April 3, 2019
FTA has an Opportunity To Further Promote Lessons Learned To Enhance the Protection of Rolling Stock at Transit Agencies
What We Looked At
Hurricane Sandy caused widespread damage to the transportation infrastructure in the mid-Atlantic and northeastern United States in October 2012. This included damage to transit vehicles—buses, vans, cars, railcars, and locomotives, referred to as rolling stock—in the New York City metropolitan area. To support communities with damaged public transit systems, Congress appropriated $10.9 billion to the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), which provided funds to the transit agencies in the affected areas. Accordingly, our objectives were to assess (1) FTA’s implementation of relevant guidance and oversight of emergency planning as it relates to the rolling stock of recipients impacted by Hurricane Sandy and other natural disasters and (2) the extent to which lessons learned from experiences with protecting rolling stock during Hurricane Sandy have been incorporated into emergency relief plans and procedures at FTA and the Office of the Secretary of Transportation.
What We Found
Consistent with the Agency’s interpretation of its authority under current Federal law, FTA does not require recipients to develop plans to protect rolling stock before an emergency and assumes a limited role in discussing such activities. Although they lacked a Federal requirement to do so, the five transit agencies we reviewed put emergency procedures in place before the hurricane struck. Still, they experienced over $171 million in damage to rolling stock vehicles, which suggests there are benefits to improving the protection of rolling stock. Furthermore, FTA could do more to promote the lessons learned by its recipients, which might help transit agencies elsewhere protect their own rolling stock during future disasters. However, FTA doesn’t provide a consistent or centralized means for sharing lessons learned to help other transit agencies protect their assets—actions that could result in disaster-related cost savings.
We made two recommendations to improve the protection of public transit agency assets from future disasters. FTA partially concurred with the first recommendation and fully concurred with the second.