Secretary LaHood Opens Historic First Meeting of Transit Oversight Group

9/9/2010
Contact: Paul Griffo
202-366-4064

Selected by Secretary LaHood, Members Will Spearhead Development of Minimum National Transit Safety Standards

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today 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 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.

“Safety is our highest priority, and this impressive group of professionals will let us hit the ground running when the Public Transportation Safety Program Act becomes law,” said Secretary LaHood. “Their vast knowledge and safety-related experience will help us keep public transit one of the safest modes of transportation in the nation.”

TRACS 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 (FACA).

“It makes sense to have the most experienced transit professionals from across the country in one room with one question to answer – how do we keep America’s rail transit riders safe?” asked FTA Administrator Peter Rogoff, who addressed TRACS members’ inaugural meeting. “But without legislation that authorizes FTA to establish and enforce safety standards, those who rely on transit to get to school, work, and back home every day cannot benefit from the advisory committee’s efforts.”

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 and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell 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.

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