Thursday, December 10, 2009

House Committee Considers Greater Federal Oversight Over Mass Transit Systems

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on Tuesday heard testimony from Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary Ray LaHood and other administration heads asking Congress to give the federal government regulatory authority over the nation's subways, light rails, and other mass transit systems. Urged legislation, if passed, would give the DOT's Federal Transit Administration (FTA) authority to issue regulations mandating security measures for rail transit systems. In his testimony, LaHood noted that mass rail systems are responsible for transporting more passengers daily than are domestic airlines - which are regulated by DOT's Federal Aviation Administration - or passenger and commuter railroads - regulated by DOT's Federal Railroad Administration. Alternatively, local rail systems are responsible for creating and implementing their own independent security measures, which are overseen by state-run agencies.

DOT members have sent a plan to Congress that would permit federal regulation of mass transit systems. According to LaHood, the proposal would accomplish three goals. First, it would require DOT to establish and enforce minimum Federal safety standards for rail transit systems that receive Federal transit funding. Second, the DOT would establish a safety certification program whereby a state would be eligible for federal transit assistance to carry out a federally-approved public transportation safety program. Finally, the program would ensure that State agencies with oversight authority over transit system security be fully financially independent from those transit systems. The proposal now goes to Congress for consideration and debate.

No comments: