Metro Teams up With TSA to Test Passenger Screening System Meant to Detect Suicide Vests, Weapons

Metro riders coming down the escalator into Metro Center station in downtown Los Angeles were scanned Tuesday by a new thermal imaging security system designed to detect suicide vests and weapons concealed close to the body.

The portable passenger screening system was being tested as part of a partnership between L.A. County's Metro and the federal Transportation Security Administration. Metro previously tested two other systems in August and December of last year as part of a pilot program to evaluate security technology.

Screening technology is tested at Metro Center on March 6, 2018. (Credit: KTLA)

Screening technology is tested at Metro Center on March 6, 2018. (Credit: KTLA)

The tests are intended to find technology that will "keep things that shouldn't be in the transit system out of here," TSA spokeswoman Lorie Dankers told KTLA.

As passengers entered the station on Tuesday morning, they passed by the screening system, which is contained in large black cases. The system "measures waves that are naturally emitted by the body to screen for metallic and non-metallic threats, including firearms and explosives," according to a Metro blog post.

On a laptop manned by security personnel, an avatar of the passing passenger shows up like a "green ghost" without anatomical details. If the passenger is carrying a concealed item or weapon, the waves are blocked and the corresponding area of the person's body appears black on the avatar.

The U.K.-made system, ThruVis TAC, is mobile and can be taken from station to station, allowing for an "element of surprise," Dankers said.

Rider participation is voluntary during the test, which is set to continue Wednesday.

The same system was tested last week with Amtrak at Penn Station in New York City.