The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) on Nov. 15 reported that it is proposing new rules to “strengthen” U.S. rail transit oversight by giving State Safety Oversight Agencies (SSOAs) the right to inspect transit facilities without warning, and requiring SSOAs to collect metrics and data from the rail transit systems they oversee and to create inspection programs to decrease risk. Comments are due Jan. 16, 2024.
FTA in 2016 published the State Safety Oversight Final Rule requiring all states with rail transit systems to establish an FTA-certified State Safety Oversight program by April 15, 2019. Following this rulemaking, all 31 SSOAs were certified.
The proposed changes to the rule, which are outlined in a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (download below), would require SSOAs to:
- Develop and implement risk-based inspection programs. According to FTA, these programs “rely on data analysis to identify safety concerns and hazards associated with the highest levels of safety risk, laying the groundwork for improving safety by prioritizing and addressing potential hazards.”
- Have the authority to enter rail transit facilities without prior notice to perform safety inspections.
- Collect data to identify and evaluate safety risks and prioritize inspections.
- Develop and implement a risk-based inspection program for the rail transit agencies they oversee. FTA said it previously communicated this requirement through Special Directives to each SSOA in October 2022.
According to FTA, the NPRM details new oversight requirements to clarify existing requirements, and removes outdated references to the original certification deadline by including the following information:
- “Simplified requirements for the types of safety events that rail transit agencies must report to their SSOA and FTA within two hours of occurrence.
- “Updated terminology to reflect current use, such as using ‘safety event’ to replace ‘accident’ or ‘incident.’”
Additionally, FTA said the NPRM clarifies the requirement for SSOAs to oversee rail transit agencies’ internal safety reviews, including:
- “The SSOA’s authority to oversee the safety of rail transit projects in the engineering and construction phase of development, not just those in revenue service.
- “When a Corrective Action Plan is required.
- “The requirement for SSOAs to review and approve the rail transit agency’s list of individuals required to participate in the Public Transportation Safety Certification Training Program.
- “The option for SSOAs to issue interim audit reports for rail transit agencies when conducting a triennial review of that agency over a three-year period, vs. conducting a full audit once every three years.”
“We intend to make transit, one of the safest forms of surface transportation, even safer,” FTA Administrator Nuria Fernandez said. “Giving oversight agencies the tools needed to make an impact is a critical step. We encourage the industry to review the proposed safety regulations and provide constructive feedback.”
On Nov. 30, 2023, at 3 p.m. ET, FTA will host a webinar to discuss the proposed updates to the State Safety Oversight regulation and how the public can submit comments to the Federal Register.