U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today called on 26 states with significant transit systems to meet future federal regulations that will target increased safety of public transit, as called for by the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21) transportation re-authorization bill.
President Obama signed the two-year reauthorization last month. Provisions grant the Federal Transit Authority (FTA) with establishing and enforcing a new, comprehensive framework to oversee the safety of public transportation throughout the United States as it pertains to heavy rail, light rail, buses, ferries, and streetcars.
"We are closing a loophole in how transit safety oversight is regulated and enforced that is long overdue," said FTA Administrator Peter Rogoff in a statement. "For the first time FTA will be able to establish basic safety standards to better ensure the safety of tens of millions of passengers that ride public transportation each day."
According to estimates from the American Public Transportation Association, elementary and secondary students comprise about 10 percent of annual transit ridership.
LaHood sent his letter to governors of the 26 states plus Puerto Rico and the mayor for the District of Columbia. He wrote that the FTA will provide grant money appropriated through MAP-21 for the states and areas to meet the new requirements. MAP-21 also requires a 20-percent, non-Federal match for the grants despite an original administration request for 100-percent funding.
"With our transit safety commitment entering a new era, I ask you to review your designated (State Safety Oversight) agency to determine if they are the appropriate and legal entity to fulfill this role going forward," LaHood wrote. "I also ask you to begin now to make whatever funding arrangements must be made at the state level to be prepared to match Federal grants and adequately fund this important new requirement."