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May 14, 2013

FTA makes $21.9M available for public transportation safety

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) announced that, for the first time, it is making $21.9 million available to help strengthen public transportation safety for millions of riders and transit workers nationwide.

In addition to the funds, the agency also announced a flexible new policy, known as Safety Management Systems (SMS), which the U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT) has officially adopted to help guide states and transit agencies alike in managing safety risks in a proactive, cost-effective way.

Together, these efforts reflect FTA’s commitment to begin implementing long-sought federal authority for transit safety granted under the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21) and help states and transit agencies begin meeting new safety-related responsibilities. This represents a fundamental shift in the way FTA and states will work together to ensure the safety of public transportation across the nation.

“Maintaining the safety of our nation’s transportation systems has always been our number-one priority,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “We take our new responsibility to oversee transit safety as seriously as we do for railways, roadways, runways, and we will continue to find innovative ways to make transit even safer for the public and our workforce.”

As part of FTA’s new regulatory safety authority, every state with a rail fixed guideway public transportation system not subject to regulation by the Federal Railroad Administration must establish a state safety oversight agency (SSOA) that is legally and financially independent of the rail transit systems the SSOA will oversee, and states must ensure that their SSOAs have adequate authority and resources to oversee rail systems safety.

“FTA’s new safety authority marks a significant change in how we do business going forward to keep transit travel safe for millions of riders and transit workers,” said FTA Administrator Peter Rogoff. “We are working closely with state leaders, the transit industry, and trusted safety experts to build a foundation for common-sense policies and procedures that take into account the unique needs and circumstances of each transit agency.”

A notice in the Federal Register providing FTA’s Fiscal Year 2013 apportionment includes the proposed apportionment for the state safety oversight funds. As indicated in the notice, FTA seeks to ensure that, in order to meet these new requirements, each eligible state should receive a minimum funding level for designated SSOAs.

In August 2012, Secretary LaHood informed the governors of eligible states that they are required to provide a 20% match for these funds. The notice also describes the steps applicants must take, in consultation with FTA, to be ready to receive the funds and demonstrate compliance with new statutory requirements for safety oversight. The public is invited to comment on the proposed allocation of funds.

With respect to FTA’s adoption of a strategic framework for strengthening transit safety overall, SMS is a collaborative approach that brings management and labor together to build on the transit industry’s existing safety foundation to control risk better, detect and correct safety problems earlier, share and analyze safety data more effectively, and measure safety performance more carefully.

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