone can easily sneak a weapon on a train. I mean, the worst that can happen is a mass gunman kills a bunch of people while the train moves 65 MPH on the track, out in the middle of nowhere.

Nice knowing you, Grandma.

Bus

Traveling by bus is no different than by train. If there’s security present at the station, it’s at the stations where crime is high and homeless are swarming the streets around it (like the walking dead). 

Greyhound is the largest passenger bus service provider in the country. They do not inspect your luggage unless asked to do so by another passenger, and sometimes not even then. 

You are more likely to get your luggage “inspected” if the employee thinks there’s something of value in there. If there are valuables in your luggage, and you don’t keep your eyes on your bags at all times, expect those valuables to be confiscated for security purposes… or maybe a homeless person managed to sneak in and steal your stuff. 

Ship

Going on a cruise is the only other method of travel which requires passengers to go through pre-boarding security. While boarding, passengers must show an ID or passport, and walk through a metal detector while your bag gets x-rayed.

That’s surprisingly robust security for something which is limited to water and that barely travels 20 MPH, but there’s a reason for this, because security is responsible for managing the safety of about 2,000-3,000 passengers[3], [4]… unarmed.

That’s the size of a village or small town!

It’s in the cruise line’s best interest to remove lethal weapons from the equation before all those people set sail and become drunken sailors.

Too bad security can’t keep passengers from getting each other sick.

Car

Can you truly trust yourself… or your family? Perhaps you should pat down that baby carrier for something other than a stink-bomb. 

When you drive, you are your own security and everyone else’s worst nightmare. 

If you’re not careful, you can be the cause of one of the average 18,500 crashes each day. If you’re a terrible driver, or are criminal enough to drive drunk, or are so old you should have been medically barred from driving years ago… you may contribute to the 3,700 fatal crashes that happen each day[5]

Needless to say, this last part is mostly a joke.

***

In closing, there’s a dramatic difference between security at the airport and every other method of travel in the country. The country’s leaders are so worried about being held accountable by the next jet-powered civilian missile, they don’t care if your poor ol’ granny gets mugged or killed on a train or bus. 


[1] Electronics: And is the TSA going to replace any of this equipment if it’s damaged or stolen while in their custody (on the conveyor belt)? 

Nope! Most claims are denied.

[2] Train Stations: Most tourists get on stations at major cities, but I’m not mentioning the various rural stations trains service daily, which have absolutely no security beyond the ticket checker. Rural areas are where most of the domestic religious fanatics live, so we should be very concerned about this… but, we aren’t.

[3] Security: Shipboard security not owned by the government. The staff is privately owned by either the cruise-line or a third-party contractor

[4] Passenger Size: 2,000-3,000 passengers is the average guest population of cruise ships before Covid-19.

[5] Bureau of Transportation Statistics. (2019). Motor Vehicle Safety Data. Retrieved from U.S. DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION: https://www.bts.gov/content/motor-vehicle-safety-data

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s