UMTA Needs To Ensure That Adequate Testing and Evaluation Is Done on Future Mass Transit Rail Vehicles

MASAD-82-25: Published: Mar 22, 1982. Publicly Released: Mar 22, 1982.

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Donald E. Day
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The Department of Transportation Test Center is a facility operated and administered by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) which conducts research and development testing for the railroads. FRA is planning to vacate the test center raising concerns whether a sufficient testing facility will be available in the future to do essential tests on mass transit vehicles to ensure that performance requirements are met.

FRA recently recommended that the test center be taken over by the private sector because the use of the facility did not appear to justify the expense. The railroad industry was the first group considered to take over the center. However, if the industry does not want to buy the test facility, it may be offered for sale to other groups in the private sector. Transferring the FRA control of the test center would be unlikely to affect the existing Urban Mass Transportation Administration (UMTA) testing program for mass transit vehicles. However, if the center is closed, testing would be limited to that which could be done on transit authority tracks. Since 80 percent of the cost of the transit vehicles is paid for by UMTA through grant programs, UMTA is concerned about the adequacy of testing done on transit authority tracks and about the quality and safety of the transit vehicles. Although the transit authorities can conduct many of the tests done at the test center on their own tracks, testing would be limited and less comprehensive. The test center has significant capabilities and the tests done at the center have been beneficial to the transit authorities because they save time, improve performance, and return the cars to revenue service on a timely basis. Obviously, testing is an important function in the total acquisition process, and it is the responsibility of the Administrator of UMTA to retain testing efficiency and effectiveness regardless of the future of the test center.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: When the recommendation was made there was concern that the Transportation Test Center at Pueblo, Colorado would be sold or closed and not be available for testing subcars and trolleys acquired by federally supported transit systems. Since then, the Federal Railroad Administration has transferred control of the test center to the Association of American Railroads.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should direct the Administrator, UMTA, to fully consider future testing requirements for Federally supported transit systems.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation: Urban Mass Transportation Administration


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