“The safety and security of public transportation is an area where Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. can act as one”

by Prince Of Petworth March 3, 2016 at 9:45 am 12 Comments

Photo by PoPville flickr user nevermindtheend

From a press release:

“Governor Larry Hogan, Governor Terry McAuliffe, and Mayor Muriel Bowser announced an important step forward in the establishment of a new Metro Safety Commission, an independent oversight agency that will ultimately direct the safety and security of mass transit systems in the Washington Metropolitan Area, including the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA).


Governor Hogan, Governor McAuliffe, and Mayor Bowser signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that will move Maryland, Virginia, and Washington D.C. closer to establishing the new Metro Safety Commission. WMATA is the only public transit agency in the nation that is comprised of three separate, co-equal jurisdictions which have worked together to oversee safety of mass transit in the region through the Tri-State Oversight Committee.

“The safety and security of public transportation is an area where Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. can act as one,” said Governor Hogan. “Metro gets millions of people in the region to and from work each day and the Metro Safety Commission is an important first step to ensure that riders have access to a world-class public transportation system.”

“The Metro system is an enormous economic asset for the entire region and ensuring that it is as safe as possible must be priority one,” said Governor McAuliffe. “I look forward to continuing our work with Maryland and Washington, D.C. to execute this MOU and establish the Metro Safety Commission as soon as possible.”

“The District is committed to working with our partner jurisdictions and the new Metro leadership to ensure that the region has the safest, most reliable public transportation system in the nation,” said Mayor Muriel Bowser. “While we move forward with a new Metro Safety Commission, we will continue to push for needed reforms to improve Metro.”

This MOU is an agreement by all three parties to commit resources and staff, share information, and work together in a transparent fashion to develop strategies that will help to establish a fully compliant oversight agency. Additionally, each jurisdiction has agreed to submit necessary budget appropriations of agreed upon amounts in future budgets to fund the Commission.

This MOU brings Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C a step closer in fulfilling a federal mandate as established by the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act of 2012 (MAP-21), which gave the U.S. Department of Transportation enhanced oversight over states and jurisdictions with rail fixed guideway public transportation systems and required eligible states to have a safety oversight program.”

  • Mojotron

    By “safety” do they mean crashy-crashy or punchy-stabby? Or both?

    • JJ

      I was wondering the same thing.

    • textdoc

      If you look at the last two paragraphs, it sounds like they’re talking only about crashy-crashy, not punchy-stabby.

      • petworther

        Unclear to me why this is such a big deal. You’re so much more likely to bite the dust on the beltway than in a metro crash and yet they don’t do sh!t about that.

        • HaileUnlikely

          Our society, much to its detriment in my opinion, has not yet really bought into the notion that the government has a real responsibility to provide roadway infrastructure that is safe insofar as it minimizes the occurrence and severity of predictable crashes. Absent a catastrophic structural failure (e.g., bridge collapse), governments are hardly ever held liable for crashes in which the involved parties had a non-negligible role, even if better design could have made such a crash less severe or less likely to occur. On the other hand, when transit busses or trains crash, the governments often are held liable and pay out big. The cynic in me suspects that is why it is such a big deal.

        • jcm

          Isn’t Vision Zero exactly what you guys are asking for?
          “The Vision Zero is the Swedish approach to road safety thinking. It can be summarized in one sentence: No loss of life is acceptable. The Vision Zero approach has proven highly successful. It is based on the simple fact that we are human and make mistakes. The road system needs to keep us moving. But it must also be designed to protect us at every turn.”

          • HaileUnlikely

            On paper it is, a few countries and a couple of US states actually take it seriously, but in most of the rest of the country it is basically a cute slogan with no substance behind it. Many highway engineering standards are basically arrived at by “expert opinion” and are not informed by factual knowledge of their safety impacts, in many cases because factual knowledge about their safety impacts does not exist, in most of those cases because there is hardly any demand for factual knowledge about their safety impacts, because, well, what do we need it for…we already *have* the standards.

  • madmonk28

    The FTA mandated that they set up a Safety Commission, or they would losing federal funding. They still missed several deadlines to get even this point.

  • Anonymous

    This a good first step. WMATA is politicized because it’s a political football for the three regional governments to punt back and forth without actually getting anything resolved. VA is a mess due to downstate legislators who want to give zero state funds for public transportation. DC uses WMATA as political patronage and jobs program with zero accountability. And MD’s newest Governor is an ostrich sticking his head in the sand, pretending that MoCo and PG traffic will magically get better rather than investing in public transport (also doing the bidding of his Eastern Shore and rural constituents who want to slash funds).
    WMATA needs to be de-politicized.

  • LittleBluePenguin

    How does this not already exist?!

    • jcm

      It kind of does:.
      “The Tri-state Oversight Committee is a partnership between state-level agencies in Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia to jointly oversee safety and security at the Washington, DC Metrorail system.”
      I guess the question is how this new agency is better than the existing one?

  • chellefish

    The MOU itself is pretty thin, and has no specific information about the powers/responsibilities/structure/etc. of the MSC. It’s clear that the MSC is being established primarily to comply with federal regulations – not because the jurisdictions can agree about the need for enhanced safety oversight. A “draft interstate compact to define the powers, governance, financing, and jurisdiction” of the MSC is slated for local legislative review in 2016 and 2017. In short: don’t hold your breath.


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