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FTA Plans Comprehensive Transit Safety Rules

WASHINGTON (CN) - The Federal Transit Administration requests comments on a range of topics related to safety in public transportation systems, especially rail systems.

The 2012 Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act gives the FTA authority to regulate public safety in all forms of public transportation, but the agency plans to focus on rail systems first.

"FTA believes that the increased potential for catastrophic accidents, loss of life, and property damage associated with rail transit warrants the most immediate attention," the agency wrote in its advance notice of proposed rulemaking.

The agency requests public comments from the transit industry about the requirements of the National Safety Program as they relate to public transportation and the criteria for measuring the "state of good repair," among other things.

Though public transit is considered one of the safest forms of transportation, the National Transportation Safety Board has reported that there have been 15 deaths and nearly 300 injuries from major transit accidents since 2004.

"The NTSB has investigated a number of these accidents and has issued reports identifying the probable causes and contributing factors, including deficiencies in the training and supervision of employees; deficiencies in the maintenance of equipment and infrastructure; and deficiencies in safety management and oversight, such as weaknesses in transit agencies' safety rules and procedures, lack of a safety culture within the transit agency, and lack of adequate oversight by the state and federal agencies," the FTA wrote.

"The deficiencies identified by the NTSB will continue to plague the transit industry as infrastructure ages, skilled employees retire, and transit agencies continue to endure financial stresses. FTA's goal is to address these deficiencies and improve safety."

The agency intends to propose a comprehensive safety management system that would integrate safety into every aspect of a transit system, including planning, design, construction and maintenance.

The safety management system consists of four "pillars": policy, risk management, assurance and promotion.

Among other things, the agency seeks comments about the kinds of performance criteria it should consider, and what factors should be considered when discussing "good repair" of trains and buses.

Comments on the rule are due by Jan. 2, 2014.

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