Some of the enhanced security is visible to our customers and at the same time, much is not, and that’s exactly the way it is designed to be.
Metro Transit Police Chief
Taking public transportation often provides its own entertainment. But unlike New York’s subway with its Latino-to-Classical music performances (to say nothing of its standup salesmen and vocalists on the ride uptown), DC’s Metro is pretty damn tame. No underground music and Metro’s clientele are usually button-down and subdued all the way downtown.
So, when, in between the second and third stops on my commute, a very large man stated loudly to all “Well, it’s about time they got cameras in the cars!” I was immediately shocked out of my early morning stupor. I looked up at him as he hung over me. Then remembering my basic commuter training I immediately severed eye contact and returned to reading my newspaper.
After 9/11, Madrid, and London, DC commuters are mindful of the risks of riding public transportation. A few months back many of our on-train subway maps were replaced with detailed instructions on how to evacuate the subway in case of an emergency.
My fellow commuter said no more which only heightened my curiosity (as marginal men and women never know when to stop talking). My immediate response to dismiss him was replaced with a more wait-and-see attitude. And, when at the next stop he got out, I immediately looked in the direction he was looking when he made his manly declaration.
It was true. There, about half-way down, were two little orbs pasted to the car’s ceiling. It was impossible to tell whether they operational or if they were even real. But someone sure noticed and he made sure we all did too.
At the end of the day I checked the car I was riding home in for other orbs. Nothing.
Update: After doing a bit of net-sleuthing I’ve found the real reason for these cameras. They’re not for creating a safer transit system in our post-9/11 world. Rather, they are there to study passenger movements within railcars, that is, where passengers congregate within the each car.
Seasoned Metro riders know where we congregate: smack dab in front of the doors, of course. The DCist reports it is “part of a plan endorsed in March to consider removing seats so as to increase railcar capacity by 15 to 20 percent.”