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FTA's Transit Safety office celebrates productive first year

FTA's Transit Safety office celebrates productive first year

At DOT, safety has always been our first priority, but it wasn’t until two years ago that the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) was finally granted the authority to oversee the safety of all of America’s individual public transportation systems. While NHTSA oversees all of the nation’s cars, and FHWA ensures the safety of your roads and bridges, there was no federal role when it came to the nation’s subways, inter-city buses and other forms of public transit until 2012. 

We got to work right away.  One of the agency’s first steps in establishing our authority was to set up a new Office of Transit Safety and Oversight (TSO), which marked its first birthday last week.

The importance of safety in public transit was brought into stark relief on June 22, 2009, when a faulty signal resulted in a Metro rail accident in Washington, DC, that killed nine and injured dozens more. Although a rare occurrence, the tragic Fort Totten crash helped galvanize a bipartisan effort in Congress that responded to President Obama’s call for a Federal role in transit safety oversight.

In its first year, TSO has been working hard to put in place the policies and skilled team needed to help make a safe mode of travel even safer.

Photo of MBTA Green Line

For example, we helped develop a safety publication that allowed transit industry stakeholders the opportunity to weigh-in on upcoming rules as early in the process as possible.

And, because TSO will be relying on state-based organizations to conduct much of the day-to-day oversight of local transit systems, we also created a certification program to help these organizations prepare for that role. We also gave them more than $44 million to ensure they could afford the training and tools needed to carry out proper inspections.

Our staff have also begun conducting accident investigations --participating in three of them in this first year-- and issued three safety advisories to help keep transit riders and employees safe.

Photo of Metro rail car

These are just some of the activities going on in TSO that have helped advance FTA’s mission to keep transit safe and reliable. Of course, there’s more work to be done, including strengthening the agency’s oversight authority through the Administration's GROW AMERICA Act. 

Standing up a new office with such important responsibilities is no easy task, but Associate Administrator Tom Littleton and his team have been --and remain-- up to the challenge; the men and women working in our now one-year-old Office of Transit Safety and Oversight deserve a hearty “congratulations” on the occasion of this exciting anniversary.

It's been a productive first year, and we at TSO look forward to many more.

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Congratulations! Looking forward to joining the FTA Region V team in mid-day.