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Getting on safety train

(The following article Joshua Robin was posted on Newsday.com on July 16.)

NEW YORK -- Overhead luggage racks, on-board trash cans and most bathrooms will be off-limits to NJ Transit passengers during next month's Republican convention, the railroad said yesterday in announcing its sweeping counterterrorism plans.

New Jersey state troopers and NJ Transit police officers also will use dogs to sweep passengers' bags on 200 city-bound trains each day as the cars idle at the Secaucus station. About 50,000 people ride NJ Transit trains every day to Pennsylvania Station, part of which is underneath Madison Square Garden, the venue for the Aug. 29-Sept. 2 convention.

"My advice to our customers who choose to travel to New York that week is travel light, keep your personal belongings with you at all times, and expect some unavoidable delays," said NJ Transit Executive Director George D. Warrington.

The measures will include the re-routing of 100 "Midtown Direct" trains that run express between Newark's Broad Street and Penn Station. Passengers will instead arrive at the Hoboken station for a free transfer to PATH trains or a ferry across the river.

The forced transfer is to limit crowding at Penn Station, where access will be limited to two Seventh Avenue entrances, said spokesman Ken Hitchner.

Long Island Rail Road and Amtrak have not announced their security plans.

Amtrak spokesman Cliff Black was not aware of what the precautions will be. "It may come to that," he said of NJ Transit's plans.

MTA spokesman Tom Kelly said cops will sweep LIRR trains before they enter Penn Station, but passengers will likely not see reduced availability of bathrooms and racks.

"At this point, we do not plan on closing any of those," Kelly said. "We're already on a heightened state of alert."

Bomb-sniffing dogs also are expected to sweep subway trains before they enter Penn.

The measures aim to prevent an episode like the March 11 bombings of Madrid commuter rails, said Brian Jenkins, director of terrorism and security for mass transportation at The Mineta Transportation Institute at San Jose State University.

Newsday staff writer Joie Tyrrell contributed to this story.

Friday, July 16, 2004

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