I was thinking about Osama bin Laden a couple of days ago as my wife and I rushed through Penn Station in New York City to board a train bound for Washington, D.C. He was on my mind specifically because we learned shortly after his death that an American train might be a likely future mass-murder al Qaeda target.
Imagine our surprise when (1) neither of us was required to produce ID at any time, (2) our considerable luggage wasn't scanned or inspected in any way, despite the fact that we inquired several times about railroad security, and (3) our actual tickets were required only after we'd been on the train for about an hour--and then only to double-check our final destination.
You guessed it: THERE ISN'T SECURITY at Penn Station (and maybe all U S train stations?), even though, according to Wikipedia, "(Penn Station serves) 300,000 passengers a day at a rate of up to a thousand every 90 seconds, (and) it is the busiest passenger transportation facility in the United States and by far the busiest train station in North America. . . . Penn Station saw 8.4 million Amtrak passenger arrivals and departures in 2010."
The route to the nation's Capitol took us through some major cities--Newark, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Wilmington (Delaware)--and a number of smaller ones. Plenty of easily accessible and highly populated "soft targets," particularly for a militant who'd just like to put some deadly cargo on the train and leave--alive.
So, if the alternatives are planes, trains and automobiles, I think I'll drive, thanks.