Greater Greater Washington

Pentagon security plan would hurt Metro riders

The Pentagon wants to reconfigure the security barriers at their entrance in a way that would reduce the accessibility of the Pentagon Metrorail station, especially for passengers with disabilities.


Photo by mindfrieze.

The Examiner's Markham Heid reports that the Pentagon wants to move its checkpoints farther from the building's entrance.

This follows an incident four months ago where a gunman shot and wounded two Pentagon security officers at the checkpoint by the Metro station.

The new configuration would close off a section in front of the Pentagon which is currently accessible to the public. Two covered walkways use this area to connect the bus bays to the elevator and escalators to the station. a letter from the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission notes that these walkways were part of the arrangement worked out last time the Pentagon reconfigured the area, and asks the Pentagon to work with area governments before cutting these off.


Red: secure area. Yellow: Entrances to the Metrorail station. The bus bays are at the bottom.

According to the diagrams, commuters will have to access the elevators and escalators via uncovered walkways. In many cases, they will have to walk extra distance, especially disabled passengers needing to use elevators. NVTC also worries that "queues waiting to pass through the new security checkpoint are likely to interfere with passenger movements to and from the bus bays and Metrorail escalators, creating a safety hazard."

The Pentagon station was built before the current security hysteria, and probably couldn't be in its current location if it were built today. That's too bad, because the Pentagon's transit accessibility makes transit feasible for large numbers of DoD employees.

The Pentagon needs to take reasonable security precautions, but does the fact that a mentally ill man unconnected to any terrorism shot people at the security checkpoint but didn't get into the building or seriously threaten it warrant more security barriers? No matter how far out the barriers are, someone can still go up to the checkpoints and open fire. If the Pentagon goes forward and another crazy person brings a gun to the new barriers, will the Pentagon want to move them even farther out?

David Alpert is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Greater Greater Washington and Greater Greater Education. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He loves the area which is, in many ways, greater than those others, and wants to see it become even greater. 

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Hit the nail right on the end with that last comment. The US has been in a "security craze" mentality for the better part of the decade. Have another incident and they might even shut down the Pentagon Station!

by Chris on Jul 6, 2010 10:53 am • linkreport

Let's just surrender. The terrorists have won.

by spookiness on Jul 6, 2010 10:53 am • linkreport

1. The details of any one shooter / criminal should not be used as a model for making risk analyses involving the future.
2. That being said, your larger point about the futility of moving barriers farther away from the building as a way to stop/prevent crazies from shooting Pentagon guards certainly makes sense. This seems an an unnecessary unbalancing of the security / convenience conflict at the Pentagon.

by Josh S on Jul 6, 2010 10:53 am • linkreport

Most busses drop people off at the uncovered walkways and going home most people take that route than the cover route. So I don't think it will that big of an inconvenience. Adjust a few bus bays a little and everyone will be happy.

by RJ on Jul 6, 2010 11:11 am • linkreport

I transfer from a bus to the Pentagon Metro station frequently. I can picture what is being proposed and share the concerns about accessibility as well as general usability. The proposal is operationally ridiculous and would, no doubt, negatively impact ridership. I know life isn't about me as an individual Metro rider. But, if security needs to be increased, put more guards there. That seems like a more reasonable response to me.

by Penny Everline on Jul 6, 2010 11:18 am • linkreport

This is the military we're talking about though, so I'm pretty sure they're just going to do whatever they want. There are very few situations in which the military asks for something like this and doesn't get it.

by Nate on Jul 6, 2010 11:53 am • linkreport

RJ - How exactly would they "adjust a few bus bays"? Have you ever been to the Pentagon bus bays?

by nevermindtheend on Jul 6, 2010 12:01 pm • linkreport

I use this every day, and think there's a compromise out there that would satisfy all interests.

About 75% of the foot traffic uses the escalators at the west end of the station (the ones to the left after the turnstiles). The Pentagon Police could extend their security perimeter to force those people to use the uncovered walkway to the bus bays if they also left the security checkpoints for the east end escalators as is. That would allow access to one covered walkway for those who need it, and allow access to the elevator as well.

It wouldn't be nice and symmetrical, but it would address the Pentagon's security needs wrt the vast majority of the foot traffic while maintaining access for the disabled.

by Matt W on Jul 6, 2010 12:04 pm • linkreport

The Pentagon already looks like a supermax prison. Gigantic parking lots, multiple layers of fencing, barricades, and armed guards surround the place. Like many places in the area, the white fear has gotten a little bit out of hand. Time to listen to just a bit of reason on this one.

by aaa on Jul 6, 2010 3:04 pm • linkreport

Every action, whether proactive based on pre-emptive intelligence, or reactive based on some high profile attack, signals a small concession. Fear is the most unhealthy enemy any entity - person or state - can have. Unfortunately, fear feeds on itself, which is why this will likely continue for an indeterminate amount of time.

by C. R. on Jul 6, 2010 3:21 pm • linkreport

So a guy walks up and tries to shoot up the pentagon but is stopped by the security at the pentagon. Unfortunately two of the guards were injured. Doesn't this show that the current security configuration did its job? I don't mean to belittle the fact that people were injured but these were the people who are supposed to put their life on the line as part of their job. Crazy people are crazy and sometimes something will go down, the guards knew this and were prepared.

by Canaan on Jul 6, 2010 4:26 pm • linkreport

I'd go even a step further than David did in his last paragraph. How sad is it that in this country, we'd rather worsen transit options for thousands of people than make mentally ill people give up their guns? (If Virginia Tech didn't change gun laws, this incident sure won't.)

by TheGreenMiles on Jul 6, 2010 5:42 pm • linkreport

Oh please so it'll add 45 seconds at most to someone's walk around the area.

Urbanists seem to like to believe that security risks don't exist. I suppose that if you discount the shooter, and that time that a plane got flown into the building, then yea I guess the security concerns are overblown.

by MPC on Jul 6, 2010 6:00 pm • linkreport

How does moving the checkpoint have anything to do with a plane getting flown into the building? The checkpoint won't do anything about that.

by David Alpert on Jul 6, 2010 6:50 pm • linkreport

I never said it would. My point is that the Pentagon has credible threats against it, and that despite what you may believe, the safety of the HQ of the armed services trumps little urbanist fantasies.

by MPC on Jul 6, 2010 7:11 pm • linkreport

Why not move the HQ of the armed forces out of a populated area ? Grom Lake sounds like a nice well protected area.

by kk on Jul 6, 2010 11:48 pm • linkreport

My point is that the Pentagon has credible threats against it

I have an idea. Let's move the Pentagon somewhere else.

What's that, you say? Thousands of people will be inconvenienced?

by wmata on Jul 7, 2010 3:18 am • linkreport

Well, in this age of "security hysteria" the terrorists and crazy people always win...each time. This is why we pay a "September 11 Security Fee" when we buy an airline ticket...which is almost as much of an outrage as what the terrorists have done to Washington. Anyone who remembers what the Mall was like for the 4th of July in the 90s and earlier...before the idiotic checkpoints, enclosures and Metro closures...knows what I am talking about.

by xtr657 on Jul 8, 2010 7:42 am • linkreport

@ MPC: if you discount the shooter, and that time that a plane got flown into the building, then yea I guess the security concerns are overblown.

So if flying planes are a security issue, why are buses being moved around? Shouldn't planes be moved around? DCA be closed? Oh wait, that would inconvenience members of Congress. Can't have that. There's hundreds of them.

by Jasper on Jul 8, 2010 12:14 pm • linkreport

My point is that the Pentagon has credible threats against it

How does that changed the fact that moving the barriers will not improve security, as David pointed out? The proposal does nothing to address these so-called "credible threats" while inconveniencing thousands of people.

by Matthias on Jul 8, 2010 1:30 pm • linkreport

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