Federal rail safety group focuses on oversight, planning

Posted on April 28, 2011

This week, the second meeting of the Transit Rail Advisory Committee for Safety (TRACS) focused on the best models for state safety oversight partnerships and effective safety planning by local transit agencies.

Secretary LaHood created the group in 2009 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.

"Safety is our highest priority and we are committed to keeping transit one of the safest modes of transportation in the nation," said Secretary LaHood. "The work of TRACS will be invaluable to FTA's ability to establish and enforce safety standards when Congress approves the Public Transportation Safety Program Act."

In the second meeting, the group focused on two reports drafted by its members. The first report identifies the best model for state safety oversight partnership and the second makes recommendations for local transit agencies on developing effective safety planning.

"This effort is solely about the safety of the transit employees and riders who comprise the ten billion passenger rides provided each year by public transportation across the country," said FTA Administrator Peter Rogoff, who opened the two-day meeting. "For the well-being of those riders and workers, Congress needs to rescind an antiquated 1960s era law that forbids the federal government from issuing even the most basic safety regulations. TRACS is a critically important tool that will ensure that the FTA does this job smartly and efficiently once Congress acts."

TRACS was chartered by Secretary LaHood to guide the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) safety rulemakings when the Obama Administration's Public Transportation Safety Program Act becomes law.

That legislation would authorize the U.S. Department of Transportation to establish federal safety standards for rail transit systems. FTA currently lacks the statutory authority to oversee transit agency safety programs and promulgate safety regulations and standards as a general matter. During the 111th Congress, the Senate Banking Committee reported a bipartisan version of the Administration's proposal by a unanimous vote in July 2010.

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.


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