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.

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