Transportation Systems Sector: Passenger Rail

The Passenger Rail sub-sector is comprised of commuter and light rail lines, rail stations, and rail cars. 

Passenger rail systems in New Jersey include NJ Transit, Amtrak, Port Authority Transit Corporation (PATCO), Port Authority Trans-Hudson (PATH), and the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA). 

NJ Transit is the most prominent passenger rail system in New Jersey and the largest statewide public transportation system in the nation. It provides access to locations throughout New Jersey with connections in New York City and Philadelphia. The average weekly ridership on NJ Transit passenger rail lines is 2.2 million.

Accidents
Accidents and safety concerns include vehicle accidents at crossings, trespasser strikes on active rights of way, and derailments. In September 2016, a NJ Transit commuter train derailed at Hoboken Terminal during rush hour, killing one person and injuring 114. The National Transportation Safety Board is currently investigating the accident.

Threat

Terrorism
The NJ Transit Police Department (NJTPD) assesses the terrorism threat to this sector to be high. NJOHSP assesses terrorism to be a moderate threat to this sector. Vulnerabilities to passenger rail include high visibility, predictable schedules, publically accessible stations and equipment, and the opportunity for mass casualties. 

Passenger rail vulnerabilities were exploited on multiple occasions in the last year. In September 2016 Amhad Khan Rahami placed a back pack containing multiple IEDs at the NJ Transit Elizabeth Rail Station. In July 2016, a radicalized individual injured five passengers with a knife and hatchet on a train traveling between Treuchtlingen and Wurzburg in southern Germany. In March 2016, ISIL operatives detonated explosives at the Maalbeek metro station in Brussels, Belgium. In December 2015, a British HVE attacked and stabbed three passengers at the Leytonstone tube station in London. In April 2006, one individual was arrested  for plotting  to detonate explosives on Port Authority Trans Hudson (PATH) trains traveling under the Hudson River.

Cyber: Moderate
Cybersecurity is a growing concern for public transit managers as industrial control systems are increasingly dependent on computerized technology. Computer networks responsible for ensuring passenger rail systems function properly are an attractive target for cyber actors. The 2015 Worldwide Threat Assessment created by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence detailed that Russian hackers are developing the ability to remotely access urban mass transit systems.On November 25, 2016, San Francisco’s light rail transit computer system was hacked and infected with ransomware. While the Municipal Transportation Agency fully restored systems without paying the ransom, the light rail systems were down for almost two days, forcing the agency to provide passengers free rides, costing tens of thousands in potential revenue.

Preparedness

NJ Transit Police Department (NJTPD) Text Against Terror and TIPS line provides the commuting public with a designated text and phone number to report suspicious activity or unattended packages. All information is confidential, and all tips provided are investigated.

Operation Regional Alliance Including Local, State And Federal Efforts (RAILSAFE) provides guidance for heightened security and a greater law enforcement presence on trains and at train stations during high-volume travel times. Operation RAILSAFE training is available to law enforcement, transit agencies, and rail operators to improve preparedness for all hazards.

The NJ Transit Resilience Program ensures that transit systems continue to operate in the event of an incident. The Resilience Program has identified projects for transit systems and infrastructure to become more robust, durable, and reliable. Current projects focus on mitigating flooding risks and storm surge, as well as incorporating best practices into the long-term recovery processes.

Intelligence Gaps

  • Which domestic or foreign terrorist organizations (FTOs) are directing or inspiring individuals to conduct attacks on trains?
  • How are FTOs planning to target passenger rail?
  • How are FTOs raising funds to carry out an attack against passenger rail?

For more information, please contact NJOHSP's Preparedness Bureau at preparedness@njohsp.gov.