Federal Transit Agency Rule Would Adopt SMS Approach

Acting Administrator Therese McMillan calls the proposed rule “an important milestone.” Comments are due by Oct. 13.

The Federal Transit Administration on Aug. 14 issued a proposed rule that would create the overall framework for the agency's monitoring, oversight, and enforcement of safety in the U.S. public transit industry. Acting Administrator Therese McMillan touted the rule in a blog post that day, calling it "an important milestone because transit ridership is at its highest levels in generations, and our nation's transit agencies are facing increased pressure to meet the demand for service."

The rule would formally establish the principles and practices of Safety Management Systems as the foundation of FTA's new oversight authority. "SMS is successfully used in the space, aviation, chemical, and other industries," McMillan wrote. "In addition, the National Transportation Safety Board characterizes SMS as a 'Most Wanted' practice for public transportation because of its flexibility and effectiveness across organizations with differing physical and financial environments.In other words, SMS is exactly the right safety approach to address the diversity of the public transit industry."

She noted that the rule has another important component: It defines the general contents of a guidance document known as the National Public Transportation Safety Plan that FTA expects to publish for the first time later this year. McMillan explained that this document will "serve as a critical linchpin, communicating and connecting FTA's regulatory programs, enforcement and rulemaking priorities, and safety performance criteria and monitoring activities. It also would report on the public transportation industry’s safety performance and provide updated safety research information, technical assistance, and other tools to improve safety."

Comments on the SMS proposed rule are due by Oct. 13.

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