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    Real commuters, real PATH tests  

PATH Trains Hudson Tubes Hudson & Manhattan RR The sight of high-tech anti-terror equipment at the Exchange Place PATH station yesterday morning prompted Curtis Jackson to think of only one thing: His favorite superhero. "It looks like where Superman goes," said Jackson, 29, an office manager from Bayonne. Jackson was referring to "the portal," which vaguely resembles the Man-of-Steel's phone booth. "When I saw it, I wanted to go in," he said. "But it wasn't as fun."

The federal Department of Homeland Security and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey yesterday launched the second phase of a $10 million rail security test project designed to thwart a possible terrorist attack like the ones in Madrid, London and, most recently, India. Airport screeners on loan from the San Francisco International Airport will be randomly selecting commuters to pass through one of the two devices. During the two-week process, a total of seven "primary" devices will be officials said. At 10 a.m. yesterday, the trickle of commuters entering the Exchange Place PATH station seemed resigned to the situation. "It's the age," said James Fairweather, 45, who is visiting the area from Scotland on business. "I always think it's strange when you look at the people getting screened going onto aircraft and not on trains."

The two devices put into action yesterday use active and passive millimeter wave technologies to scan passengers for strap-on explosives hidden under clothing. Any suspicious objects on a person are identified as large splotches on a monitor. Christopher Kelly, a spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security, said 400 passengers were screened in just over five hours yesterday. "Our team feels good about the project," Kelly said.

Adam Zimmerman, 44, a banker who commutes to Jersey City from New York City, grumbled at the sight of the fancy machinery. It was only five months ago that officials unloaded airport-style metal detectors at the station as part of the first phase of the pilot program. "Why don't they test somewhere else?" Zimmerman said. "I understand they have to do something with everything that's been going on, but you've got all kinds of metal detectors in airports and on Sept. 11 hijackers went after four planes and they got four planes."

The testing process is only supposed to take one or two minutes, but many commuters were held up much longer after passing through the "secondary" screening area. "It's an inconvenience," said Raul Rivera, 30, of Queens. "If they are going to do a system like this, let it be speedier, not like this."

© 2006 The Jersey Journal

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