“By every measure, commuting by rail is one of the safest ways to travel and the commuter rail industry is unequivocally committed to implementing innovative safety technologies. The commuter railroad industry is aggressively implementing Positive Train Control (PTC), a technology, which is still being developed and tested, that would prevent collisions between trains and derailments resulting from trains traveling too fast. A PTC system would prevent trains from entering work zones as well as prevent the movement of trains through switches left in the wrong position.
All commuter rail systems in the United States have developed PTC implementation plans and as of June 2013, have spent at least $458 million in installing PTC. It is estimated that the cost of full implementation of PTC will be at least $2.75 billion. To date, Congress has only appropriated $50 million for PTC for this critical safety program.
Appropriating $50 million does not begin to address the costs of PTC implementation. It is APTA’s long-standing position that Congress needs to authorize and appropriate funding for PTC implementation for commuter railroads that will cover 80 percent of the implementation costs. Without additional funds, most commuter rail systems, which are all public agencies, will be constrained in their ability to proceed as quickly as possible.
There are several other reasons, beyond the lack of funding, that APTA has asked for an extension beyond the December 31, 2015 deadline mandated in the Rail Safety Improvement Act (RSIA). Both the Federal Railroad Administration and the Government Accountability Office have reviewed this issue and have concluded that most commuter railroads will not be able to meet the deadline.
There are significant technological challenges. Some of the technology required for PTC systems is still under development and has not yet been fully tested in the commuter railroad environment with its unique operating characteristics where there are often multiple railroads sharing the same segment of track. Also, there are a very limited number of vendors who have the expertise needed to produce and install the systems.
Additionally, PTC is a communications intense technology which requires radio spectrum to transmit data between trains and communications towers. APTA has asked the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to provide free radio spectrum for commuter railroads as a public safety priority. There has been no action on this critical communications element, so APTA has called on Congress to direct the FCC to provide free radio spectrum.
Despite the challenges, the commuter rail industry is dedicated to full development of PTC, and is working aggressively to implement it. Congress must urgently address this critical safety technology and make sure that this congressional mandate is properly funded.”
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The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) is a nonprofit international association of 1,500 public and private sector organizations, engaged in the areas of bus, paratransit, light rail, commuter rail, subways, waterborne services, and intercity and high-speed passenger rail. This includes: transit systems; planning, design, construction, and finance firms; product and service providers; academic institutions; transit associations and state departments of transportation. APTA is the only association in North America that represents all modes of public transportation. APTA members serve the public interest by providing safe, efficient and economical transit services and products. More than 90 percent of the people using public transportation in the United States and Canada ride APTA member systems.