The FTA has begun rulemaking on crashworthiness standards for transit vehicles. The rule will set forth a one-size-fits-all Federal standard for transit vehicles, in the same manner as the FRA did for intercity rail. However, the FTA insists that it will not repeat the mistakes of the FRA:
Congress stated in the report accompanying the Public Transportation Act of 2010, that they did not intend for FTA to replicate the FRA regulatory model, with highly specific and prescriptive regulations related to public transportation safety. Thus, many of the existing standards that apply to vehicles within FRA’s jurisdiction would not meet the MAP–21 requirement that FTA create minimum safety performance standards for vehicles.
The problem is that Congress also directed the FTA to incorporate recommendations from the NTSB and APTA. Those groups made recommendations consistent with an FRA regulatory model (i.e. specifications for crash posts, crumple zones, etc).
So the FTA has conflicting requirements, but at least they are aware of this:
FTA is aware of existing voluntary consensus based standards for transit vehicles put forward by organizations such as the American Public Transportation Association (APTA). However, FTA understands that many of the standards are prescriptive standards or design standards rather than performance standards. Prescriptive standards and design standards define exactly how to do something—like a recipe. Prescriptive standards and design standards allow little or no flexibility.
Let me suggest that if the FTA were to develop a uniform performance standard, it should have clear cost-benefit. The standards should not close off the US market from global manufacturers. And most importantly, standards should not impact the space available in railcars (or the size of doors) in order to accommodate huge crumple zones, or buff strength requirements.