Elise Miller-Hooks

Risk Mapping and Other Tools for Securing Public Transit Systems

Project 31A secure and functioning transportation system is of paramount importance to a society. Its operation affects a society’s way of life and economic vitality. For large urban areas, public transit systems form the backbone of the urban landscape, providing quick and affordable access to housing, employment and recreational opportunities. They offer environmentally friendly transport alternatives and are a cornerstone of efforts to create livable and sustainable communities. By design, they are open systems and are accessible to the masses. Hundreds of thousands of people pass through bus stops and subway stations in the U.S. every hour. The agglomeration of people using public transit systems is being increasingly viewed by nefarious agents as prime targets for attack due to ease of access and potentially devastating casualty numbers. Between 1980 and 2004, some 234 attacks were carried out on transit systems worldwide, and the casualties resulting from these attacks have increased nonlinearly over time. Moreover, these systems are susceptible to accidents, which can result in significant loss of life and long-term disruption.

A network-based framework for assessing system-wide security and the evolution of risk using risk mapping will be conceptualized and developed in this project. The aim is to enhance efforts to detect increased terrorist threat, deter terrorist actions by reducing target attractiveness through countermeasures that consider system operational characteristics and system function, and minimize attack impact through changes in system configuration and service offerings. The risk maps will take into account vulnerability (ways a system may be open to attack), criticality (potential consequences of an attack), and threat (likelihood of an attack). In addition to traditional risk assessment measures of critical infrastructure that focus on the system assets, the risk map will take into consideration the transit network topology, transit service parameters (e.g. service frequency, vehicle size, and load factors), flows, concentrations, and distribution of people across the system.

Award Period:
Sept. 2010 – Sept. 2011
Source of Funding:
Mid-Atlantic University Transportation Center, United States Department of Transportation
PI on subaward and main contract
Total Award Amount:

Project 31


Elise Miller-Hooks, Ph.D.
Bill & Eleanor Hazel Chair in Infrastructure Engineering

Phone: 703.993.1685
Email: miller@gmu.edu

Office: 4614 Nguyen Engineering Building

Sid and Reva Dewberry Department of Civil, Environmental and Infrastructure Engineering
George Mason University
4400 University Drive, MS 6C1
Fairfax, VA 22030


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