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Frequently Asked Questions

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Answer:

The focus of this grant program is to strengthen each SSO program so it can achieve the robust requirements set forth in MAP-21. Many of the activities performed today are likely part of the enhanced SSO program required under MAP-21; however, the grant application needs to demonstrate how the federal dollars will enhance existing activities, especially those activities that do not currently meet 49 U.S.C. 5329(e), and eliminate activities that may weaken the program or are expressly prohibited by MAP-21.
For example, if a state’s Certification Work Plan (CWP) identifies a gap or deficiency in the statutory requirement that the state has investigative and enforcement authority, the state should identify program activities to be taken to be meet this MAP-21 requirement. In such a case, the state may propose obtaining the necessary investigative and enforcement authority, e.g., enabling legislation, and what that authority may entail, including taking a more active role in leading independent accident investigations. The state should identify these existing or planned activities to work toward the goal set forth in the CWP. FTA will fund these enhanced activities, such as active, independent accident investigations, and the developmental activities required to achieve that level of investigative and enforcement authority. FTA will not fund activities that do not (or will not) meet the statutory requirements of MAP-21.
Other examples include, but are not limited to the activities that:
Mature their three-year reviews to contain additional audits and inspections, tests, measurements and field observations, and perhaps be directed by a sampling plan.
Implement corrective action plan tracking to include additional verification and follow-up activities.
Provide additional training and even peer exchanges.
Support the SSO program personnel in carrying out these enhanced mandates, through equipment and even vehicles purchases.
To ensure grant coverage for all activities performed in the SSO program, FTA recommends that the SSO agency describes its activities in terms of how they support the SSO program in order to meet the explicit mandates specified in 49 U.S.C. 5329(e). So long as an SSO agency is actively working toward MAP-21 implementation and making enhancements to its existing SSO program, FTA intends that those expenses will be covered through the grant program.

Answer:

FTA expects that RTAs will honor their funding obligations to the states that rely upon them until the state is certified or has an approved Certfiication Work Plan (CWP) that permits the state to apply for SSO Formula Grant Program funding.
However, states that currently rely on funding from the RTA must identify an independent funding match for the SSO Formula Grant Program and close out their financial relationships with the RTA prior to grant award. FTA recommends that states dependent upon funding from the RTA make final arrangements regarding the termination of this funding so that it ends no later than the date of the state's grant application to FTA's Regional Office. States will not be eligible for pre-award authority until they terminate funding from the RTA.

Answer:

At this time, FTA has not received or approved a CWP.

Answer:

The timelines provided in the sample Certification Work Plan (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 Certification Work Plan (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:

In the near term, safety risks associated with stop signals need to be evaluated and acted upon at the local level by each rail transit agency and the SSOA that oversees it. With assistance and input from the industry, FTA is developing a Safety Standards Strategic Plan that will help guide FTA’s safety standards program. This plan is intended to address key aspects, such as a data-driven approach to identifying the highest priority areas for developing and adopting transit safety standards.

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:

Yes – Proposed General Directive 17-1 applies to all rail transit systems fixed guideway public transportation systems and all State Safety Oversight Agencies that are included in the FTA’s State Safety Oversight Program (49 CFR 659 and 49 CFR 674)

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:

Until a common industry definition for stop signal overruns is established and additional data is collected, it’s difficult to accurately determine their frequency. However, FTA’s review of the data and information submitted by industry in regard to Safety Advisory 16-1 indicate that rail transit agencies experience stop signal overruns with varying frequencies and that most State Safety Oversight Agencies do not actively investigate these events.

Also, the submittals indicate a lack of standard practices, definitions, and requirements to protect against stop signal overruns. For example, some rail transit agencies use a broad based definition for stop signal overruns that includes minor, non-consequential overruns. Other rail transit agencies report only the most significant stop signal overruns that exceed casualty or damage thresholds.

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, http://www.system-safety.org/Documents/MIL-STD-882E.pdf). 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.

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