National Transportation Security Center

Public surface transportation – passenger trains and train stations, freight trains, buses and bus stations and stops, and highway and railway infrastructure – are important targets for terrorists and serious criminals. For many terrorist groups, and for jihadist terrorists in particular, passenger train and bus targets, in particular, have been and remain killing fields. But protecting these targets present challenges. To move large masses of people rapidly, the system must be open, with multiple access points. It is, therefore, different than commercial aviation, which has long been based on queues, and can utilize screening and searching of individual travelers. These are challenges that require that transportation regulators and operators understand the trend of attacks. Which targets are attacked most often, with which weapons, and in which countries? Which types of attacks are most lethal in terms of average and median deaths and injuries per attack? The Mineta Transportation Institute’s National Transportation Security Center is a key player in helping governmental authorities and private operators answer these questions, identify trends, and work to reduce security risks. MTI maintains an internationally unique database, and uses it to perform trend analyses.

Database and Research Activities

MTI maintains a database of all terrorist and serious criminal attacks against public surface transportation from January 1, 1970 until today. MTI’s experts identify trends in any number of factors; in addition to the obvious – the date, the location, and the perpetrator -- any set of attacks can be examined by the type of target (75+ target types), the type of weapon used (55+ attack methods), the method of concealing and placing bombs (45+ different methods), and by the outcome of the explosive – whether it detonated on target, or failed to detonate, or was rendered safe, or any combination of these and other factors. MTI can also determine how many attacks were stopped and how many devices were found, and by whom.

The research for MTI’s database started in 1996. Beginning in 2008, data was housed in increasingly sophisticated and powerful platforms. Beginning in 2011, under contract with Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and then with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), it included a web-accessible version for TSA’s Office of Intelligence. The database is updated semi-monthly. It utilizes all past publicly available reporting systems as well as open source reporting. It is an internationally unique single source of data designed specifically for public surface transportation regulators and operators.

MTI's experts conduct a wide range of research and trend analysis based on the database. These include formal research reports and shorter security perspectives. MTI participates in number of security symposia and summits to present on this research. Our experts provide Congressional testimony and consult with government officials. In addition, MTI is able to provide specific analyses to individual transportation operators through consulting agreements.

NTSC Directors and Key Personnel

NTSC Research