Recent global events make it clear that the threat of terrorism is one to be taken seriously. For those who are attempting to kill in quantity and kill indiscriminately, surface transportation offers the ideal target. Because of the public nature of mass transit, there is often little security with no checkpoints as is the case with airports. The practice of terrorism has moved in varying directions in recent years, depending upon different forms of transportation systems and venues of operation. On the positive side, terrorist attacks on commercial aviation have declined significantly after reaching a high point in the 1970s, bringing some relief to travelers, airlines and governments. No doubt, much of the change has been facilitated by the increased vigilance in airports and related facilities. No such relief has occurred for those who use surface transportation, however. In fact, assaults on public surface transportation systems have continued to take place worldwide without any indications of abatement. Why have there been such different behaviors and outcomes with these two methods of transportation? This study addresses these fundamental and increasingly important questions. This executive summary is a preview of the soon-to-be published Protecting Public Surface Transportation Against Terrorism and Serious Crime, the third in an ongoing study by MTI on terrorism in surface transportation, by Brian M. Jenkins and Larry N. Gerston.

Publication Date


Publication Type



Transportation Security/Counterterrorism


Buses; Public transportation; Safety; Terrorism; Violence.