You are here

Frequently Asked Questions

To view a set of frequently asked questions, select a topic and category based on your interest area. Perform a word search or choose a topic from the list.

Answer: The timelines provided in the sample CWP are examples. Each State should provide its own timeline to indicate when the State and FTA can expect the task identified in the CWP to be completed. In providing a timeline, the State should consider its operating environment, resources, and other circumstances that may affect the State’s timeline. FTA will review the timelines for reasonableness and work with States to determine an appropriate timeline if necessary.
Answer: No. For FY 2013 and FY 2014 SSO grant funds, a State does not need to be certified to receive the apportioned funding. However, if a State is not certified, the State must submit a CWP and have it approved by FTA before applying for and receiving grant funds. FTA developed a recommended CWP template to support this process.
Answer: No. The SSO rule requires only those states – 30 in total – which operate rail transit systems to establish and certify an SSO Program. The SSO Certification Map identifies those states that are required to establish an SSO Program.
Answer: Yes, in addition to classroom training, we provide seminars and workshops, supporting resources, guides and standards. See the "resources" tab on this web site for information and links.
Answer: MAP-21 already incorporates SMS tools and principles into FTA’s regulatory framework for public transportation safety; including the use of safety performance criteria (49 U.S.C. Section 5329(b)(2)(A)) and safety targets to monitor program implementation and effectiveness (49 U.S.C. Section 5329(d)(1)(E). MAP-21 also requires executives and boards to be accountable to hire qualified safety managers as direct reports and, annually, to certify safety plans (49 U.S.C. Section 5329(d)((1)(A) and 5329(d)(1)(F). In safety plans, public transportation agencies must specifying safety risk management methods and safety assurance strategies to minimize the exposure of the public, personnel, and property to hazards and unsafe conditions (49 U.S.C. 5329(d)(1)(B)&(C); and requiring comprehensive staff training programs for safety (49 U.S.C. Section 5329(d)(1)(G)). FTA will build on these requirements to integrate SMS principles directly into the National Public Transportation Safety Plan and Public Transportation Agency Safety Plans required in MAP-21. Of course, specific requirements will be developed in concert with the public transportation industry and State oversight agencies through a formal process of rulemaking and notice and comment.
Answer: Using an SMS framework, the public transportation industry, the States and FTA can address gaps identified in recent accidents regarding safety accountability, safety communication, hazard management, and resource allocation. For example, SMS provides tools to require accountability for decisions affecting safety and to ensure that executive leadership fully understands and accepts identified risks. To make sure that the organization is doing what it is required to do in safety plans and procedures, SMS offers safety assurance techniques that complement existing system safety audit and review functions. Other SMS practices promote greater communication, discussion and understanding of safety issues and concerns through training, enhanced work practices, and improved labor-management partnerships.
Answer: Each State should work with its Regional Office on the exact terms of the grant, and how it will be administered and amended.
Answer: SSO Formula Grant Program funds may be used to develop or carry out SSO programs under MAP-21. Funds may be used for operational and administrative expenses, including training, travel and equipment. States must follow the guidance provided in the Federal Register notice, Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs), CWP Template, and other guidance on the SSO Program webpage. While the responses below are intended to clarify common questions about eligible activities, FTA will review each proposed grant activity during the grant application process and will make specific eligibility determinations at that time. States must comply with 49 C.F.R. Part 18, Uniform Administrative Requirements for Grants and Cooperative Agreements to State and Local Governments, and 2 C.F.R. Part 225 (PDF). Specific questions should be directed to the appropriate regional office.
Answer: Achieving accountability for safety in the most efficient manner possible requires the adoption of specific safety management processes and tools. SMS provides these tools, based on the results of research conducted by U.S. and British military, aviation, nuclear, and energy agencies and organizations in the 1990s and early 2000s. This research, which led to the “Swiss Cheese Model” of human behavior and accident prevention, made famous by scholar and psychologist James Reason, shows that about 80 percent of all accidents and incidents can be attributed to human error. In some industries, like public transportation, this number may be closer to 90 percent. This research also shows that when the 80-90 percent of human error is broken down further, it reveals that the majority of errors associated with accidents stem from latent organizational weaknesses, which include “hidden” deficiencies in management control processes (for example, strategy, policies, work control, supervision, training, and resource allocation) or values (shared beliefs, attitudes, norms, and assumptions) that create conditions that can cause errors and lead to accidents. SMS has been designed to identify and address these latent conditions by making executive leadership accountable for them; by requiring deference to technical expertise in evaluating and mitigating them; and by fostering a culture of information sharing in the performance of work and the implementation of identified controls and risk management strategies. SMS demonstrates that the decisions and activities of executives, managers and supervisors determine what is done, how well it is done, and when it is done, either contributing to the strong safety performance of the organization or further weakening its resistance to error and accidents.
Answer: The premise is straightforward: Every public transportation agency that assumes responsibility for the safe transit of passengers and the safety of its workers should have a system in place that allows its executives to identify risks and act upon them. For a small bus operator, that safety management system is going to be simple and straight-forward. For a large transit agency with thousands of employees and multiple modes, that system is going to be more complicated. SMS naturally scales itself to reflect the size and complexity of the operation, but the fundamental accountability remains the same. SMS is flexible in implementation and enables transit operators to determine their own unique safety risks and target their resources on those risks.
Answer: Match can be calculated by using the Federal Share (award) divided by the percentage of Total Project Cost minus Federal Share. A sample is as follows: With a match of 20%, and Federal share of 80%, a $250,000 Federal grant: $250,000 divided by 80% = $312,500 $312,500 minus $250,000 = $62,500 The 20% local share is $62,500.
Answer: States were required to submit information for FTA’s certification process completed in October 2013. If a State was not certified based upon the information submitted, the CWP is the next step States must take to identify the necessary action(s) to fill these gaps and build a MAP-21-compliant SSO program. The recommendations provided in the October 2013 gap assessment should be incorporated into the CWP.
Answer: FTA updates the tracking table once a month during the first week of the month. Given the current and expected volume of corrective actions to be tracked, updating monthly is most feasible. There are currently 91 corrective actions posted, an additional 217 will be added in spring 2016 and more are expected as FTA continues its temporary and direct safety oversight activities of WMATA Metrorail.
Answer: For the last three decades the public transportation industry has implemented plans and programs based on the system safety principles outlined in the Military Standard 882 series (Standard Practice for System Safety, This approach focuses on the application of engineering and management principles, criteria, and techniques to achieve an acceptable level of safety throughout all phases of a system lifecycle. The SMS approach builds on the transit industry’s experience with system safety by bringing management processes and organizational culture more squarely into the system safety engineering and hazard management framework. By tackling these "softer" management and human factors issues, SMS supplements system safety’s more rigorous engineering processes. System safety provides a strong foundation for understanding and implementing SMS. The main difference between the traditional system safety approach currently implemented in FTA’s safety programs and SMS is that, because of its engineering roots, system safety focuses mostly on the safety implications of technical aspects and components of the system under consideration, somewhat at the expense of the human component. Most safety research has shown that major accidents are not simply the result of one individual’s behavior or actions. Major accidents typically have organizational antecedents with multiple causes involving people operating across many levels or functions in an organization. It follows that predicting and preventing major accidents requires addressing the root causes based in organizational practices, management systems, and culture. SMS addresses management concepts such as “organizational drift” into complacency and error-acceptance, the role of latent and precursor conditions in causing accidents, and the idea that organizations are dynamic creations that must be constantly monitored for cultural change and its impact on work performance.
Answer: FTA proposes that participants of the interim safety certification training program have three years to complete the training requirements.
Answer: FTA appreciates that CWP approval is on the critical path to receiving grant funding. We will work with each State to turn around their submittals as quickly as possible. To expedite this process, it is important that States carefully review the CWP template to ensure that all relevant information is provided. Time spent following up with a State for additional information will extend the review and approval time for that State.
Answer: SSO Formula Grant Program funds are available for the year of apportionment plus two additional years. Any FY 2013 funds that remain unobligated at the close of business on September 30, 2015 will revert to FTA for reapportionment under the SSO Formula Grant Program. Any FY 2014 funds that remain unobligated at the close of business on September 30, 2016 will revert to FTA for reapportionment under the SSO Formula Grant Program.
Answer: For fiscal year (FY) 2013, more than $21 million is available for States to develop or carry out their SSO Programs consistent with MAP-21 requirements. For fiscal year (FY) 2014, $22,293,250 is available for States to develop or carry out their SSO Programs consistent with MAP-21 requirements. Please see Table 13 on the list of Current Apportionments on the FTA Current Apportionments for the amount apportioned to each State.
Answer: Recipients of sections 5307 or 5311 funds may use up to 0.5 percent of those funds to cover up to 80 percent of the cost of participation by an employee who has direct safety oversight responsibility for the public transportation system. Likewise, participation by SSOA personnel with direct safety oversight responsibilities will be an eligible expense for section 5329(e)(6)(A) funds.
Answer: The status table is updated quarterly. The date of the last update is posted on the table.


Submit Feedback >