Insufficient Regulation of DC Metro

A Red Line train services Metro Center, one of...
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The Washington Post reported yesterday on followups to the issues raised by the DC Metro Accident in June. Specifically, government oversight.

While the federal government regulate the safe operation of buses, Amtrak, airplanes, and ferries, it cedes subway oversight to local panels. In the case of the DC Metro, it is the Tri-State Oversight Committee.

Haven’t heard of it? That isn’t surprising. It has no direct authority over safety and cannot order changes. It has no employees, offices, and lacks a phone or website. It borrows space for its monthly meetings, which have never been attended by a member of the public. A Metro train in March, for example, came dangerously close to another. The Committee asked Metro to report back after investigating in a letter in April. To date, there has been no such report.

There has been a call for federal regulation of subway systems. A lack of federal regulation is not automatically a lack of decent regulation. Many state regulatory authorities are equally dedicated and capable. But in the case of the Tri-State Oversight Committee, it has insufficient authority to enact any significant change.

Like any federal regulatory authority, we believe it should be limited in scope, but when it comes to safety, we cannot afford to be too careful.

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