Chapter 4 Transportation Security

Chapter 4
Transportation Security

Airport security checkSince September 11, 2001, security at U.S. borders and points-of-entry (POE) for travelers has been heightened, focusing on threat deterrence and preventing would-be terrorists from gaining entry into the country. The United States has a network of security systems and programs that cover the POEs for international travelers by land, air, and sea.

Border Wait Times

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) examined the impact of a 20-second increase in inspection times for each of the 3.5 million vehicles crossing the border at SENTRI1 locations. In 2003, it took an average of 10 seconds for a vehicle in a SENTRI lane to be inspected versus 30 to 40 seconds for a vehicle in a regular lane. [USDHS OIG 2004] DHS calculated an increase in commercial vehicle inspection time, as well as increases in waiting time for travelers. [USDHS OIG 2005] In 2004, the average wait time was 5.9 minutes at the U.S.–Canada border and 15.1 minutes at the U.S.–Mexico border, compared to 7.5 minutes and 14.5 minutes, respectively, in 2003 (see table 4.2, figure 4.2 and figure 4.3).

Aviation Security

After September 11, 2001, passengers on international fl ights could expect more frequent searches, and examinations of their laptop computers and other electronic devices. There is a list of prohibited items that passengers are not allowed to bring into the secured area of an airport. Passenger screening has deterred passengers from carrying six to seven million prohibited items per year on board aircraft. Table 4.1 identifies the types and quantities of prohibited items intercepted at U.S. airport screening checkpoints in 2004.

Ship Security

Cruise ship passengers and crew traveling to foreign ports must be inspected by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials upon their return to the United States or where stops are made at U.S. territories, such as San Juan, Puerto Rico, and Charlotte Amalie, Virgin Islands. CBP examined approximately 24 million ship passengers and crew in 2004. The top 10 U.S. ports accounted for over 17 million passenger and crew examinations, approximately 72 percent of the total number of examinations. In addition, cruise ships provide advance notice of passenger manifests to CBP prior to ship arrival at U.S. ports. [USDOT RITA BTS]

Table 4.1

  • The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) collected 16 percent more prohibited items at airport security checkpoints at U.S. airports in 2004 than in 2003.
  • Not counting firearms, the number of all other items collected by TSA rose from 2003 to 2004. Knives and other cutting instruments comprised the majority of the prohibited items.
  • Over half (3.6 million) of prohibited items intercepted at U.S. airports in 2004 were other cutting instruments, such as metal pointed scissors, hatchets, swords, sabers, meat cleavers, ice axes, and picks – followed by knives (2.1 million).

Figure 4.1

  • From 2000 to 2004, there were more than 1,000 worldwide terrorist incidents against infrastructure.
  • Of the incidents against infrastructure, those targets classified as “Airports and airlines,” “Maritime,” and “General transportation” comprised 58 percent of targets.

Table 4.2

  • In 2004, people in personal vehicles could expect to wait twice as long on average at each land crossing to enter the United States from Mexico than from Canada. Mexican border crossings into the United States averaged 15 minutes of delay in 2003 and 2004, and Canadian border crossings averaged 8 minutes of delay in 2003 and 6 minutes of delay in 2004.

Figure 4.2

  • In 2004, wait times decreased at five of the U.S.-Canadian border gateways with the longest average wait time in 2003, while the other five experienced an increase in average wait times from 2003.
  • Along the U.S.-Canadian border, personal vehicles experienced the longest wait times at the Blaine–Peace Arch surface gateway in Washington in both 2003 and 2004. Average wait times at this gateway decreased from 21 minutes in 2003 to 14 minutes in 2004.

Figure 4.3

  • San Ysidro, CA, was the U.S.-Mexican land border gateway that experienced the longest average wait times in 2004 (36 minutes) and 2003 (42 minutes).
  • El Paso–Bridge of the Americas, in Texas, was the U.S.-Mexican land border gateway that experienced the largest decrease in average wait time from 2003 to 2004, with average wait times dropping 35 percent, from 35 to 24 minutes among the top 10 U.S.-Mexican gateways with the longest average wait times.
  • Both Nogales gateways in Arizona, experienced the greatest increase in average wait times from 2003 to 2004, the Deconcini gateway wait times increased 6 minutes and the Mariposa gateway wait times increased 7.4 minutes.

1 Secure Electronic Network for Travelers Rapid Inspection Program