U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today kicked off the first meeting of the Transit Rail Advisory Committee for Safety (TRACS) since President Obama signed the "Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act" (MAP-21), which, for the first time, granted the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) authority to implement and enforce transit safety oversight standards on heavy rail, light rail, buses, ferries and streetcars.
"Under MAP-21, we're ushering in a new era for transit safety. Working with the committee advisors and state leaders, we'll help strengthen state safety oversight agencies to carry out this vitally important mission," said Secretary LaHood. "Public transit remains one of the safest ways to travel in the U.S., and we intend to keep it that way."
FTA Administrator Peter Rogoff is leading the two-day public meeting, which brings together transit industry officials, transportation safety experts, transportation labor groups, and academics to provide advice and recommendations on implementing the new law.
The session will give FTA officials the opportunity to listen to feedback and best practices from participants as the agency begins the process of establishing a comprehensive new framework to oversee the safety of public transportation throughout the United States. TRACS members will leave the meeting with specific assignments, which will lead to recommendations on how best to implement key provisions in the law.
"With the new authority entrusted to us, we are committed to establishing basic safety standards to better ensure the safety of tens of millions of passengers that ride public transportation each day," said Administrator Rogoff. "We anticipate that the TRACS advisory committee will offer valuable guidance and insight to help us establish workable, enforceable transit safety oversight."
The agenda includes a discussion of MAP-21 safety requirements and development of a public transportation safety certification training program that applies to federal and state employees or others who conduct audits or are responsible for safety oversight.
Since 1964, FTA has been prohibited by law from implementing and enforcing basic safety standards for public rail and bus transit systems. The new safety authority provided in MAP-21 is a culmination of efforts by the FTA and U.S. Department of Transportation that began in December 2009, when Secretary LaHood formally transmitted to Congress a legislative proposal to establish and enforce minimum federal safety standards for rail transit systems.
TRACS is a Federal Advisory Committee chartered by the Secretary of Transportation, which first met in September 2010. The committee's purpose is to provide information, advice, and recommendations to the Federal Transit Administration on matters relating to the safety of public transportation systems.