Challenges to Improving Oversight of Rail Transit Safety and Implementing an Enhanced Federal Role
On January 31, 2012, we issued our final report on the challenges FTA may face if Congress passes legislation expanding its oversight role of rail transit safety. We found that although basic safety incident data, such as fatalities, injuries, and property damage, are currently captured in the National Transit Database, the data are insufficient for FTA to effectively oversee transit safety at the national level. FTA has not established goals, performance measures, and targets that are specific to its current rail transit safety activities. We also found that if Congress expands FTA's oversight role, establishing minimum national rail transit safety standards would present a number of challenges to FTA. Additionally, an expanded oversight role would significantly increase FTA's oversight and enforcement activities to ensure that State and local agencies implement any new national standards and regulations.
We recommended that the FTA Administrator identify actions taken or planned to: (1) work with the Volpe National Transportation Systems Center to complete FTA's assessment of existing data management activities and safety data needs; (2) consult with stakeholders to identify gaps in NTD data and opportunities, under its current authority, to improve the NTD's usefulness to the transit industry; (3) develop an updated performance plan that identifies clear and specific rail safety performance measures that align with the Department's strategic goals and with FTA's rail transit safety activities; and (4) assess FTA's progress in meeting the rail safety performance measures on an annual basis and produce a report summarizing results. FTA fully concurred with recommendations 1 and 2 and partially concurred with recommendations 3 and 4. We consider FTA's actions taken for recommendations 1 and 2 to be sufficient pending documentation of its actions. We requested that FTA reconsider its position in regards to recommendations 3 and 4.