A federally-funded pilot project will soon begin testing technology on Edmonton's LRT system which can screen passengers for explosive or radioactive material.

Passengers validating their tickets at the LRT Churchill Station will be scanned for radioactive isotopes and see their tickets scanned for trace amounts of bomb-making residue.

The mechanical validators will read color changes on a special polymer coating applied to the tickets to detect any potential threat.

The scanning technology designed by Cubic Corporation, based in San Diego, California.

"The validators analyze the fare cards for traces and have the capability to take images and send a silent alert to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Edmonton's transit police if explosives or other potentially hazardous substances are detected," said President and General Manager Walt Bonneau.

Airport-style security won't work

Public transport moves 15 times more passengers than airports in North America, but with fewer security checks, said Bonneau.

Airport-style security won't work in public transport systems because moving passengers quickly and conveniently is paramount, he said.

The Edmonton pilot is funded by Canada's Centre for Security Science, which explores scientific and technological solutions to public safety and security issues.

The pilot will be administered by Health Canada with Edmonton Transit System serving as the test coordinator.

"It's a great opportunity for the City of Edmonton to continue to assist the federal government with safety enhancements for public transportation systems across the country," said spokesperson Graeme McElheran.

The federal government selected Edmonton because of the city's excellent transit security, he said.

The equipment should be installed by April and will monitor passengers for three weeks at which time the equipment will be removed and the data analyzed.