Mr. Chairman, thank you for this opportunity to testify on the security and safety of public transportation systems. We commend Congress for its quick response to the horrific terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.
The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) is a nonprofit international association of over 1400 public and private member organizations including transit systems and commuter rail operators; planning, design, construction, and finance firms; product and service providers; academic institutions; transit associations and state departments of transportation. APTA members serve the public interest by providing safe, efficient, and economical transit services and products. Over ninety percent of persons using public transportation in the United States and Canada are served by APTA member systems.
Mr. Chairman, we thank you, and the Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, for crafting the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA 21), which has so effectively improved the industry’s ability to meet demands for capital investment and service. The legislation has significantly improved our industry’s ability to meet the growing demand for service in urban, suburban, and rural communities throughout America.
The good news is that TEA 21’s increases in federal investment and the predictability of those funds has paid off. Public transportation ridership is up 21 percent over the past five years, to the highest levels in forty years. The federal investments in TEA 21 and earlier legislation enabled the transit industry to develop new transit services, and to upgrade and modernize older transit infrastructure. This investment paid enormous dividends on September 11, when public transportation in New York City and in Washington, D.C. helped safely evacuate citizens from center cities. Indeed, this same story was true around the country, as transit systems quickly and efficiently evacuated people from closed airports and downtown areas. Mr. Chairman, we remember that the interstate highway program was begun by President Eisenhower as a national defense interstate highway program. We can now certainly recognize that public transportation too has a significant national defense component, and we are extremely proud of our transit systems in New York, Washington, D.C., and around the country, and how they responded so successfully to the horrific events of September 11.
Post-September 11 Activities
Mr. Chairman, APTA was honored and pleased that Transportation Secretary Norm Mineta came to Philadelphia Monday morning to deliver the keynote address to our Annual Meeting where over 2,000 transit professionals gathered. He emphasized the importance of public transportation, and the critical importance of a continuing focus on safety and security. In particular, he said "preparation equals performance," and I want to assure you that we are taking that message to heart.
Specifically, let me respond to the Subcommittee’s questions regarding what steps APTA is taking to assist its members in improving safety, and what would be useful to transit systems in that regard.
Let me now outline for you some of the things we, as the association for the public transportation industry, do to promote safety and security in public transportation, and explain how these plans and programs address significant issues.
Safety and Security Plans
We are proud as an association to have established the industry standard for transit system safety program plans, which include security and emergency response elements. In October of 1986, APTA initiated activities to develop a safety management program for the public transportation industry. A pilot program of high-level, formal safety audits were scheduled at six volunteer transit systems over an eighteen-month period. Upon completion of the pilot program, APTA staff gathered information from the auditors and participants in the pilot audits, and produced a report, which recommended a course of action on safety accreditation. The APTA Manual for the Development of Transit System Safety Program Plans was a result of these recommendations.
The Manual serves several purposes. It establishes a recommended format for System Safety Program Plans (SSPP). The SSPP is developed by each transit system; it identifies all safety-related responsibilities, and assigns these responsibilities to proper areas within the organization. A transit system maintains oversight of its safety status and program to ensure all responsibilities are being carried out and coordinated. This process is known as System Safety. A transit system establishes a SSPP in a formal written document. It implements the SSPP by policy directives from the chief executive officer.
The APTA Manual assists transit systems with established System Safety Program Plans in the development and definition of their safety programs. It also provides tangible evidence to the public and governmental oversight agencies that the transit industry possesses the means and expertise to develop sound, effective, pro-active safety programs designed to reduce accident potential and increase the efficiency of transit operations.
A key element of the SSPP is security. Each transit system’s safety program should provide a pro-active, prevention-oriented approach to security. This element emphasizes the importance of identifying potential threats and areas of vulnerability, developing approaches that will minimize those threats and vulnerabilities, and demonstrating a clear and pro-active approach to security.
Emergency Response Planning is also a primary component of any safety program. As such, it must be given constant attention. A typical process for the component includes an approved, coordinated schedule for all emergency response elements. Meetings with outside agencies, emergency drills, and revision and distribution of Emergency Response Procedures are activities that are then scheduled on a periodic basis with necessary approvals and checks for completion built in. The safety unit of the transit organization is generally responsible for coordination of these types of emergency response functions. As part of the regular reports to general management issued by the safety unit, status reports on emergency response activities are included. These reports then provide an audit trail for both internal and external audits.
APTA Safety Management Audit Programs
Once having created a system safety program, the industry next turned to ways to make sure that systems were implemented in a comprehensive and voluntary way. As a result, the Safety Management Audit Program was created to equip transit systems with industry-created formats for developing a System Safety Program Plan (SSPP) and to provide formal evaluations on how well those System Safety Program Plans have been implemented. APTA has a Director of Safety and Security and a staff of auditors who carry out this work. The audit and program participation is completely voluntary and is supported by dues paid by industry participants. The audits are completed every three years. There are three different programs: the Rail Safety Audit Program, the Commuter Rail Safety Management Program, and most recently the Bus Safety Management Program.
So successful has APTA’s SSPP and audit program been that the APTA system program plan format and elements within the Rail Safety Audit Program (including security) are officially recognized by the Federal Transit Administration in its Rail Safety Oversight regulation at 49 CFR Part 659 as a way of meeting the regulatory requirements for system safety program plans for fixed guideway systems. The audit includes an extensive review of all safety-related functions of the organization, and provides a mechanism for continual improvement for system safety. However, since each system is unique, the safety plan must allow for differences unique to each system.
All but one of the nation’s 18 commuter rail systems participate in APTA’s audit program, and we are in discussions with that remaining system. Moreover, all rail transit systems in the country participate either in the APTA Rail Audit Program or in state programs that follow the guidelines for system safety established by APTA. A similar program for the nation’s bus systems is being implemented by APTA. This voluntary program for bus operations similarly includes elements specific to security and emergency preparedness.
The APTA system safety program plan format and elements within the Commuter Rail Safety Management Program (including security) are recognized by the Federal Railroad Administration as a way of meeting the guidelines for system safety program plans for commuter rail systems. Each audit addresses policies, processes, and procedures set out in the transit agency’s safety plan and includes a review of supporting documentation, interviews with agency personnel, and a variety of operational field observations.
Under our Safety Management Audit Programs, each transit operation receives the benefit of an independent evaluation of its safety management processes by a team of experienced safety personnel. This evaluation plays a critical role in optimizing safety practices at each system.
This evaluation assists each system’s ability to demonstrate its diligence for safety and the ability of our industry to maintain self-regulation.
Other APTA Safety Initiatives
APTA has a Standing Committee on Public Safety that has a forum for industry personnel involved in policing and security functions to share information, experiences and resources. This very active Committee has subcommittees on Operations; Outreach; Professional Development and Strategic Planning. The Committee also conducts a number of workshops and seminars on transit security in conjunction with APTA’s conferences, and has a working partnership with other security/policing organizations including the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the International Railway Police, and the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives.
APTA has developed a Safety & Security on-line "list-serve" resource that enables its members to request information and pose questions to industry peers on matters pertaining to safety and security issues.
APTA and its members have been instrumental in assisting the development and delivery of programs on transit system security as provided through the Transportation Safety Institute. Transit system personnel from numerous agencies continue to benefit from attending these training programs.
APTA and its members have also assisted in the development and delivery of the Land Transportation Anti-Terrorism Training Program that was a joint effort of the Department of Transportation’s Office of Intelligence and Security, and the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center. Many transit system personnel are benefiting from their participation in this program.
APTA is engaged in a broad-based standard-setting exercise in a number of significant areas, and clearly, standards play a key role in safety and security.
In 1996, APTA’s commuter rail members voluntarily undertook an effort with $2 million of their own funds to create Passenger Rail Equipment Safety Standards (PRESS). Our commuter rail members are regulated by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), which participated in the development of these standards. These standards are reviewed in an ongoing effort and are updated as necessary. As part of the PRESS program, the FRA, APTA and the commuter railroads recently collaborated on a series of ten courses to prepare railroad employees to meet new industry-wide training requirements.
With the success of the commuter rail effort, APTA has turned to a similar initiative for transit rail equipment. Some 27 APTA rail members will be contributing over $3 million to develop a range of vehicle design and operational standards over the next three years.
In addition, APTA has just been awarded a $400,000 grant by the FTA to help establish interface standards in the transit industry for Intelligent Transportation System applications.
All of these standard-setting exercises help the industry bring a special focus to standardized products and services. These are activities that clearly help support safety and security goals.
Mr. Chairman, these are just some of the issues that we think can help improve safety and security of transit services. We again thank you and the Subcommittee for your commitment to investing in the nation’s transportation infrastructure and look forward to working with you on safety and security issues and on the reauthorization of TEA 21.
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