Senate Passes Bill Mandating States Conduct Risk-Based Transit Safety Inspection

September 28, 2018

On September 25, the Senate passed a bill setting standards for state mass transit safety oversight agencies (SSOAs) to use when investigating local transit agencies. The bill (S. 3139), called the Transit Rail Inspection Practices (TRIP) Act, passed by unanimous consent.

The legislation has its origins in a GAO report issued in March 2018 requested by Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL). That report recommended “that [the Federal Transit Administration] (1) create a plan, with timeline, for developing risk-based inspection guidance for state safety agencies, and (2) develop and communicate a method for how FTA will monitor whether state safety agencies’ enforcement practices are effective.”

S. 3139 was then introduced by the chairman and ranking minority member of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, Mike Crapo (R-ID) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH), on June 25.

“The Senate Banking Committee has a strong tradition of supporting bipartisan reforms that ensure the continued safety of the nation’s public transportation riders,” said Crapo. “The TRIP Act supports this objective by requiring states to perform right-sized, risk-based safety inspections and facilitating the information sharing between the states and the rail transit agencies within their jurisdiction.”

“Inspections are an essential component of safety oversight. This bipartisan legislation is a smart step to improve safety for our country’s public transit riders,” said Brown. “I’m glad the Senate has passed the TRIP Act, and look forward to working with Chairman Crapo and Senator Duckworth to urge the House to do the same.”

The bill was not amended in committee or on the Senate floor. The bill:

  • Improves transit safety oversight by requiring that each SSOA is capable of conducting risk-based inspections of the rail transit systems within their jurisdiction.
  • Implements GAO’s recommendations that FTA issue guidance to States on conducting risk-based inspections and provide information on how FTA will monitor the effectiveness of SSOAs.
  • Increases the set-aside funding for safety under the biggest transit formula grant program (urbanized area (UZA) formula grants) that goes to state safety organizations from 0.5 percent to 0.75 percent, starting in FY 2020. This should reallocate approximately $12 million per year of money from UZA grants (nationwide) to increase the resources available to States to conduct risk-based inspections.
  • Clarifies the data sharing relationship between the rail transit agencies (FTA and FRA) and SSOAs, while not creating any new data collection requirements.

When the bill was received by the House on September 26, it was referred to the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. It arrived too late to be placed on the committee’s markup agenda for September 27 or to be considered by the committee or the House prior to the elections (the House is leaving town today and won’t be back until November 14). However, House action is possible during the post-election lame-duck session.

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