DHS spends millions on bus kill-switches to stop Osama bin Laden from reenacting the movie "Speed"

Bus services across America are spending a fortune on driver-side kill-switches for busses that have been hijacked by terrorists that can stop them or slow them to five miles per hour. This is to stop terrorist from ramming busses into buildings.

So now, I suppose, terrorists will have to content themselves with activating the kill-switch signals to make every bus on every freeway in America slam to a stop all at once, causing massive fatalities and snarling the nation's traffic in a weeks-long, gory jam.

Nice one, movie-plot-fighters!

Private bus companies have received millions of dollars from the Department of Homeland Security for the security systems. It costs $1,500 to equip each bus, with $50-per-bus monthly maintenance costs.

Gray Line double-decker tourist buses and Coach USA have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal funds to install 3,000 devices. After receiving a $124,000 federal grant, DeCamp Bus Lines is installing the device on its 80 commuter buses, which travel routes from northern New Jersey to the Port Authority Bus Terminal in Midtown.

New Jersey Transit is currently in the process of equipping all of its roughly 3,000 buses with the technology. NJ Transit Chief of Police Joseph Bober said: "This enhanced technology helps us protect our bus drivers and customers. It's another proactive tool to protect our property, employees and customers."

Link (via Schneier)


  1. I wish that money would have gone towards GPS so each bus could be tracked, real-time, via cellphone. That would make buses loads easier to use and get more cars off the road.

  2. So we might save ourselves from Dennis Hopper from Speed only to be dealing with Timothy Olyphant from the last Die Hard movie?! Ut-oh! He’s a much more formidable opponent!

  3. That’s not what Speed was about. Speed was about not going below 55 mph, and this kill switch would totally do that.

  4. Some very happy republicans getting rich on this one, it’s the 50$ per month maintenance that is the obvious cash grab.

  5. And some people actually want our health care to be run by a government bureaucracy…

    Yeah, just like every other industrialized nation. Bah! What does the rest of the world know, right? USA! USA! USA!

  6. Everybody wins on this one: The bus company wins when it gets to hire a bunch of engineers who get paid monthly with government money; the government wins when it gets to spend money fighting terrorism; the terrorists win when they get to activate all the kill switches at once; and the tax payers who paid for this win when — oh wait, that tax payers don’t win.

    Three out of four isn’t bad, though…

  7. This sounds ridiculous. If any, taliban terrorists will use what vehicule is at hand. Now you have to equip all those cars, trucks, caterpillars, trains, boats, golf cars, mopeds… Pedestrian kill switch anyone?

  8. From the portion not quoted here:

    “If we just stop the bus suddenly, maybe he sets off a bomb and kills 50 people,” said Gary Pard, DeCamp’s vice president of operations. “It’s our objective to give a terrorist time to rethink their position.”

    Glad to see Gary Pard is helping to establish acceptable losses for bus travelers.

  9. I would like to know what the 50.00 / month maintainance cost maintains. I am thinking that what they are really referring to is a subscription services. and that is not the same thing as a maintainance cost.

    Sounds a like a pretty shoddy technology that needs someone to tighten a screw on it every month or whatever they are maintaining.


  10. I recently had to take a 10 hour – 3 bus change trip. There were more than a few times I wished the driver had a switch he could flip that would kill me.

  11. In San Francisco, the hybrid buses have a kill switch that rowdy passengers flip.

    Why this switch exists, and why it was in an area accessible to passengers, remains a mystery to those with common sense.

  12. Driver controlled kill switches are useless now that the turr’ists know about them. I think it would be pretty obvious to the turr’ist that the driver did something sneaky before getting out of his seat and letting said turr’st drive the bus into a building.

    One of our drivers drove a bus into a building in loop (chicago). It did fukc-all. There was some damage to the facade, but nobody got hurt.
    I don’t see driving a bus into a building as an effective terror attack. Unless the bus was filled with ANFO.

  13. I wonder who we would find if we followed the money back past Saucon TDS. Political contributors? Relatives? KBR subsidiary?

  14. Next up: DHS-funded security guards for chain restaurants, to prevent Al-Qaeda from making America sick by sending terrorists out to spit on the salad bar.

  15. I’m submitting a bid to maintain the switches for only $45 a month. (plus my $10 / bus “admin. fee”)

    What a country!

  16. They got it all wrong; what they need is Bus Marshals. Since it’s just buses, any citizen with a gun could self-deputize themselves as a Bus Marshal. If you want qualifications, say any citizen with a gun and a driver’s licence. Jest let them turrists try something!

  17. sure the kill switch will stop buses from driving into buildings. but who’s gonna stop the buildings from driving into the buses?
    I’ve seen it happen, its not pretty, surely the DHS should consider spending billions retrofitting every building in ny with a new technology based on the leash and collar system, which has proven itself very effective against wandering dogs. This new technology has been adapted for large scale use on buildings, preventing building from wandering into the streets where can and will run into buses.
    And it comes in 10 unique colors and patterns!

    Future plans are applying a retractable leash system, while still being researched. Theres issues with the lock button getting stuck and inflicting minor whiplash…

  18. In Soviet Russia, the switch kills you.

    Maybe that’s too much of an inside joke? I dunno… I thought it was funny. And if jokes about Soviet Russia are no longer funny , the terrorists have won.

  19. First they added our names to the No Fly List, and I said nothing.
    Then they added our names to the No Ride List, and I said nothing.

  20. “Bus” = vehicle used to transport people.
    “Buses” = more than one such vehicle.
    “Buss” = a kiss.
    “Busses” = more than one kiss.

  21. Using buses as bomb delivery systems is nothing new- it was done here in Northern Ireland for 25 years. The methodology was usually i) put bomb on bus ii) tell driver and tie him to his seat iii)tell driver his family will be shot if he doesn’t drive the bus wherever you want the bomb to go.

    Hate to say it folks, but this technology would have saved a few blameless bus drivers.

  22. #6 posted by Kevitivity Author Profile Page, June 10, 2008 11:49 AM

    And some people actually want our health care to be run by a government bureaucracy…

    Not the actual health care, just the funding for it. If you still hate that idea you are more than welcome to forfeit your right to medicare when you get old.

  23. The funding of the health care by the government tends to be where the problems lie.

    And let’s see.. bus a bomb delivery system.. okay. but how about cars? they’re the most popular method amongst the middle east folks. and a bomb as damaging as those used in london the other year could fit on a scooter… or bicycle…

    does the DHS actually do any research/ analytical thinking? or do they just throw darts at a wall covered with possible scenarios to fight against?

  24. A couple years ago the Washington Post had a comprehensive rundown of the extensive nepotism in the Bush administration, including the Federal government agencies.

    Some above have asked the same question, but I’ll put it in more pointed terms: I wonder which relative of which Bush buddy is getting these contracts? I wish the MSM would look into this kind of question.

  25. “Using buses as bomb delivery systems is nothing new- it was done here in Northern Ireland for 25 years. The methodology was usually i) put bomb on bus ii) tell driver and tie him to his seat iii)tell driver his family will be shot if he doesn’t drive the bus wherever you want the bomb to go.

    Hate to say it folks, but this technology would have saved a few blameless bus drivers.”

    Sure, it would indeed save bus drivers. Theyd just choose other motorists.

  26. Well, they mostly did use regular non-moving car bombs. The thing is that a bus was heavy enough to break through most of the security barricades of the day, into Army barracks and whatnot, when a car would have bounced off.

    The protocol for that was usually either that your car was nicked from your house or that you were carjacked- you lost your car, but you were OK. The bus drivers weren’t allowed off the bus.

  27. It must be working since I’ve seen no further sequels.
    I would love to see the political contribution landscape for this company.

  28. The maintenance fee is probably going to the union mechanic that spends two minutes a day testing the switch on each bus during a daily check-over of everything else. 2 minutes * 30 days = 1 hour… $50 an hour is a cheap bus mechanic.

    You know, either that or it’s a conspiracy.

  29. The magazine “The American Interest” has several articles in the current issue focused on terrorphobia, and explores how a big, stupid bureaucracy like Homeland Security can only end up manufacturing yet more self-perpetuating “security policies” that do nothing but generate yet more self-perpetuating “security policies.”

    There was an excellent quote from bin Laden, who bragged about how al Qaeda had spent $500,000 and cost America $500 billion. But with this open-ended, self-replicating, self-perpetuating monster called the “war on terror,” the true price tag can only be infinity dollars.

  30. Does the US government make government policy according to movies?
    Someone should tell them about actors and sets..

  31. seriously, what the e-ffing hell?

    do these guys sit around a table and say yes to the first suggestion to pop up?

    Politician #1: Ok so I watched Speed last night and it kinda scared me.

    Politician #2: Yes we certainly need to do something about that pesky Keeanu Reeves.

    Politician #1: No, No! What if someone puts a bomb on a bus? I can’t have that happen in my city~ I’d never get to higher office.

    Politician #2: Oh. Hmm… What about a switch to turn off the bus.

    Politican #1: That’s absolutly brillant! I will call and have them install these ‘switch’ things right away!


  32. This seems to be the same thing installed in trucks and expensive cars in South Africa as an anti-theft device. Their ads depicted the company catching the bad guys and recovering your vehicle before you even realized it was missing. (You don’t have to call it in).

    Seems like a good idea. If we install it on every car, it would cost only $10. How about it, $10 per year and you no longer have to worry about losing your car. Then I remembered that if it was so common, car thiefs would soon learn how to disable it.

  33. I have a GPS/GSM kill-switch in my TT roadster, because they stole my previous one. It cost USD120 on Ebay + USD50 (http://cgi.ebay.com/Vehicle-Car-GPS-Tracker-GPS-GSM-GPR-Tracking-Drive-/290494422788?pt=GPS_Devices&hash=item43a2d11f04) for install. I have a prepaid plan SIM card in it (no running costs). I can track it and get a short message, should my TT leave a predefined area. I can send it a message to stop fuel or ignition. I can even listen and talk to whoever is just about to steal my car.
    What is that USD1500 Washington Govt. price ticket for? Why such montly costs?

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