July 27, 2010


National Transportation Safety Board highlights the need to improve transit safety oversight and establish national safety standards

WASHINGTON – Following the National Transportation Safety Board’s (NTSB) release of a summary report on Metro’s Red Line collision, Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd (D-CT), Ranking Member Richard Shelby (R-AL), and Housing, Transportation, and Community Development Subcommittee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-NJ), authors of the Public Transportation Safety Act (S. 3638), called for the Senate to pass their legislation immediately.  Last June, two trains on Metro’s Red Line collided and killed eight passengers, one Metro employee, and injured more than 50 other passengers.
“Americans have enough concerns with today’s struggling economy, they shouldn’t have to worry about whether or not they will make it home safely when they get on the bus or train each day,” said Chairman Dodd.   “Our bipartisan legislation directs the Secretary of Transportation to develop and enforce strong, comprehensive national safety standards and improves oversight to help ensure public transit remains one of the safest ways to travel.”
“While public transit remains among the safest modes of transportation, the NTSB's report underscores the need for improvement,” said Ranking Member Shelby. “This legislation addresses these concerns and takes necessary steps to increase riders' safety. I join Chairman Dodd and Senator Menendez in calling for its swift consideration and passage.”
“There are many things on the Senate floor we are finding it difficult to get agreement on, but guaranteeing the safety of our transit systems should not be one of them,” said Senator Menendez.  “The Senate must act quickly to pass this bipartisan transit safety package that the Banking Committee has worked so hard to develop.”
The Public Transportation Safety Act will:
·         Improve safety by establishing a National Public Transportation Safety Plan. 
·         Focus on safety by requiring public transportation agencies to establish comprehensive safety plans.
·         Improve the effectiveness of state safety oversight agencies and increase Federal funding. 
·         Provide new enforcement authority over public transportation safety to the Secretary of Transportation. 
·         Establish a system to monitor and manage transit infrastructure to improve overall safety. 
·         Authorize appropriations of $66 million over three years for public transportation safety.

Below is a summary of the bill:

Public Transportation Is One Of The Safest Ways To Travel But Current Public Transportation Safety Law Is Inadequate and Ineffective.  More than 10 billion trips are taken on public transportation every year, and more than 14 million trips are taken on rail transit systems every weekday.  Public transportation is one of the safest modes of transportation available; however, the number and severity of transit accidents in recent years has resulted in heightened scrutiny of the safety of public transportation. 
Currently, the Federal Transit Administration lacks the authority to implement and enforce national public transportation safety standards.  As a result, the responsibility for oversight of rail fixed guideway public transportation systems is left to a patchwork of 27 state agencies, receiving no Federal funds for their efforts, with inconsistent standards, inadequate authority, and insufficient resources. 
The Public Transportation Safety Act of 2010 will address these deficiencies by implementing a comprehensive approach to public transportation safety, requiring a national transit safety plan, improving state and federal oversight, requiring local public transportation agency safety plans, empowering the Department of Transportation with new enforcement authority, and implementing a monitoring system for the safety and condition of the nation’s transit infrastructure and equipment.
·         Improve Safety By Establishing A National Public Transportation Safety Plan.  The Act establishes a National Public Transportation Safety Plan to improve the safety of all public transportation systems that receive Federal funding.  The Secretary will develop minimum performance standards for vehicles used in public transportation and establish a training program for Federal and State employees who conduct safety audits and examinations of public transportation systems.
·         Focus On Safety By Requiring Public Transportation Agencies To Establish Comprehensive Safety Plans.  A focus on safety at public transportation agencies will encourage a “culture of safety” in which each employee completes a safety training program that includes continuing safety education and training.  Public transportation agency safety plans will be approved by the agency’s board of directors, and reviewed and updated annually.
·         Improve The Effectiveness Of State Safety Oversight Agencies And Increase Federal Funding.  States will submit proposals for state safety oversight programs for rail fixed guideway public transportation systems to the Secretary, and upon approval, receive funding at an 80 percent Federal share.  The Act builds on the existence of State safety oversight agencies and requires them to be independent legal entities that have the authority, staff training and expertise to enforce Federal safety law. 
·         Provide New Enforcement Authority Over Public Transportation Safety To The Secretary Of Transportation.  In the event a public transportation agency is in violation of Federal safety law, the Secretary will have the authority to require more frequent oversight; impose more frequent reporting requirements; impose conditions on grants; withhold grant funds; and impose civil penalties.  Public transportation agencies will be given the opportunity to address violations before these penalties are imposed, and Congress must be notified prior to the Secretary withholding grant funds or imposing civil penalties.
·         Establish A System To Monitor And Manage Transit Assets To Improve Overall Safety.  As public transportation systems age, the likelihood of accidents increases.  The Secretary of Transportation is required to define the term ‘state of good repair,’ including objective standards for measuring the condition of capital assets.  Recipients are required to establish and use an asset management system to develop capital asset inventories and condition assessments, and report on the condition of their system as a whole, including a description of the change in overall condition since the last report. 
·         Authorize Appropriations Of $66 Million Over Three Years For Public Transportation Safety