At the Department of Transportation, no matter what the form of travel, safety is our number one priority.
We promote automobile safety through Click It or Ticket, Over the Limit: Under Arrest, and anti-distracted driving campaigns. We inspect commercial trucks. We propose rules to prevent pilot fatigue. We're working hard every day to help people and goods get from point A to point B safely.
And we want to do everything in our power to ensure that public transit also remains safe and reliable.
That's why last week Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff and I convened the first meeting of our Transit Rail Advisory Committee for Safety (TRACS). We hope this expert committee can provide a plan for federal safety oversight of America's transit agencies.
As Administrator Rogoff said:
"If you want to solve the problem of ensuring safety, it makes sense to have the most experienced transit professionals from across the country in one room with one question to answer--how do we keep America’s rail transit riders safe?"
But, did you know that, for nearly half a century, DOT has been prohibited by law from establishing the kind of safety standards for rail transit systems that TRACS might develop? Rail transit is the only transportation mode within DOT that lacks comprehensive safety regulation, oversight, and enforcement.
And this limit is in place even though rail transit systems carry many more passengers each day than our domestic airlines and railroads.
Because last year I submitted to Congress President Obama's Public Transportation Safety Act of 2009, a bill that would grant FTA the regulatory authority we need to shape the future of transit safety and protect the millions of Americans who ride transit and the men and women who work on these systems. I recently sent a letter to the Senate leadership urging them to pass this vital piece of legislation.
When Congress enacts a transit safety bill, this DOT wants to be able to hit the ground running. Getting TRACS in motion now gives us the best chance to do that. And, until that time TRACS can provide valuable advice about improving transit safety within the context of FTA's existing authority. It can serve as a key resource for the nation's transit agencies, and it can begin examining the best safety management practices from America's airlines and other transportation providers and adapting them for rail transit.
Look, public transit provides a vital service across the US--allowing transit-dependent Americans a way to get to and from work and school, spurring economic development, reducing our dependence on oil, and creating livable communities with sustainable transportation options.
But transit can only be effective when Americans have confidence in its safety. The vast knowledge and safety experience of TRACS members will help us keep public transit one of the safest modes of transportation in the nation.