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Terror on Mass Transit

Professor Loukaitou-Sideris, with collaborators from the Urban Planning faculty at UCLA and the Civil and Environmental Engineering department at UC Berkeley, aims to study terrorist attacks on rail and subway systems around the world with the goal of designing stations that are less vulnerable to bomb or gas attacks.

Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, professor of Urban Planning in the School of Public Policy and Social Research. ($35,000)

In 1998 transportation systems were the target of almost 40 percent of all violent terrorist attacks. Loukaitou-Sideris points out that "the volume of passengers makes it impossible for transit operators to employ many of the security tactics used by commercial aviation." Hand searches, x-ray of carry-on articles, and even metal detectors are prohibitively expensive and would slow passengers too much to be employed in such high volume settings.

The project will deal mainly with rail transit. It will include some study of planning for response to attacks and methods to speed up such responses, but the main focus of the study will be to design stations that are bomb resistant and where air circulation systems are less susceptible to the release of poison gas, as in the sarin gas attack in the Tokyo subway system in 1995 by the Aum Supreme Truth cult.

The study will begin by compiling an inventory of all transit terrorist incidents worldwide over the last thirty years. The researchers will then concentrate on attacks in stations, and compare the severity of deaths and injuries in different kinds of station spaces. Their goal will be to propose station designs that can minimize the effect of potential attacks.

There will be an educational component of the study, as the UCLA faculty members on the research team will teach Fiat Lux undergraduate seminars on issues of transit security, and will contribute to graduate urban planning courses.

UCLA International Institute