The transit industry is evolving with new technology, new regulatory requirements, and better use of historical data and information to report to the industry and to other transit professionals the best practices and recommended ways to manage safety and security. Traditionally, after designing and building bus and rail facilities and vehicles to predetermined specifications, the project managers completed and approved the quality assurance checks, performed a test run of the system, readied the line for full-service operation, and commissioned the system. In modern transit systems, safety and security are an integral part of the design and build phases.
Building & Maintaining Transit Systems
According to the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) 2010 National State of Good Repair Assessment, “Roughly one-third of the nation’s transit assets (weighted by replacement value) are in either marginal or poor condition, implying that these assets are near or have already exceeded their expected useful life.” As budgets decrease, it may be difficult to rebuild and maintain a safe and secure operating system and infrastructure – including highways, bridges, transit systems, and transit vehicles. Although a jurisdiction may repair a cracking bridge, replace a bus garage or rail maintenance facility, or overhaul the vehicles, some decision makers may question whether these actions make the community any safer. However, being in a “state of good repair” – as defined by the FTA’s Transit Economic Requirements Model (TERM) – is relevant to safety and security.
When original equipment manufacturers and designers build transit systems, safety professionals prefer to conduct risk assessments and hazard analysis during the preliminary design phase. This allows designers, engineers, and operating staff to build and design safety and security features into their projects. There also are federal requirements on new startup projects that require risk-based assessments. These assessments can be for safety and security as well as for the operating environment – for example, high-crime areas, dark or poorly lit roads or rights of way, or areas where there is the potential for crimes against or injuries to passengers or employees. Risk assessment for insurance purposes, such as what a property or company is willing to accept, is also an important and necessary part of the process. There are many ways to enhance safety and security in new or existing projects.
Transit professionals should first ask how to improve the facilities, equipment, employees, procedures, and environment in which they operate. The safety culture should include managing risks early during the planning and design phases of critical systems. These early reviews assist in eliminating and mitigating potential hazards and risks. By managing assets and using various integration techniques, safety professionals can begin the process of establishing guidelines for maintaining a state of good repair throughout the life of a project, including when modification of equipment and facilities is necessary.
Certifications, Assessments & Management Systems
Integration techniques used by the Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) and other agencies include: (a) safety and security certifications; (b) hazard assessments; and (c) safety management systems. The safety and security certification process verifies, confirms, and identifies that the safety and security components of a system’s design are ready for revenue operations and were developed, constructed, and tested in accordance with the applicable codes, standards, criteria, and specifications.
Hazard assessment – a formal process used to identify, analyze, and mitigate the hazards associated with the design, construction, testing, and start-up of new or modified projects – is another tool used to mitigate hazards during the planning and project design phase. Assessments help categorize hazards by severity and probability of occurrence and analyze hazards for their potential impact on a system.
A safety management system is another tool the MTA uses to manage transit operations, but it can be applicable to any type of business operation. Four components associated with this type of integration of safety and security include:
- Safety policy – safety commitment and accountability, safety roles and responsibilities, and safety resource allocation to support safety performance;
- Safety risk management – safety hazard identification, safety risk-based analysis, and implementation of safety risk controls;
- Safety assurance – monitoring of safety risk controls to ensure achievement of the intended objective while assessing the need for new risk-control strategies; and
- Safety promotion – achievement of the safety mission through clear communication channels and safety training programs.
MTA considers “state of good repair” when designing and building its transit systems. MTA’s procedures, inspections, and mitigation tools listed above ensure the safety and security of the transit system when designing, modifying, or redesigning its systems, or when required to do so by new local, state, or federal regulations. By looking ahead and anticipating issues, the MTA knows when it is time to replace a vehicle, repair a bridge, or modify a right of way, and develop budgets that reflect keeping the transit systems in a state of good repair. Good safety pays now, but delaying the budget expenses until later can become extremely costly.
Bernadette Bridges is the chief safety officer and officer of safety for quality assurance and risk management at the Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) in Baltimore, Maryland. She has more than 28 years of experience in the area of mass transit, and over 17 years experience in the area of safety. She began her transportation career as a bus operator and then spent five years as a rail supervisor and controller for MTA’s Light Rail System. In her present assignment, she oversees agency system safety, emergency management, claims, risk management, Owner Controlled Insurance Program (OCIP), environmental compliance, and quality assurance. She is a certified safety director through the World Safety Organization, an associate staff instructor for the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) Transportation Safety Institute, and a member of American Public Transportation Association’s safety committees for both bus and rail. She previously served a one-year term on the Tri-State Oversight Committee. Appointed by the Federal Department of Transportation administrator, she currently serves as a member of the Transit Rail Advisory Committee for Safety (FTA-U.S. Department of Transportation).