New plan would set crash safety standards for Metro, others

WASHINGTON – The Federal Transit Administration is proposing new voluntary safety standards for local trains and buses, and new safety performance guidelines for transit systems like Metro.

A proposed rule, published in the Federal Register on Friday, would require transit agencies to measure their safety performance based on fatalities, injuries, safety events and system reliability.

The rule would also require a safety management system approach, which Metro said it’s already adopted, to consolidate and investigate incidents or close calls to prevent another safety issue from arising.

Currently, there are no federal required standards specific to public transit, although there are Federal Railroad Administration rules that apply to commuter rail services like MARC and VRE, and a number of recommendations and best practices from groups like the American Public Transportation Association.

The voluntary standards proposed for transit vehicles nationwide in systems that receive FTA dollars would deal with things like crashworthiness, fire safety, data recorders, and emergency lighting or signs.

For years, the National Transportation Safety Board has warned that Metro’s oldest cars are not safe enough in the event of a crash.

Those 1000 Series cars were involved in crashes at Shady Grove in 1996, Woodley Park in 2004, and the Red Line crash in 2009.

In 2006, the NTSB recommended that the cars be reinforced or retired sooner than planned.

While Metro has promised to phase out the cars, initially by 2014, delays in delivery of the newest 7000 Series cars have slowed that plan significantly.

The NTSB recommended in 2006 that the FTA set crashworthiness standards to protect against cars “telescoping” – or collapsing – during a crash; however, Congress had not granted FTA that authority at the time.

The FTA revised recommendations for railcars to include efforts to keep cars from crunching in a crash.

In 2012, Congress passed a new transportation act that added to the FTA’s authority, including adding the authority to take over oversight as it has with the Metro system.

Public comments on FTA’s new proposals can be submitted until April 5 through regulations.gov, or by mail addressed to: Docket Operations, U.S. Department of Transportation, 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE., West Building, Room W12– 140, Washington, DC 20590–0001.

The docket number of the proposed rules on agency safety plans is FTA–2015–0021.

The proposed National Public Transportation Safety Plan is docket number FTA–2015–0017.

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