Discussion related to commuter rail and rapid transit operations in the Chicago area including the South Shore Line, Metra Rail, and Chicago Transit Authority.

Moderators: JamesT4, metraRI

  by Pacific 2-3-1
 
Up till now, all the rapid transit, "people mover"and/or streetcar/light rail systems in this country (overseen by the FTA) have not been subject to FEDERAL SAFETY STANDARDS like the "steam" railroads (which are overseen by the FRA) but Congress has now passed legislation to require this.

The lone exception, in New York and New Jersey, was PATH, which technically has been considered a "railroad" already and therefore was subject to FRA oversight and safety regulations. Otherwise, its rolling stock is similar in size to the CTA's in carbody length and width.

It will be the FTA, not the FRA that has charge of transit safety standards.

See CHICAGO TRIBUNE:

http://www.chicagotribune.com/classifie ... 161.column
  by BrianLM007
 
I read this article this morning and the way I read it, it sounds like Metra and NICTD would also be subject to these new regulations. How will that work considering Metra and NICTD currently follow FRA Regulations and would likely still have to abide by them, considering the significant freight service on most of the various lines?
  by ExCon90
 
From what I've read previously the purpose is solely to cover lines that are not already under FRA jurisdiction; i.e, not connected with the national rail network. I imagine the fur would fly in Washington if the FTA tried to claim jurisdiction over Metra or NICTD. Hell hath no fury like a bureaucrat whose turf is encroached upon by another agency. (Now just imagine if CTA were still delivering boxcars off the Milwaukee Road to that freight customer north of Wilson.)
  by Milwaukee_F40C
 
The wording of the Chicago Tribune article appears to indicate that all "transit", including heavy rail transit such as Metra, and bus systems, will be regulated under the new role mandated for the Federal Transit Administration. If so, this would be an obvious conflict with existing Federal Railroad Administration regulation and private freight rail infrastructure, that could further dissociate heavy rail commuter systems from traditional railroad operations. Another problem is that every transit system is built around custom specifications where it will be difficult to apply regulations any way other than arbitrarily. The legislation will also put the Federal Transit Administration in to a new area of bureaucracy where it will have to hire a whole new set of staff and write all of the actual regulation, which of course will require continual funding. This is probably going to be a mess if depending on how much thought went in to defining this role for the FTA, which before was just a formal agency for sending federal money to state projects.
  by ExCon90
 
I can't get through on the link. Is the article bylined, and is the reporter someone knowledgeable enough about transit to write about it? (Does he or she know the difference between Metra and CTA?) It seems unlikely that something like this would be proposed for the reasons stated just above.
  by Mr.T
 
This may be be in response to some high profile accidents in recent years. There were several accidents in the past decade on the Washington Metro where the cars got telescoped. This probably got Congress' attention and caused them to want some uniform transit safety standards.
  by ExCon90
 
I'm sure that's a big part of it -- after all, it happened inside the Beltway. What I'm wondering is whether the wording of whatever is being planned is specific enough to exclude operations already subject to the FRA. In fact, I think I recall reading awhile ago that what prompted the whole thing was the idea "commuter railroads are subject to FRA regulation -- why don't we have something like that for transit?"
  by R36 Combine Coach
 
The legislation in question is Sec. 20021 of the new MAP-21 transportation bill. Excerpt (see highlighted for the section on non-FRA state regulation):


SEC. 20021. PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION SAFETY.
(a) Public Transportation Safety Program.--Section 5329 of title
49, United States Code, is amended to read as follows:
``Sec. 5329. Public transportation safety program
``(a) Definition.--In this section, the term `recipient' means a
State or local governmental authority, or any other operator of a
public transportation system, that receives financial assistance under
this chapter.
``(b) National Public Transportation Safety Plan.--
``(1) In general.--The Secretary shall create and implement a
national public transportation safety plan to improve the safety of
all public transportation systems that receive funding under this
chapter.
``(2) Contents of plan.--The national public transportation
safety plan under paragraph (1) shall include--
``(A) safety performance criteria for all modes of public
transportation;
``(B) the definition of the term `state of good repair'
established under section 5326(b);
``(C) minimum safety performance standards for public
transportation vehicles used in revenue operations that--
``(i) do not apply to rolling stock otherwise regulated
by the Secretary or any other Federal agency; and
``(ii) to the extent practicable, take into
consideration--
``(I) relevant recommendations of the National
Transportation Safety Board; and
``(II) recommendations of, and best practices
standards developed by, the public transportation
industry; and
``(D) a public transportation safety certification training
program, as described in subsection (c).
``(c) Public Transportation Safety Certification Training
Program.--
``(1) In general.--The Secretary shall establish a public
transportation safety certification training program for Federal
and State employees, or other designated personnel, who conduct
safety audits and examinations of public transportation systems and
employees of public transportation agencies directly responsible
for safety oversight.
``(d) Public Transportation Agency Safety Plan.--
``(1) In general.--Effective 1 year after the effective date of
a final rule issued by the Secretary to carry out this subsection,
each recipient or State, as described in paragraph (3), shall
certify that the recipient or State has established a comprehensive
agency safety plan that includes, at a minimum--
``(A) a requirement that the board of directors (or
equivalent entity) of the recipient approve the agency safety
plan and any updates to the agency safety plan;
``(B) methods for identifying and evaluating safety risks
throughout all elements of the public transportation system of
the recipient;
``(C) strategies to minimize the exposure of the public,
personnel, and property to hazards and unsafe conditions;
``(D) a process and timeline for conducting an annual
review and update of the safety plan of the recipient;
``(E) performance targets based on the safety performance
criteria and state of good repair standards established under
subparagraphs (A) and (B), respectively, of subsection (b)(2);
``(F) assignment of an adequately trained safety officer
who reports directly to the general manager, president, or
equivalent officer of the recipient; and
``(G) a comprehensive staff training program for the
operations personnel and personnel directly responsible for
safety of the recipient that includes--
``(i) the completion of a safety training program; and
``(ii) continuing safety education and training.
``(2) Interim agency safety plan.--A system safety plan
developed pursuant to part 659 of title 49, Code of Federal
Regulations, as in effect on the date of enactment of the Federal
Public Transportation Act of 2012, shall remain in effect until
such time as this subsection takes effect.
``(3) Public transportation agency safety plan drafting and
certification.--
``(A) Section 5311.--For a recipient receiving assistance
under section 5311, a State safety plan may be drafted and
certified by the recipient or a State.
``(B) Section 5307.--Not later than 120 days after the date
of enactment of the Federal Public Transportation Act of 2012,
the Secretary shall issue a rule designating recipients of
assistance under section 5307 that are small public
transportation providers or systems that may have their State
safety plans drafted or certified by a State.
``(e) State Safety Oversight Program.--
``(1) Applicability.--This subsection applies only to eligible
States.
``(2) Definition.--In this subsection, the term `eligible
State' means a State that has--
``(A) a rail fixed guideway public transportation system
within the jurisdiction of the State that is not subject to
regulation by the Federal Railroad Administration; or
``(B) a rail fixed guideway public transportation system in
the engineering or construction phase of development within the
jurisdiction of the State that will not be subject to
regulation by the Federal Railroad Administration.

``(3) In general.--In order to obligate funds apportioned under
section 5338 to carry out this chapter, effective 3 years after the
date on which a final rule under this subsection becomes effective,
an eligible State shall have in effect a State safety oversight
program approved by the Secretary under which the State--
``(A) assumes responsibility for overseeing rail fixed
guideway public transportation safety;
``(B) adopts and enforces Federal and relevant State laws
on rail fixed guideway public transportation safety;
``(C) establishes a State safety oversight agency;
``(D) determines, in consultation with the Secretary, an
appropriate staffing level for the State safety oversight
agency that is commensurate with the number, size, and
complexity of the rail fixed guideway public transportation
systems in the eligible State;
``(E) requires that employees and other designated
personnel of the eligible State safety oversight agency who are
responsible for rail fixed guideway public transportation
safety oversight are qualified to perform such functions
through appropriate training, including successful completion
of the public transportation safety certification training
program established under subsection (c); and
``(F) prohibits any public transportation agency from
providing funds to the State safety oversight agency or an
entity designated by the eligible State as the State safety
oversight agency under paragraph (4).
``(4) State safety oversight agency.--
``(A) In general.--Each State safety oversight program
shall establish a State safety oversight agency that--
``(i) is financially and legally independent from any
public transportation entity that the State safety
oversight agency oversees;
``(ii) does not directly provide public transportation
services in an area with a rail fixed guideway public
transportation system subject to the requirements of this
section;
``(iii) does not employ any individual who is also
responsible for the administration of rail fixed guideway
public transportation programs subject to the requirements
of this section;
``(iv) has the authority to review, approve, oversee,
and enforce the implementation by the rail fixed guideway
public transportation agency of the public transportation
agency safety plan required under subsection (d);
``(v) has investigative and enforcement authority with
respect to the safety of rail fixed guideway public
transportation systems of the eligible State;
``(vi) audits, at least once triennially, the
compliance of the rail fixed guideway public transportation
systems in the eligible State subject to this subsection
with the public transportation agency safety plan required
under subsection (d); and
``(vii) provides, at least once annually, a status
report on the safety of the rail fixed guideway public
transportation systems the State safety oversight agency
oversees to--
``(I) the Federal Transit Administration;
``(II) the Governor of the eligible State; and
``(III) the board of directors, or equivalent
entity, of any rail fixed guideway public
transportation system that the State safety oversight
agency oversees.
  by Tadman
 
This line is telling:

"``(i) do not apply to rolling stock otherwise regulated
by the Secretary or any other Federal agency; and"

It appears after a brief skim that this new legislation does not apply to Metra, as that is rolling stock otherwise regulated by a federal agency (FRA).

What's funny (or maybe sad) is that the gov't got caught up in its own scam. The gov't obviously doesn't create rules for everything, as that would take too much effort. They only regulate problematic situations. The best way to avoid a problematic situation is to enact a tough rules-based industry sanctioning body like NCAA, AIA, or the like.

When the sanctioning body becomes a rubber stamp and the inmates start running the asylum, things go downhill and eventually you get gov't regulation that is over-regulated and ham fisted, because the regs are written by aides to congressmen and consultants that feel they need to prove their value. All that could've been prevented if the companies didn't try to make their independent sanctioning body into a rubber stamp.

In this case, it looks like the non-FRA subways and light rails didn't work hard enough to self-regulate, and the gov't got involved. Whoops...
  by Pacific 2-3-1
 
In any case, from now on, whether it involves the South Shore LIne or the Skokie Swift (CTA Yellow Line), if it carries passengers, a train's a train, "no matter how small", as Dr. Seuss might say.

It seemed to me inconsistent for the PATH system (formerly PRR-owned, as was the Long Island RR) to have to comply with Federal safety standards (in their case, FRA), but not the other New York City subway trains, or even the Staten Island Railway/Staten Island Rapid Transit (formerly B&O-owned).
  by BrianLM007
 
The way I read it the statute is the same way everyone else has: if you're already under FRA jurisdiction (as Metra and NICTD are), you won't be subject to this new agency. Which is probably good for them...they probably go nuts if they had both FRA and FTA doing safety inspections.
  by ExCon90
 
Pacific 2-3-1 wrote:In any case, from now on, whether it involves the South Shore LIne or the Skokie Swift (CTA Yellow Line), if it carries passengers, a train's a train, "no matter how small", as Dr. Seuss might say.

It seemed to me inconsistent for the PATH system (formerly PRR-owned, as was the Long Island RR) to have to comply with Federal safety standards (in their case, FRA), but not the other New York City subway trains, or even the Staten Island Railway/Staten Island Rapid Transit (formerly B&O-owned).
I've spoken with people directly involved in the PATH-FRA situation, and they all think it's wrongheaded. Of course the Hudson & Manhattan formerly shared track with PRR trains west of Journal Square, but those days are long gone and I believe there is no longer even a physical connection. It doesn't seem to make any sense, particularly if Staten Island is treated differently. They used to have B&O freight service sharing tracks with MUs, but no longer, a situation parallel to that on PATH.
  by Ken W2KB
 
ExCon90 wrote:
Pacific 2-3-1 wrote:In any case, from now on, whether it involves the South Shore LIne or the Skokie Swift (CTA Yellow Line), if it carries passengers, a train's a train, "no matter how small", as Dr. Seuss might say.

It seemed to me inconsistent for the PATH system (formerly PRR-owned, as was the Long Island RR) to have to comply with Federal safety standards (in their case, FRA), but not the other New York City subway trains, or even the Staten Island Railway/Staten Island Rapid Transit (formerly B&O-owned).
I've spoken with people directly involved in the PATH-FRA situation, and they all think it's wrongheaded. Of course the Hudson & Manhattan formerly shared track with PRR trains west of Journal Square, but those days are long gone and I believe there is no longer even a physical connection. It doesn't seem to make any sense, particularly if Staten Island is treated differently. They used to have B&O freight service sharing tracks with MUs, but no longer, a situation parallel to that on PATH.
Not just shared, but I seem to recall that PRR conductors collected tickets between JSQ and NWK into the mid-sixties or so. There still is a crossing at grade by a freight track east of the PATH Harrsison yard that was last used some years ago to deliver LPG cars to PSE&G's facility next to the Passaic River. Trucks have been used since then, so the crossing at grade may no longer be in service.
  by Ken W2KB
 
ExCon90 wrote:
Pacific 2-3-1 wrote:In any case, from now on, whether it involves the South Shore LIne or the Skokie Swift (CTA Yellow Line), if it carries passengers, a train's a train, "no matter how small", as Dr. Seuss might say.

It seemed to me inconsistent for the PATH system (formerly PRR-owned, as was the Long Island RR) to have to comply with Federal safety standards (in their case, FRA), but not the other New York City subway trains, or even the Staten Island Railway/Staten Island Rapid Transit (formerly B&O-owned).
I've spoken with people directly involved in the PATH-FRA situation, and they all think it's wrongheaded. Of course the Hudson & Manhattan formerly shared track with PRR trains west of Journal Square, but those days are long gone and I believe there is no longer even a physical connection. It doesn't seem to make any sense, particularly if Staten Island is treated differently. They used to have B&O freight service sharing tracks with MUs, but no longer, a situation parallel to that on PATH.
Not just shared, but I seem to recall that PRR conductors collected tickets between JSQ and NWK into the mid-sixties or so. There still is a crossing at grade by a freight track east of the PATH Harrsison yard that was last used some years ago to deliver LPG cars to PSE&G's facility next to the Passaic River. Trucks have been used since then, so the crossing at grade may no longer be officially in service.
  by R36 Combine Coach
 
The PA5s do have FRA cab cards, which made me feel odd seeing (considering PATH is a rapid transit type system). Even so, the PA5s lack a high-mounted third headlamp, per FRA standards.