USA Banner

Official US Government Icon

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure Site Icon

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock ( ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Site Notification

Site Notification

U.S. Department of Transportation U.S. Department of Transportation Icon United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

TSO Update on Program, Training Activities

November 6, 2014

Dear Transit Stakeholders:

I am pleased to provide this overview of our planned and ongoing efforts to implement the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA)’s National Public Transportation Safety Program under the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21).

Status of Proposed Rulemakings

Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on Safety & Transit Asset Management

On October 3, 2013, FTA issued an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) on both the safety programs and the new requirements for Transit Asset Management (TAM) under MAP-21. The comments received from the public have been very helpful to us as we prepare for the next step—a series of Notices of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM). Specifically, in 2015 we plan to issue separate NPRMs for a National Public Transportation Safety Program, the Public Transportation Safety Certification Training Program, Public Transportation Agency Safety Plan, and TAM.

Please note the rules for both TAM and Public Transportation Agency Safety Plans will call on transit agencies to set performance targets that by law must be coordinated to the maximum extent possible with the statewide and metropolitan planning processes. On June 2, 2014, FTA and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) jointly issued an NPRM for the Statewide, Metropolitan, and Nonmetropolitan Planning requirements under MAP-21, and we’re now reviewing the public comments on that notice.

State Safety Oversight Program

In the coming months, FTA will issue an NPRM for a stronger, more effective State Safety Oversight Program, as required by MAP-21. We are encouraged by the progress States and State Safety Oversight Agencies (SSOA) are making to bolster their oversight of the safety of rail transit systems. With our recent apportionment of $44 million in FY 2013 and FY 2014 Federal grant funds to assist SSOAs, we are increasingly confident of SSOAs’ abilities to attain certification for their programs, as required by 49 U.S.C. § 5329(e), as the new requirements become effective.

Interim Safety Certification Training Program

On April 30, 2014, we issued proposed interim provisions for the Public Transportation Safety Certification Training Program required by MAP-21, which include, in part, some required 
coursework in SMS for SSOA staff who conduct audits and examinations of public transportation systems. We will announce the final requirements for this interim training program later this year. We will make every effort to train and embed qualified safety experts in States and transit agencies throughout the United States, and in our own ranks, to build safety knowledge and skills.

Bus Testing

In the coming months, FTA will issue an NPRM to carry out the MAP-21 mandates for bus testing, including the new “pass-fail” standard, codified at 49 U.S.C. § 5318(e).

Nationwide Risk Management Framework

FTA is developing a nationwide risk management framework for public transportation. This will be a systemic means for addressing national trends and issues through hazard identification, prioritization of risk, and risk mitigation. Using this nationwide framework, and the principles and methods of SMS, FTA will pinpoint nationally trending safety hazards, assess risks, and recommend immediate issues for action or risk control. As appropriate, FTA will address risks by issuing safety advisories, directives, or reports; investigating accidents; conducting safety inspections, audits, or examinations; and providing technical tools or training to transit systems and the SSOAs.

National Public Transportation Safety Plan

Together with FTA’s Transit Advisory Committee for Safety (TRACS), FTA will address critical safety issues as we work to establish a National Public Transportation Safety Plan for public transportation that coordinates data and information from national risk management activities and makes trending risk information widely available. This National Safety Plan—which will likely take the form of either a policy statement or program circular, subject to public notice and comment—will set forth in detail FTA’s vision and intentions for the National Public Transportation Safety Program. In due course, this National Safety Plan will include findings from research, reports, and best practices; templates, and other tools to help transit systems develop safety plans grounded in the strong fundamentals of SMS. In the meantime, of course, FTA will continue to consult TRACS, and other stakeholders, on critical safety issues.

Pilot Program for Transit Agency SMS Implementation

In 2015, FTA will initiate a pilot program for transit agency SMS implementation. This pilot program will enable FTA and volunteer transit systems to partner with one another to build their safety competencies, and reduce or eliminate safety risks. We plan to conduct the transit agency SMS implementation pilots at transit systems of various size, complexity, and operating environments. This pilot program will build upon the existing foundation for safety in public transportation. One-by-one, these SMS pilots will provide transit agencies with means for earlier detection and more effective remediation of risk. Collectively, these SMS pilots will enable FTA, States, MPOs and transit agencies to share and analyze safety data more efficiently, and measure safety performance more accurately.

Setting Standards for Safety Performance Criteria, State of Good Repair

FTA will set clear, specific safety performance criteria for all modes of public transportation, in concert with the requirements for transit agency safety plans, and the standards for state of good repair for transit facilities, equipment, rolling stock, and infrastructure, to be established in the TAM rulemaking. Also, FTA will set minimum standards for the safety performance of vehicles used in revenue operations. These minimum standards for vehicles will take into consideration the best practices and recommendations of the public transportation industry, and relevant recommendations by the National Transportation Safety Board.

Looking Ahead: The GROW AMERICA Act

Finally, as part of the Administration’s legislative proposal for reauthorization of the surface transportation programs, known as the GROW AMERICA Act, we are seeking a limited number of amendments to our safety statute, 49 U.S.C. § 5329, to enhance our collection of safety data, modify FTA enforcement authority, and provide more resources to fully carry out the Public Transportation Safety Program, including appropriate levels of Federal financial assistance to States and individual transit systems. I welcome your support for these and our proposals for the Federal transit programs as set forth in the GROW AMERICA Act. 

This is just a highlight of some key forthcoming developments. We will do our best to keep you informed. Meanwhile, there are many ways to keep abreast of our activities:

We look forward to working with all our public transportation stakeholders as we move ahead to strengthen transit safety.

Sincerely yours,

Thomas Littleton 
Associate Administrator 
Office of Transit Safety and Oversight 
Federal Transit Administration

Last updated: Friday, January 1, 2016