New London blasts prompts tighter Bay Area security
San Francisco Chronicle | July 22 2005
By Steve Rubenstein and Suzanne Herel
Passengers riding Muni and BART today will see more police officers, yellow-vested transit workers and bomb-sniffing dogs aboard trains and in stations following four bombings targeting London's public transportation system.
However, there will be no change in any of the routes, authorities said. The explosions occurred mid-day London time at three Underground stations and on a double-decker bus. The incidents mirrored the suicide bombings that killed 56 people two weeks ago, but were less deadly -- only one person was reported wounded.
In the Bay Area, commuter trains seemed emptier and quieter than usual this morning.
"This is bad, but it's a sign of the times," said passenger Bruce Miller of Oakland, arriving at the Powell Street station in downtown San Francisco. "I hope the government is going to try to do more.
"I'm not sure there's all that much an individual passenger can do, except watch out for strangers."
Many riders seemed to be doing just that, and San Francisco International Airport passengers and their luggage seemed to be getting a lot of stares.
On BART platforms, scores of additional agents in orange and yellow vests walked to and fro, peering into train windows and at passengers.
A number of passengers said they were resigned to taking public transit, despite any fears.
"I've noticed the extra police this morning, but I don't really feel this is something a policeman can do anything about," said a passenger at the Montgomery Street station who identified herself as Laura. "You cannot look inside every bag."
One veteran BART station agent, who asked not to be identified, said that for weeks, she has been instructed to be extra vigilant, especially about parcels, bags and garbage.
"In the olden days, trash was just trash," she said. "Now we look at everything differently."
Passengers said they would keep riding transit, because there was little choice. "I'm not nervous, not really," said a man who identified himself as Alex, at the Montgomery Street station. "There are more cameras, but what can a camera do except take pictures that get looked at after something has already happened? Unfortunately, what happened in London would be easy to do anywhere."
Alan Siegel, a Municipal Railway spokesman, said the transit system was encouraging commuters to ride as usual -- but to be more alert to suspicious people or packages and report them to Muni personnel.
"We feel we have a safe system," he said.
Muni already was operating at a heightened state of alert, he said. But today, he said, "There will be more personnel ... and they will be visible. They will be alert for what is happening in the tunnel."
BART spokesman Linton Johnson said officers on the midnight police shift had been held over this morning, and those scheduled to come in later today had been called in earlier.
And, he said, "You'll see bomb-sniffing dogs out."
Like the Muni system, BART had been running on a heightened state of security already, Johnson said.
"We're already on an enhanced state of alert and there's not much more we can do," he said