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Most LIRR riders support GOP security measures

(The following story by Joie Tyrrell and Jennifer Smith appeared on Newsday’s website on April 29.)

NEW YORK -- The security plan to have police search every train entering Penn Station during the four-day Republican convention drew praise from security-minded commuters Wednesday, even as transportation advocates wondered how the effort will work.

"I think it's great," said Long Island Rail Road traveler Nicolle Friedman, 36, of Melville. "I wouldn't care if it added time to my commute."

Friedman, who rides the train each weekday to Manhattan, where she works as a retail planner for Liz Claiborne, is nervous about terrorism attacks and said she wished the railroad had the measure in place all the time.

She was one of a number of passengers interviewed last night at the Farmingdale LIRR station who said they approved of the security measures, despite the service delays they may cause.

Omar Mariluz, 35, of Manhattan, sometimes rides the trains four times a day making trips to the jewelry store in Farmingdale where he works. He thinks the security measure makes sense after the Sept. 11 attacks, but he hopes passengers can help speed up the process, perhaps by opening up their bags during searches. "Nobody wants to be late for work," he said.

In addition to subways, Penn Station is served by New Jersey Transit, Amtrak and the Long Island Rail Road. The LIRR alone is the busiest commuter railroad in North America, carrying an average of 274,000 customers each weekday on 730 daily trains. And, nearly 500 of the railroad's daily trains either originate or terminate at Penn Station.

"I don't know how they are going to do that," said Peter Haynes, president of the Long Island Rail Road Commuters Campaign, of the effort to search every train. "The logistics of that are just huge and it has to have a negative affect on commuters and it is going to slow things down."

Gerry Bringmann, vice chairman of the transit advocate's group, the LIRR Commuters Council, has been calling for increased security measures on the rails, especially since the Madrid bombings in March that killed almost 200. Wednesday, he said he expects commuters will understand the need to search trains during the convention.

"I think it's a lot better than the alternative -- than shutting down Penn Station," Bringmann said. "It's only four days. It's something we are going to have to grin and bear."

Brian Jenkins, director of terrorism and security for mass transportation at The Mineta Transportation Institute on the San Jose State University campus, said the effort will be "a daunting task."

"It's going to take a lot," Jenkins said. "Now the NYPD is large and it's very efficient and it does devote a great deal of resources to combating terrorism.

"If they say they can do it, they probably can do it."

Thursday, April 29, 2004

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