Putting Transit Safety on the Right Track

By Debbie Hersman

On Monday afternoon, I joined U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., and members of the Maryland Congressional delegation at the Washington Metro’s Carmen Turner facility to commend the new law that gives the Department of Transportation crucial safety authority.

For years, the NTSB has called for national safety standards for our nation’s transit systems. With this new law, the foundation has been laid and the train is on the track, but the final destination remains miles away.

Through our investigations of transit accidents, we have identified a number of ways to improve transit safety. Our recommendations cover the need for safety regulations governing operations, track, equipment, and signal and train control systems. We have called for crashworthiness standards and improved evacuation and rescue features on rail transit cars. In addition, the NTSB recommends requiring data recorders on transit trains, implementing non-punitive safety reporting programs and instituting hours-of-service limits to ensure transit operators are rested.

Yes, there is work to be done, but it is gratifying to see the law in place and to know that DOT and the Federal Transit Administration are ready to hit the ground running. Administrator Rogoff has embraced the new mandate and articulated a vision to raise the bar on rail transit safety. We look forward to the day when our recommendations are implemented.

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