As first anniversary of the Washington Metro crash approaches, the Obama Administration is still pressing for legislation to Federalize transit safety. The unfunded Federal mandate would impose new requirements on transit operators, already struggling in the bad economy.
In making their pitch, this Administration talking point stands out:
In the aftermath of fatalities on Metro, LaHood said he was surprised to discover that the federal government lacked the authority to set safety standards for mass transit that it has for air travel, motorized vehicles and Amtrak.
If the FAA, FHWA, and FRA are to be the model, it is worth examining their effectiveness.
In the case of intercity rail, the FRA is widely regarded as disaster. FRA safety regulations obstruct new technologies, especially in the area of high-speed rail. The end result is ludicrously high cost for rail projects, and antiquated rolling stock.
And with nearly 40,000 annual highway fatalities in the US, FHWA is certainly not a model to be followed either.
What about the FAA, which regulates the airline industry? Actually, the FAA may be good model to follow. Aside from major fail on September 11, 2001, the FAA does credible job of promoting both industry and safety.
What differentiates FAA from the others? There are probably any number of reasons, but one difference stands out. FAA harmonizes safety regulations with the EU and other international bodies. FAA does not inflict Boeing and other manufacturers with absurd, globally-unique rules for US market.
Although, if Teamsters get their way, even FAA internationalization could be thing of the past…