Rail Transit: Federal Transit Administration Can Strengthen Safety Oversight by Improving Guidance to States

In 2012 and 2015, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) was provided with additional authority to oversee the safety of rail transit. Within DOT, Federal Transit Administration (FTA) is now implementing this authority. The DOT’s Office of Inspector General has reported, though, that FTA faces challenges in carrying out its enhanced safety oversight. FRA, also in DOT, has long carried out safety oversight of freight, intercity passenger, and commuter railroads. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) was asked to review various rail safety and oversight issues, including the differences between the Federal Railroad Administration's (FRA’s) and FTA’s rail safety oversight programs. This report examines (1) key characteristics of FRA’s and FTA’s rail safety oversight programs and (2) strengths and limitations of FRA’s and FTA’s rail safety oversight programs. GAO assessed FRA’s and FTA’s information about rail safety oversight activities against guidance from the Office of Management and Budget, leading practices developed by the transit industry, and federal standards for internal control. GAO also interviewed stakeholders, including rail operators chosen based on mode, size, and location. GAO recommends that FTA (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. DOT agreed with the recommendations. DOT, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), and the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority provided technical comments that GAO incorporated as appropriate.


  • English

Media Info

  • Media Type: Digital/other
  • Features: Appendices; Figures; Maps; References; Tables;
  • Pagination: 41p

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01668944
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Report/Paper Numbers: GAO-18-310
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Apr 9 2018 3:08PM