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Public Transportation Safety Program Act of 2010 Introduced in House and Senate

Both the House and Senate took up consideration of legislation on February 22, 2010, to place safety oversight of local passenger rail transit systems under federal jurisdiction.  The measures pending before Congress, H.R. 4643 and S. 3015, are based on a proposal submitted by FTA on December 9, 2009.  Currently, each transit system in the U.S. is subject to local safety oversight, with wide variation across the country in the legal authority and scope of enforcement vested in each governing body.  The legislation sets out three broad goals: First, it would require the Secretary of Transportation to establish and enforce minimum federal safety standards for rail transit systems not regulated by Federal Railroad Administration.  The legislation also provides the Secretary the option to establish a safety program for public transportation bus systems.  Second, the Secretary would establish a program under which a state would be eligible for federal transit financial assistance to carry out a federally-approved public transportation safety program.  A state would not be preempted from establishing a more stringent safety standard if the standard meets certain criteria, and the Department of Transportation would enforce the federal safety standards if a state were to elect not to participate in the safety program.  Third, the program would ensure that a state agency overseeing transit systems would be fully financially independent from the transit systems it oversees.