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APTA: Metro should examine bag check program

Wednesday - 2/9/2011, 8:40am  ET

Metro bag search (WTOP Photo/Adam Tuss)
Metro randomly searches a bag at the Braddock Road Metro station in December. (WTOP Photo/Adam Tuss)
Adam Tuss, wtop.com

WASHINGTON -- Metro riders are dealing with the new reality of entering a Metro station and possibly having their bags searched.

It's been about two months since the transit agency put its random bag inspection program into motion. Now, the head of the nonprofit transit group, the American Public Transportation Association, says Metro needs to closely monitor the program's effectiveness.

"We should evaluate it over time," William Millar, president of APTA, tells WTOP.

"If it doesn't seem to be improving security, or it does seem to be too much of an annoyance, then obviously adjustments have to be made."

Millar says he is generally in favor of "anything" that improves security on transit systems, But as far as random bag inspections, there could be a fine line.

"The worst thing would be to drive people away from public transit because if people go back to driving their cars, they are many, many, many more times likely to have a safety issue in their car then they are taking Washington Metro," says Millar.

On WTOP's Ask Metro program last week, Metro General Manager Richard Sarles said Metro's random bag inspections are "here to stay."

Metro's Riders' Advisory Council has asked that the program be halted. Metro Board member Kathy Porter also recently expressed concern that the program was more or less "forced" without much public discussion. Civil liberties groups have called the program unconstitutional and have promised a vigorous campaign against them.

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(Copyright 2011 by WTOP. All rights reserved.)