On Thursday, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood opened the first meeting of the Transit Rail Advisory Committee for Safety (TRACS), an advisory group created to guide Federal Transit Administration (FTA) safety rulemakings when the Obama administration's Public Transportation Safety Program Act of 2009 becomes law.
FTA is currently prohibited from directly overseeing transit agency safety programs and promulgating safety regulations and standards. The Obama administration sent Congress the president's Public Transportation Safety Program Act of 2009, which would authorize the U.S. Department of Transportation to establish federal safety standards for rail transit systems, reversing a prohibition that has been in effect since 1964.
TRACS was created after a series of accidents in Chicago; Washington, D.C.; San Francisco and Boston raised widespread concern regarding the safety of rail transit passengers and employees.
The committee is charged with analyzing transit safety issues and developing recommendations for minimum national transit safety standards. TRACS was established in accordance with the requirements of the Federal Advisory Committee Act.
The proposed safety oversight legislation marks the first time any administration has sent a bill to Congress specifically about transit safety.
In a bipartisan manner, the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee unanimously reported to the full Senate, S. 3638, the Public Transportation Safety Act of 2010.
During his remarks, Secretary LaHood announced that he had sent a letter Thursday morning to Senate Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) urging them to pass S. 3638.
TRACS members were selected based on their expertise in the field of safety, transit operations or maintenance, representation of stakeholder interests that would be affected by transit safety requirements, policy experience, leadership, organizational skills and region.