Obama Administration’s Transit Safety Rules to Eventually Apply to Buses

The Obama administration’s proposal
for a new federal role in transit safety oversight would eventually
apply to buses, although the first round of rules would be directed at
subways and light rail, according to the U.S. DOT.

p124901_Miami_Miami_Dade_County_Transit.jpgTransit buses, such as this Miami model, are expected to be part of the new federal safety plan. (Photo: IgoUgo.com)

The
new transit safety plan, including a request for Federal Transit
Administration (FTA) authority to regulate buses, will be sent to
Congress in the coming weeks for translation into legislative form. The
plan will also receive a House hearing on December 8.

"The
administration expects its early efforts, however, to be focused on
addressing rail transit safety," the DOT wrote in a statement on the
proposed legislation, tentatively titled the Public Transportation
Safety Program Act.

The DOT’s statement depicted the motivation for its move as broader than the fatal June collision
of two trains on Washington D.C.’s Metrorail network. A transit safety
task force headed by deputy Transportation Secretary John Porcari also
reviewed the July crash on San Francisco’s Muni system, a crash on Boston’s light rail in May, and a 2006 derailment on a below-ground stretch of Chicago’s transit network.

"DOT
is also seeing some warning signs regarding increased collision rates,
derailment rates, and worker fatalities that give us cause for
concern," the agency stated.

Citing past criticism
of the federal approach to regulating inter-city passenger rail,
transit advocates have raised concerns that local transit authorities’
already tight budgets could be strained even further by the cost of complying with new FTA rules — prompting service cuts and fare increases.

One
detail that may answer some questions about the federal process:
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood plans to appoint an advisory
committee — with local transit agencies likely represented — to
counsel Washington on the ins and outs of crafting new transit safety
rules, according to the DOT.