Vol. 8 No. 11
March 12, 2007

Copyright © 2007
NCI Inc., All Rights Reserved

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www.nationalcorridors.org

Destination:Freedom
A weekly North American rail and transit update

The E-Zine of the National Corridors Initiative Inc.

Publisher - James P. RePass
Editor - Molly McKay
European Correspondent - David Beale
Webmaster - Dennis Kirkpatrick

For transportation advocates and professionals, journalists, and
elected and appointed officials at all levels of government.

IN THIS EDITION...  In this edition...

  This week…
House Homeland Security Chair, other leaders “alarmed”
   at Lack of transit, rail protection
Detroit transportation general manager named ConnDOT
   deputy commissioner
Sosa resigns from Amtrak Board
  Commuter lines…
Richmonders coping with I-95 DC commute will get ride
   to VRE commuter rail station
  Selected rail stocks…
  Freight lines…
Tank cars near school stir public concern in California
Union Pacific Railroad and Dow Chemical Company plan
   to improve rail safety, build better cars
  Environmental lines…
BNSF and Texas taxpayers buy cleaner locos but vendor GE
   still in enviromentalist hot seat
  Commentary…
Jet Blues
Text of APTA President William Millar’s March 7 presentation
   before the House Homeland Security Committee
  End notes…


NEWS OF THE WEEK... News items...

House Homeland Security Chair, other leaders
“alarmed” at lack of transit, rail protection

By DF Staff

WASHINGTON---MARCH 6 – Committee on Homeland Security Chairman Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS) is sounding the alarm on transit and rail safety, in testimony prepared for committee hearings on the proposed Rail and Public Transportation Security Act of 2007.

“Like all Americans, I am alarmed at the lack of security for rail and public transportation systems around the country. Each weekday, 11.3 million passengers in 22 states use commuter, heavy, or light rail. History has shown that terrorists view rail and public transportation systems as potential targets.

“This coming Sunday will be the three-year anniversary of the terrorist bombings of Madrid’s rail system, which killed and maimed hundreds of innocent civilians. This coming July marks the second anniversary of the terrorist bombings throughout London’s public transportation system. Last summer, a number of bombs tore through Mumbai’s rail system. Just last month, a passenger train outside New Delhi caught fire when suitcases filled with flammable liquids were exploded as the train headed for Pakistan.

Despite all of these attacks, rail and public transportation security remains a secondary issue to aviation security,” said Thompson.

In an appearance before the Committee March 7, American Public Transportation Association Millar also called for action:

“We urge Congress to act decisively. While transit agencies are doing their part, we need the federal government to be a full partner in the fight against terrorism. Terrorist attacks against U.S. citizens are clearly a federal responsibility and the federal government needs to increase its support for transit security improvements. In light of documented needs, we urge Congress to increase federal support for transit security grants to assist transit agencies in addressing the $6 billion in identified security needs. We ask that Congress provide no less than $545 million in the Fiscal Year (FY) 2008 Homeland Security Appropriations bill for transit security. Funding at that level annually would allow for significant security improvements in the nation’s transit agencies over a 10-year period. Federal funding for additional security needs should provide for both hard and soft costs as described below and be separate from investments in the federal transit capital program. (see full text below under section marked “Testimony”)

Committee Chairman Thompson in his statement noted:

“The 9/11 Act that Congress passed in 2004 directed TSA to develop a National Strategy for Transportation Security. TSA produced a document, but it was not a comprehensive strategy. The President directed the Department of Homeland Security to complete a Transportation Sector Specific Plan more than 3 years ago. This plan has yet to be completed. Last December, the President issued an Executive Order directing the Department of Homeland Security to strengthen surface transportation security. Yet, in the fiscal year 2008 budget, the President only requested an additional 4 million dollars for TSA’s surface transportation budget.”

“TSA’s entire surface transportation budget is less than 1% of the amount the President requested for aviation security, stated Thompson. “Similarly, I am concerned about the money the President has requested for rail and public transportation security grants. 175 million dollars for rail and public transportation security grants is not enough money when one considers the millions of men and women who use these systems daily. I am also concerned about the lack of training for front-line rail and public transportation workers. Labor organizations say that their members are not being given the training to respond to acts of terrorism. According to the National Transit Institute (NTI), only about 30% of the transit employee workforce has received the proper training developed by the NTI and federal agencies. Shouldn’t training for our frontline workers be mandatory and ongoing?” asked Thompson.


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Detroit transportation general manager
named ConnDOT deputy commissioner

By DF Staff and from Internet Sources

HARTFORD --- Detroit Transportation Department’s General Manager Albert A. Martin has been picked as deputy commissioner for the Connecticut Department of Transportation (ConnDOT) after a high-profile national search ordered by Gov. Jodi Rell.

Martin, 64, plans to begin his job, which pays him $123,000 annually, March 16, the Hartford Courant reported.

Connecticut may become a key state for rail development because its General Assembly is led by a strong rail proponent, Senate President Don Williams, and by House Speaker James Amann, formerly seen as largely a highway advocate but lately becoming more attuned to the opportunities that rail transportation development presents to the state’s workers and employers.

Connecticut is seen as key to the redevelopment of rail infrastructure in New England. While Massachusetts is a much larger state and has extensive commuter rail, Connecticut is served by Amtrak, Shoreline East, and Metro North Rail, the latter serving 250,000 riders a day in Southwestern Connecticut and Westchester County.

Gov. Jodi Rell has also stressed transit, and has authorized the purchase of new railcars for MetroNorth to replace the existing 40-year-old fleet of commuter cars now in service. Selection of a transit-oriented second-in-command at ConnDOT was seen by advocates as a test of that commitment.

Martin will report to Commissioner Ralph Carpenter, a career state police and motor vehicles manager whose appointment as ConnDOT Commissioner was criticized because of his lack of transportation experience. Carpenter’s accessibility and enthusiasm has won over many of his former critics, however, and he is now seen by transportation advocates as a “breath of fresh air” in the words of NCI President Jim RePass.


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Sosa resigns from Amtrak Board

By DF Staff

WASHINGTON – Amtrak has announced the resignation of chemical executive Enrique Sosa from its Board of Directors, effective March 2007.

Sosa, first proposed for the Board of Directors in 2003 and named in 2004 by President George W. Bush, was never confirmed by the Senate, and was given his seat in successive “recess” appointments. The President is allowed to name members of certain Federal boards without getting normal Senate approval, when the Congress is in recess. He resigned citing “other obligations”.

Sosa in 2004 told Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) that until his nomination by Bush he had never ridden an Amtrak train, effectively dooming his chances of being confirmed. His nomination was seen by rail advocates as an example of the Bush Administration’s contempt for public sector investment, because of his Bush political affiliation coupled with a lack of transportation experience.

Sosa is respected in his industry. A former Amoco and Dow executive with more than 35 years in the chemical industry, Sosa headed Amoco’s chemicals sector before becoming president of BP Amoco Chemicals after the two companies merged. Prior to joining Amoco, he was senior vice president of Dow Chemical and president of Dow North America. He also was a member of Dow’s board of directors and executive committee. He is an immigrant from Cuba.

Amtrak is a private corporation controlled by the Federal government through the office of the U.S. Secretary of Transportation. It was created by Congress in 1970 at the request of the freight railroads, then facing across-the-board bankruptcies. Until Amtrak was created, the freight railroads were required by law to run passenger trains, and always lost money on that service, although freight revenues masked that loss.

The opening of the Interstate Highway System in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, which subsidized long-distance trucking companies, destroyed the railroads’ economic model by removing high-value, less-than-carload, and time-sensitive shipments from the freight mix, leaving low-value bulk commodity shipments (coal, cement, etc.) as the dominant traffic, which was not profitable enough to cover the losses caused by passenger service.

Train-On-Freight-Car, RoadRailer, and container shipping via rail have mitigated but have not stopped the overall decline of freight railroads’ ability to compete against unlike taxpayer-funded highway shipping: in the United States freight railroads must build, maintain, and renew their infrastructure at their own expense, while highway’s construction, maintenance, and operations costs are paid by the taxpayer. As a consequence, truck shipments today account for 80%, by value, of all goods shipped, even as highway congestion becomes untenable and the cost of highway construction becomes prohibitively expensive.

In Europe and Asia, rail receives heavy public investment, which has led to increased competitiveness against American business, especially from Asia, and has vastly improved passenger travel.

In its news release announcing Amtrak’s departure, Amtrak said, “Sosa was particularly interested in the economics of Amtrak - increasing revenues and reducing costs in order to make the corporation more cost effective. He served on the Board during the Empire Builder service enhancement project, which resulted from these concepts. The initiative significantly improved the Empire Builder’s financial performance, and the concept is being applied to other trains system-wide.” The renewed Empire Builder is seen by rail advocates as a good example of what rail service could be, if consistent management principles along with adequate capital investment are applied.


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COMMUTER LINES...  Commuter lines...

Richmonders coping with I-95 DC commute
will get ride to VRE commuter rail station

By DF Staff and From Internet Sources

RICHMOND --- Virginians who commute to DC from the Richmond area will get a faster rail alternative than expected, as Greater Richmond Transit provides bus service to the Fredericksburg VRE commuter rail station.

Will Jones, Richmond Times-Dispatch Staff Writer, reports that the Greater Richmond Transit Corporation is planning to offer express bus service between Richmond and Fredericksburg, beginning May 21.

The service would be coordinated with Virginia Railway Express, which runs commuter trains between Fredericksburg and Washington Union Station, with several stops en route, reported the Times-Dispatch.

High speed rail service to Washington from Richmond is a priority for Richmond area businesses and residents, but freight railroad CSX, which owns the track between Richmond and DC, has been slow to respond to community needs. Railroads were required to provide passenger service until the late 1960’s, when multiple bankruptcies caused Congress to create Amtrak. Amtrak’s passenger trains are by law required to be dispatched first, but that law has not been enforced.


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STOCKS...  Selected Rail Stocks...

Source: www.MarketWatch.com

   This
Week
Previous
Week
Burlington Northern & Santa Fe(BNI)79.0677.53
Canadian National (CNI)44.5143.91
Canadian Pacific (CP)54.2153.75
CSX (CSX)37.8536.17
Florida East Coast (FLA)58.8059.34
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)25.4125.55
Kansas City Southern (KSU)33.4431.35
Norfolk Southern (NSC)48.5446.34
Providence & Worcester (PWX)17.0617.62
Union Pacific (UNP)98.7497.82


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FREIGHTLINES...  Freight lines...

Tank cars near school stir
public concern in California

From Internet Sources, By DF Staff, and from InsideBayArea.Com

RODEO, CONTRA COSTA COUNTY, CA --- A refinery in Rodeo, CA and a pre-school nearby are in the news again as 24 tank cars were parked near the school, up from 12 reported in a January news item by Inside Bay Atrea.com.

Staff Writer Erik Nelson reports that Union Pacific Railroad, “…rather than promise that they’ll be removed, the railroad is faulting local governments for allowing the preschool to be there in the first place.”

“We are in the business of dealing with children and their well-being,” Nelson quotes Lynn Yaney, a spokeswoman for the Contra Costa County Employment and Human Services Department, which runs the Head Start facility. “It’s very frustrating to have to continually contend with having these tankers across the street.”

As a result of community and county concern, reports InsideBayArea.com, Union Pacific sent out a directive that “…asks the train crews never to stage loaded cars down there,” according to UP regional spokesman Wayne Horiuchi said, so any cars parked there Monday would have been empty.

County safety authorities have said the cars pose a danger even if they are empty. Horiuchi acknowledged that “there may be some residue in there, but the risk is minimal.” Local tank trucks pose more danger than the rail cars, said Horiuchi.

He added the trouble started when local authorities decided to put the facility next to the railroad tracks in what had been an industrial area, reported Nelson. The refinery has been present for decades; the school is new.

On March 7 Union Pacific and Dow Chemical announced a joint project to develop safer tank cars; see below.


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Union Pacific Railroad and Dow Chemical Company
plan to improve rail safety, build better cars

By DF Staff

OMAHA, NE & MIDLAND, MI --- Union Pacific Railroad and The Dow Chemical Company have signed a joint Memorandum of Cooperation (MOC) to improve rail safety and security, the companies announced last week.

The agreement calls for “…personnel from each organization to work together in a cooperative effort to achieve the eight goals specified in the MOC that the companies have pledged to achieve within the next ten years.”

“Both companies serve as strategic links in the chemical supply chain that is critical to homeland security, public health, safety and welfare and to our nation’s economy,” said Jim Young, chairman and CEO, Union Pacific. “Our mutual commitments give us a stronger framework for working together by building on new and existing elements of safety and security.”

Among other elements the agreement calls for a safer tank car for highly hazardous materials to be developed and put into service by 2017.


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ENVIRONMENTAL LINES...  Environmental lines...

BNSF and Texas taxpayers buy cleaner locos
but vendor GE still in enviromentalist hot seat

By DF Staff, Business Week and from Internet Sources

FORT WORTH, TX --- Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad rolled out a couple of new, environmentally friendlier locomotives last week for the public to see, but one major manufacturer, General Electric, remains in environmentalists’ crosshairs for dragging its feet on the production of truly eco-safe locos.

Mark Stehly, assistant vice president, BNSF Environmental and Hazardous Material

Photo: BNSF

Mark Stehly, assistant vice president, BNSF Environmental and Hazardous Materials, addresses Dallas-Fort Worth area news media during briefing on low-emission locomotives.

Equipment on display included a lower emission Evolution series locomotive (EVO) made by General Electric; and a retrofitted EMD Tier 0, an older locomotive upgraded to improve emissions.

Attendees included representatives from National Railway Equipment Company, which manufactures the ultra-low emission locomotives; senior officers of BNSF’s environmental group; and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The group discussed the environmentally friendly technology and the partnership with the state of Texas to reduce diesel emissions.

Business Week reported that BNSF has 12 more of the cleaner locomotives on order, and recently put out bids to buy another 50. “Texas taxpayers are picking up most of the tab,” writes AP reporter David Koenig in Business Week. “Eighty percent of the roughly $1.5 million cost of the first 14 locomotives is being paid out of a state environmental program funded by vehicle registration fees. After that, the state and BNSF will split the cost 50-50.”

The two newest locomotives were made by National Railway Equipment Co. and have three 700-horsepower engines that turn on and off automatically to reduce idling time, reported Business Week, and burn about one-sixth less fuel than other locomotives with similar power.

Last month, National Railway announced it would build 60 copies for Union Pacific Corp. and two each for the Fort Worth & Western Railroad and the Dallas, Garland & Northeastern Railroad, BW reported.


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COMMENTARY...  Commentary...

 

Jet Blues

 

Unless you have been out of the country for a few weeks, you are aware of the fiasco that engulfed Jet Blue, a low-cost carrier that for a few years has been causing no end of grief to the traditional airlines (United, Delta, Continental) by offering discount flights coupled with better service and a friendlier staff.

In the middle of last month a huge winter storm delayed flights at Chicago, New York, and elsewhere in the Midwest and on the Eastern Seaboard. Jet Blue found itself suddenly short of equipment as planes at one airport after another were grounded and airports closed, even as planes already away from their gate and on the taxiway were unable to take off.

More than 1000 flights were cancelled, and some passengers spent three, four and even seven hours in idling planes unable to take off OR return to the gate.

This sort of thing has happened before in transportation, but never in such a calamitous style. And Jet Blue was not alone: its woes were accompanied by massive Interstate highway closings that stranded motorists for even longer in Pennsylvania, in some cases overnight. The exception to the cascading travel mess was Amtrak, most of whose trains kept right on chugging, although they, too have had their share of horror stories this year, if less spectacular than the others.

But what is important to understand is that what happened in Chicago and New York and Pennsylvania, and elsewhere, to Jet Blue was not an isolated event. It is a symptom of something else, a warning, whose origins can be found not in weather patterns but in a management philosophy that has come to pervade American business over the past two decades and which will, if uncorrected, lead to more serious disasters than mere travel delays, as awful as they are when they are happening to you. That philosophy is, to put it crudely, “cut corners.”

In the mid 1980’s a new management philosophy was “discovered” in Japan: “just-in-time” manufacturing. Those of us who remember the 1980’s will remember that aside from being “the Al Franken Decade” it was also the decade of hyperinflation followed by recession, hyper gas price inflation followed by the collapse of gas prices, and Ronald Reagan. It was also the decade of Japan Inc and “Japan as Number One” (published in 1979) which turned out to be Not Quite Right.

While American business writers discovered “Just-in-time” or “Kanban” in the mid 1980’s, it was actually introduced in Japan in the early 1970’s by Taiichi Ohno of Toyota. While in the popular mind Kanban is seen as a system where the auto part arrives at the assembly line worker’s station just as the car chassis is passing by, it is in reality a philosophy in which all manufacturing waste is eliminated through constant improvement, and it is the reason Japanese car manufacturers have been eating America’s manufacturing lunch for decades.

In and of itself, that is a good thing. But like most good ideas of the modern era, it develops acolytes who, over time, take a good idea and run it right into the ground, proving that that great English philosopher, Mick Jagger, was right when he observed, “In America, nothing succeeds like excess.” (Oscar Wilde said it first, more generally).

Kanban has become widespread in American business, but as Jagger has noted, we over do things. If you need 25 airline mechanics to do the job, hire 24. If you need 30 journalists to staff a newsroom, make do with 25. And so on, and so on.

Jet Blue’s service imploded that day not because of the weather, but because they had so understaffed their internal logistics (crew and plane assignment) department that there was no margin for error: when it was overloaded that stormy day, it broke down completely, and quite quickly.

There are other, more serious examples of cutbacks that go too far, the most recent being the revelation that wounded Iraq war veterans, even those seriously hurt, were shunted off to moldy, filthy rat-infested rooms at Walter Reed Army Hospital, because the veterans’ medical budget had been so eviscerated that there was no money to care for them properly. Firing the general in charge doesn’t solve the problem, because the problem results from the Kanban philosophy as applied to government, which translates as “don’t spend on infrastructure when you can cut taxes for the wealthy,” a philosophy that has been in place for most of the past quarter-century and whose terrible damage to America is finally becoming obvious. Imagine the American people, treated the way Amtrak has been treated since its inception, and you’ll get the picture.

Like everything else, good ideas taken to extremes can do as much harm as good. Jet Blues’ logistics collapse, the Army’s inexcusable treatment of its wounded warriors, and the underfunding of Amtrak are all a part of the same picture. We need to exercise better judgment in our public life, as well as in business. Coupled with the decade of “free trade” following the adoption of NAFTA, where goods made under slave-wage conditions in Asia, without environmental or labor law protection, are allowed to replace goods made by Americans, and where our mass-produced agri-business shoves aside millions of formerly poor but self-sufficient peasant farmers in Mexico, and you have a formula for the destruction of the middle class, and in the long run, of democracy. Let’s hope the new Congress is paying attention, and that its leaders understand that what is happening to our country is not surprising --- and is not inevitable, either.


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Testimony before congress…

 

Text of APTA President William Millar’s March 7 presentation
before the House Homeland Security Committee

 

From the American Public Transportation Association

[ The Editors believe this statement from APTA’s Bill Millar, one of the nation’s most respected transportation leaders,
deserves full attention and we run it here in its entirety. ]

 

Mr. Chairman, thank you for this opportunity to provide testimony to the Committee on the Rail and Public Transportation Security Act of 2007. We appreciate your making the security of the tens of millions of Americans who use public transportation an important priority of this Committee, and we look forward to working with you on this issue. We thank you for your leadership on transit security.

ABOUT APTA

The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) is a nonprofit international association of more than 1,500 public and private member organizations, including transit systems and commuter rail operators; planning, design, construction, and finance firms; product and service providers; academic institutions; transit associations and state departments of transportation. APTA members serve the public interest by providing safe, efficient, and economical transit services and products. More than ninety percent of the people using public transportation in the United States and Canada are served by APTA member systems.

OVERVIEW

Mr. Chairman, public transportation is one of the nation’s critical infrastructures. We cannot overemphasize the critical importance of the service we provide in communities throughout the country. Americans take about 10 billion transit trips each year. People use public transportation vehicles over 34 million times each weekday. This is more than eighteen times the number of daily domestic boardings on the nation’s airlines.

Safety and security are the top priority of the public transportation industry. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report several years ago which said “about one-third of terrorist attacks worldwide target transportation systems, and transit systems are the mode most commonly attacked.” Transit agencies had already taken many steps to improve security prior to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and have significantly increased efforts since that date. Since 9/11, public transit agencies in the United States have spent over $2.5 billion on security and emergency preparedness programs, and technology to support those programs, largely from their own budgets with only minimal federal funding.

Since 9/11, the federal government has spent over $24 billion on aviation security while has only allocated $549 million for transit security. Last year’s attacks in Mumbai and the previous attacks in London and Madrid further highlight the need to strengthen security on public transit agencies in the U.S. and to do so without delay. We need to do what we can to prevent the kind of attacks that caused more than 400 deaths and nearly 3,000 injuries on rail systems in Mumbai, London and Madrid.

We urge Congress to act decisively. While transit agencies are doing their part, we need the federal government to be a full partner in the fight against terrorism. Terrorist attacks against U.S. citizens are clearly a federal responsibility and the federal government needs to increase its support for transit security improvements. In light of documented needs, we urge Congress to increase federal support for transit security grants to assist transit agencies in addressing the $6 billion in identified security needs. We ask that Congress provide no less than $545 million in the Fiscal Year (FY) 2008 Homeland Security Appropriations bill for transit security. Funding at that level annually would allow for significant security improvements in the nation’s transit agencies over a 10-year period. Federal funding for additional security needs should provide for both hard and soft costs as described below and be separate from investments in the federal transit capital program.

We also urge Congress to provide $500,000 to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for grant funding to the APTA security standards program, under which APTA is working with its federal partners to develop transit security standards. Finally, we urge Congress to provide $600,000 annually to maintain the Public Transit Information Sharing Analysis Center (ISAC) which provides for the sharing of security information between transit agencies and DHS.

To improve the distribution of funds under the existing transit security programs, we recommend that the existing process for distributing DHS grants be modified so that grants are made directly to transit agencies, rather than through State Administrating Agencies (SAA). We believe direct funding to transit agencies would be quicker and cheaper. The current process and grant approval procedures have created significant barriers and time delays in getting funds into the hands of transit agencies for security improvements. We believe that DHS should work with Federal Transit Administration (FTA) on the distribution of funds since FTA understands transit and already effectively administers a much larger capital grant program to transit agencies.

As transit security is part of the larger war on terrorism, we urge Congress to continue providing transit security grants with no state or local match requirement. A local or state match requirement would have detrimental consequences by making security improvements contingent on a community’s ability to raise local funding. A local match requires the approval of a local governing body. Approval of such grants in an open, public forum, where specific project information is discussed is simply inappropriate for security sensitive projects. We should not make such information available to potential terrorists.

BACKGROUND

In 2004, APTA surveyed its U.S. transit agency members to determine what actions were needed to improve security for their customers, employees and facilities. In response to the survey, transit agencies around the country identified in excess of $6 billion in transit security investment needs.

In FY 2003, $65 million in federal funds were allocated by DHS for 20 transit agencies. In FY 2004, $50 million was allocated by DHS for 30 transit agencies. In FY 2005, Congress specifically appropriated $150 million for transit, passenger and freight rail security. Out of the $150 million, transit received $135 million. In FY 2006, Congress appropriated $150 million. Out of the $150 million, transit received $136 million. In FY 2007, Congress appropriated $175 million. Out of $175 million, transit is slated to receive $163 million. We appreciate these efforts, but more needs to be done.

Transit agencies have significant and specific transit security needs. Based on APTA’s 2003 Infrastructure Database survey, over 2,000 rail stations have no security cameras. According to our 2005 Transit Vehicle Database, 53,000 buses, over 5,000 commuter rail cars, and over 10,000 heavy rail cars have no security cameras. Less than one-half of all buses have automatic vehicle locator systems (AVLs) that allow dispatchers to know the location of the bus if an emergency occurs. Nearly seventy-five percent of demand response vehicles lack these AVLs. Furthermore, no transit agency has a permanent biological detection system. In addition, only two transit agencies have a permanent chemical detection system. A more robust partnership with the federal government would help to better address many of these specific needs.

We are disappointed that the Administration proposed only $175 million for transit, passenger and freight rail security in the FY 2008 DHS budget proposal. Regrettably, the Administration failed to make a significant funding proposal to enhance the security of the tens of millions of Americans who use transit. Instead, the Administration chose to freeze security funding for transit, passenger rail, and freight rail security at the level in FY 2007. This funding level falls well short of the funds needed to ensure the safety of Americans who take public transportation. We are also disappointed that the Administration failed to propose funding for transit security standards or the Public Transit ISAC. Both of these programs could significantly enhance transit security for a minimal cost.

APTA is a Standards Development Organization (SDO) for the public transportation industry. We are now applying our growing expertise in standards development to transit industry safety and security, best practices, guidelines and standards. We have already initiated our efforts for security standards development and have engaged our federal partners from both the DHS and DOT in support of this initiative. Unfortunately, DHS has not agreed to provide funding to APTA for this effort. We respectfully urge Congress to provide $500,000 to the DHS so that it can provide that amount in grant funding to the APTA security standards program. Our efforts in standards development for commuter rail, rail transit and bus transit operations have been significant and our status as a SDO is acknowledged by both the FTA and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA). The FTA and the Transportation Research Board have supported our standards initiatives through the provision of grants while our members have dedicated a portion of their APTA dues for standards development.

We also would like to work with Congress and the Department of Homeland Security’s Directorate of Science and Technology to take a leadership role in advancing research and technology development to enhance security and emergency preparedness for public transportation.

SECURITY GRANT PROGRAM

The DHS’s Office of Grants and Training (G&T) is responsible for the distribution of the transit security grant program. G&T should be commended for reaching out to the transit industry in numerous listening sessions on our concerns. Staff from G&T have attended APTA conferences and participated in panel discussions. G&T staff has conducted various conferences around the country to explain the details of the transit security grant program. We continue to work with G&T on streamlining and improving the grant program but are frustrated with the results thus far.

Since the creation of the DHS, four separate offices have been responsible for the distribution of transit security grants. Funds were originally distributed by the Office for Domestic Preparedness (ODP). Then it became known as the Office of State and Local Government Coordination and Preparedness (SLGCP). Now it is known as the Office of Grants and Training (G&T). In addition, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is responsible for establishing policy for the program and must now coordinate with G&T.

Along with the organizational changes, each new office has changed the distribution process for the transit security grants. In FY 2003 under ODP, grants went directly to the transit authorities. In FY 2004 under SLGCP, grants went to the State Administrating Agencies (SAAs), which then distributed grants to the transit systems. In FY 2005 under SLGCP, grants went through the SAAs, which then distributed grants to eligible transit systems on a regional basis in coordination with the urban area. Eligible transit systems were then required to work with the SAAs, the urban area, and the other eligible transit systems in their region to come up with a regional transit security plan on how to spend the federal funding before the transit system could be awarded the grant. This is currently the process.

The transit systems that have been allocated DHS funds are accustomed to receiving federal transit funding directly to designated recipients from the FTA under authorizing law. We believe that DHS should work with the FTA in distributing grants to take advantage of FTA’s current familiarity with transit agencies and its own grant making process. While we believe Congress should continue to make federal transit security grants available through the DHS, the FTA model has been in place for years and works well in distributing funds quickly to transit systems. In contrast, DHS’s current process and conditions have created significant barriers and time delays in getting funds into the hands of transit agencies where they can be used to protect riders. We urge Congress to get transit security grants directly to the transit authorities in a way that takes advantage of FTA’s experience and effective delivery system.

In that regard, we note that Section 3028, Subsection (c) of Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act-A Legacy for Users, SAFETEA-LU (P.L. 109-59) requires the Secretary of Transportation and the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security to “issue jointly final regulations to establish the characteristics of and requirements for public transportation security grants, including funding priorities, eligible activities, methods for awarding grants, and limitations on administrative expenses.” We believe this rulemaking could be used to address our concerns and we ask the Committee to direct that it do so.

INFORMATION SHARING

Since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, public transit agencies across the country have worked diligently to strengthen their security plans and procedures. They have also been very active in training personnel and conducting drills to test their capacity to respond to emergencies. Also, to the extent possible within their respective budgets, transit agencies have been incrementally hardening their facilities through the introduction of technologies such as surveillance equipment, access control and intrusion detection systems. While transit agencies have been diligent, they have been unable to fully implement programs with current levels of assistance from the federal government.

A vital component of ensuring public transit’s ability to prepare and respond to critical events is timely receipt of security intelligence in the form of threats, warnings, advisories and access to informational resources. Accordingly, in 2003, the American Public Transportation Association, supported by Presidential Decision Directive #63, established an ISAC for public transit agencies throughout the United States. A grant in the amount of $1.2 million was awarded to APTA by the Federal Transit Administration to establish and operate a very successful Public Transit ISAC that operated 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and gathered information from various sources, including DHS. The ISAC also passed information on to transit agencies following a careful analysis of that information. However, given that the Federal Transit Administration was subsequently unable to access security funds, and given the decision of DHS to not fund ISAC operations, APTA has had to look for an alternate method of providing security intelligence through DHS’s newly created Homeland Security Information Network (HSIN). APTA continues to work with DHS staff to create a useful HSIN application for the transit industry. It is clear, however, that while the HSIN may become an effective resource, it does not duplicate or provide the 24/7 two-way communication functions provided through the Public Transit ISAC. We believe that consistent, on-going and reliable funds from Congress should be provided for the Public Transit ISAC which has been proven an effective delivery mechanism for security intelligence. We respectfully urge Congress to provide $600,000 annually to maintain the Public Transit ISAC.

In addition, APTA’s membership includes many major international public transportation systems, including the London Underground, Madrid Metro, and the Moscow Metro. APTA also has a strong partnership with the European-based transportation association, the International Union of Public Transport. Through these relationships, APTA has participated in a number of special forums in Europe and Asia to give U.S. transit agencies the benefit of their experiences and to help address transit security both here and abroad.

COST OF HEIGHTENED SECURITY

Following the attacks in London in 2005, APTA was asked to assist the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) in conducting a teleconference between the TSA and transit officials to discuss transit impacts pertaining to both increasing and decreasing the DHS threat levels. There is no question that increased threat levels have a dramatic impact on budget expenditures of transit agencies and extended periods pose significant impacts on personnel costs. The costs totaled $900,000 per day for U.S. public transit agencies or an estimated $33.3 million from July 7 to August 12, 2005 during the heightened state of “orange” for public transportation. This amount does not include costs associated with additional efforts by New York, New Jersey and other systems to conduct random searches.

Many transit agencies are also implementing other major programs to upgrade security. For example, New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (NY-MTA) is taking broad and sweeping steps to help ensure the safety and security of its transportation systems in what are among the most extensive security measures taken by a public transportation system to date. NY-MTA will add 1,000 surveillance cameras and 3,000 motion sensors to its network of subways and commuter rail facilities as part of a $260 million Integrated Electronic Security System. In fact, NY-MTA plans to spend over $1.2 billion on transit security.

SECURITY INVESTMENT NEEDS

Mr. Chairman, since the awful events of 9/11, the transit agencies have invested more than $2.5 billion of their own funds for enhanced security measures, building on the industry’s already considerable efforts. At the same time, our industry undertook a comprehensive review to determine how we could build upon our existing industry security practices. This included a range of activities, which include research, best practices, education, information sharing in the industry, and surveys. As a result of these efforts we have a better understanding of how to create a more secure environment for our riders and the most critical security investment needs.

Our survey of public transportation security identified enhancements of at least $5.2 billion in additional capital funding to maintain, modernize, and expand transit system security functions to meet increased security demands. Over $800 million in increased costs for security personnel, training, technical support, and research and development have been identified, bringing total additional transit security funding needs to more than $6 billion.

Responding transit agencies were asked to prioritize the uses for which they required additional federal investment for security improvements. Priority examples of operational improvements include:

  • Funding current and additional transit agency and local law enforcement personnel
  • Funding for over-time costs and extra security personnel during heightened alert levels
  • Training for security personnel
  • Joint transit/law enforcement training
  • Security planning activities
  • Security training for other transit personnel

Priority examples of security capital investment improvements include:

  • Radio communications systems
  • Security cameras on-board transit vehicles and in transit stations
  • Controlling access to transit facilities and secure areas
  • Automated vehicle locator systems
  • Security fencing around facilities

Transit agencies with large rail operations also reported a priority need for federal capital funding for intrusion detection devices.

ONGOING TRANSIT SECURITY PROGRAMS

Mr. Chairman, while transit agencies have moved to a heightened level of security alertness, the leadership of APTA has been actively working with its strategic partners to develop a practical plan to address our industry’s security and emergency preparedness needs. In light of our new realities for security, the APTA Executive Committee has established a Security Affairs Steering Committee. This committee addresses our security strategic issues and directions for our initiatives. This committee will also serve as the mass transit sector coordination council that will interface with DHS and other federal agencies forming the government coordinating council.

In partnerships with the Transportation Research Board, APTA supported two TCRP panels that identified and initiated specific projects developed to address Preparedness/Detection/Response to Incidents and Prevention and Mitigation.

In addition to the TCRP funded efforts, APTA has been instrumental in the development of numerous security and emergency preparedness tools and resources. Many of these resources were developed in close partnership with the FTA and we are presently focused on continuing that same level of partnership with various entities within DHS. Also, APTA has reached out to other organizations and international transportation associations to formally engage in sharing information on our respective security programs and to continue efforts that raise the bar for safety and security effectiveness.

RAIL AND PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION SECURITY ACT OF 2007

Mr. Chairman, we thank you for making public transportation security improvements a priority for your Committee. We appreciate your interest and support for strengthening the federal program intended to protect tens of millions of transit users and the hundreds of thousands of transit workers against terrorism. We appreciate the $3.36 billion which would be authorized for transit security grants under this bill and believe it would allow us to make considerable progress in addressing the $6 billion in transit security needs that have been identified.

This legislation and current programs place the responsibility for transit security squarely on the DHS, however we urge the Congress to require DHS to effectively partner with both transit agencies and the FTA in its efforts to enhance transit security. Every major transit agency has already conducted security risk assessments for their system. Transit agency operators understand their security vulnerabilities and needs. While we understand the need for DHS and the Congress to ensure that limited resources are used as efficiently as possible, we also feel strongly that providing these systems with the resources to deter, detect, and prevent terrorist activities, and to respond effectively if a critical event does occur, should be of paramount importance. We remain convinced that a more efficient delivery system for grants, ideally one where funds go directly to transit agencies, is one of the most effective ways to enhance security. The current system where agencies, after receiving an allocation, must develop regional plans for use of grant funds, pass those proposals back up to DHS through state agencies, then have DHS often request grant proposal modifications which are passed back down through the chain before they are resubmitted and ultimately awarded has not worked well. It is slow and inefficient.

We also appreciate that funds under this bill are made available to address both operational and capital needs. Funding is needed to support additional security personnel, as well as overtime and salary costs related to training, drills, planning and risk assessments. Funding is also needed for technology and capital improvements. In both cases, however, we urge Congress to provide flexibility because assessments, technology, and operating needs do vary in different cities and among transit agencies with a wide variety of different operating conditions. Large rail systems are different from bus systems in smaller communities, and both are different than commuter rail operations. We believe that the determination of appropriate technology needs and operating improvements are something that is best done in partnership with the transit industry and not determined unilaterally by DHS. Further, the requirement for assessments at all agencies in communities with more than 50,000 people should recognize the differences among resources, capabilities and risks in different size communities and agencies.

We are also concerned about how the regulatory responsibility placed on DHS in the bill may move accountability away from the transit agencies themselves. Transit agencies should be held accountable for the efficient use of grant funds, but grant oversight should not become an impediment to using these grants to improve security. We also question whether the civil penalties and enforcement of regulations required under the bill will improve security. Transit systems are generally state, county, or municipal agencies headed by local officials responsible to the people of their community. If transit systems are fined, such penalties will essentially be paid by taxpayers and fare paying customers or come at the expense of transit service or transit security.

As noted earlier, we are concerned about the requirement for a state or local match for security grants. National security is a federal responsibility. Security should not be predicated on a community’s ability to raise local tax funds. We are also concerned about a process that would necessitate the detailed disclosure of how security funds are to be used in a public forum. A local match requires the approval of a local governing body. Approval of such grants in an open, public forum, where specific project information is discussed is simply inappropriate for security sensitive projects. We should not make such information available to potential terrorists.

We further urge Congress to fund the development of security standards and protocols by the industry, and for the Public Transit Information Sharing Analysis Center (ISAC). Security standards are currently being developed by APTA in partnership with DHS and the DOT, but, to date, funding support has not been provided by DHS. Similarly, the public transit ISAC continues to provide a vital 24/7 security information service to the transit industry and its continuation is also in need of funding support.

CONCLUSION

Mr. Chairman, I want to thank you for your leadership and to thank this Committee for its efforts to improve security in the nation’s transit agencies. We pledge our cooperation as you continue to develop the national response to this issue. We genuinely appreciate the opportunity to comment on this important legislation and stand ready to work with DHS and the Congress to protect our riders, employees and communities against potential terrorist acts.


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