APTA President William Millar Statement to the Senate

Millar gives APTA stance on rail security to Committee on Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs


We urge Congress to act decisively. While transit systems 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 spending on transit security. In light of the documented needs, we urge Congress to increase federal support for transit security grants to assist transit systems in addressing the $6 billion in identified transit security needs. Last year, we asked Congress to provide no less than $545 million in the Homeland Security Appropriations bill. Funding at that level annually would allow for dramatic improvement in security for the nation's transit users 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) so that DHS can in turn provide that amount in grant funding to the APTA security standards program which includes participation with our federal partners to assist with the development of transit security standards. In addition, we respectfully urge Congress to provide $600,000 to maintain the Public Transit Information Sharing Analysis Center (ISAC).

With regard to improving the distribution of funds under the existing transit security programs, we recommend that the existing process for distributing DHS grants be modified so that funds are made directly to transit authorities, rather than through State Administrating Agencies (SAA). We believe direct funding to the 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 and thus productively used. As transit security is part of the larger war on terrorism, federal funding for transit security grants should be provided with no state or local match requirement. The requirement of a local or state match would have detrimental consequences that would create a scenario of disparity that ensures stronger security only to regions with available local funding. A local match would require the approval of a local governing body. This approval would not be possible to obtain under the current DHS transit security structure, which does not allow transit providers to anticipate their funding levels or know what projects will be funded. Once the project to be funded is identified, the local governing body would need to approve funding in an open, public forum, where specific project information would be discussed. This would be problematic for security sensitive projects.

BACKGROUND

In 2004 APTA surveyed its U.S. transit system members to determine what actions they needed to take to improve security for their customers, employees and facilities. In response to the survey, transit agencies around the country have identified in excess of $6 billion in transit security investment needs. State and local governments and transit agencies are doing what they can to improve security, but it is important that the federal government be a full partner in the effort to ensure the security of the nation's transit users.

In FY 2003, $65 million in federal funds was allocated for transit systems by DHS for 20 transit systems. In FY 2004, $50 million was allocated by DHS for 30 transit systems. 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 are very appreciative of these efforts. However, in the face of significant needs, more needs to be done.

It is important to point out that there have been significant efforts in support of transit security authorization legislation in the Senate. As noted earlier, the Senate in 2004 and 2006 unanimously passed legislation that would have provided $3.5 billion over three years for transit security. That legislation was reported out of this committee, and we very much appreciate the committee's support in that regard. We look forward to working with the committee on these and other issues important to the transit industry.