Monday, November 16, 2009

Forget About Nationalizing Subway and Light Rail Safety

Until now, subway and light rail safety has been a local and state issue. However, the Obama Administration wants to pursue another bureaucratic layer of oversight in the aftermath of a deadly subway crash on the District of Columbia Metro system that killed nine people. WCBS News reports:
"The industry has always had its own safety – each of the properties does their own," Dr. Robert Paaswell said. "In New York, there's an Office of Inspector General associated with the MTA, so if there is an accident OIG gets right involved."

But in the wake of the Washington, D.C. Metro crash that killed nine people, the Obama administration is proposing that the federal government take over safety regulation of all subway and light rail systems across the country – in essence, telling state and local regulators to step aside.

The plan would require congressional approval. New York's senior senator says that, based on what he knows so far, he's supportive.

"We have federal standards for highway safety, for airline safety, and having it for subway safety is a good thing," Sen. Charles Schumer said.

The idea of federal oversight of subway safety appeals to some straphangers.

"I think that would be a great idea," Jordan said. "Many more people are traveling on the subways these days."

Some subway riders, however, aren't so pleased with the idea.
Don Surber notes that if local government can't provide mass transit it should be privatized. That may be possible, but there's an even more fundamental flaw with President Obama's plans.

Congress already has oversight over the District of Columbia and the Metro. The District of Columbia is not a home rule jurisdiction free of further oversight. If the DC Council wants to pass legislation, it requires Congressional approval. The Council can pass emergency and temporary legislation, but it needs Congress to approve legislation permanently.

That means that the compact establishing the DC Metro required Congressional approval. See:
"Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority Compact," Pub. L. No. 89-774, 80 Stat. 1324 (1966); as amended by "National Capital Transportation Act of 1972," Pub. L. No. 92-349, 86 Stat. 464 (1972); "National Capital Area Transit Act of 1972," Pub. L. No. 92-517, 86 Stat. 999 (1972); "Metro Transit Police Act of 1976," Pub. L. No. 94-306, 90 Stat.672 (1976); "Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Regulation Compact Amendments," Pub. L. No. 100-285, 102 Stat. 82 (1988); "Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Regulation Compact," Pub. L. No. 104-322, 110 Stat. 3884 (1996) and Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Regulation Compact Amendment, Pub. L. No. 105-151, 111 Stat. 2686 (1997).
Congress wants to expand its oversight and add bureaucracy when it can't even fulfill its current obligations? Sorry, that's not going to fly with this commuter.

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