The annual South by Southwest Festivals and Conferences (SXSW) in Austin, Texas, always attracts some of the most innovative thinkers in entertainment and technology. So there was no better place to hold a conversation with several of our government and industry partners on one of the most rapidly emerging and evolving sectors in aviation: unmanned aircraft systems.
The FAA's engagement with its interagency and industry partners is central to the safe integration of drones into our nation's airspace. Last fall, when we decided to create a registry for small unmanned aircraft, we brought together a diverse task force to develop recommendations for the online system. They met this challenge with an admirable willingness to come together to protect the safety of the airspace while fostering innovation in this emerging sector.
Together, we created a simple tool that enables operators to register before they fly in just a few easy steps. The registry is now providing a valuable opportunity to educate hobbyists on safe flying practices. I was pleased to announce this week that 400,000 people have registered to fly.
For more than 20 years, State Safety Oversight Agencies (SSOAs) have served as the primary oversight agencies for rail fixed guideway public transportation systems within their State. During that time, the SSOAs responsibility has been to review and approve System Safety Program Plans, oversee accident investigation and reporting, and conduct triennial safety reviews. However, SSOAs lacked the appropriate enforcement authority, and had limited funding and staff to effectively carry out their critical mission of ensuring the safety of transit passengers and workers.
The Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21) Act amended Federal transit law by directing the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) to establish a comprehensive public transportation safety program to improve the safety of our Nation's public transportation systems, which includes an enhanced State Safety Oversight Program. Today, FTA is proud to announce the first of four safety regulations required by Congress will be published in the Federal Register on March 16, 2016, and take effect 30 days later.
The State Safety Oversight Program final rule (SSO rule) replaces existing regulations and significantly strengthens an SSOA’s authority to prevent and mitigate accidents and incidents on rail transit systems to help ensure the safety of riders and workers. Each SSOA is now required to have the enforcement authority, legal and financial independence from the agencies it oversees, and human resources necessary for overseeing the number, size, and complexity of the rail transit agencies within its jurisdiction. In addition, SSOAs must train and certify personnel responsible for performing safety oversight activities and will continue to conduct triennial audits of the safety programs established by each rail transit system.
This week, millions of Americans will wear green clothing and enjoy St. Patrick’s Day festivities across the country. Whether Irish or not, many say “Erin Go Bragh,” as tradition dictates.
But there is no tradition quite as important as getting home safely – and the safety performance measures we are unveiling this week in the Federal Register are part of a wide-ranging program to reduce highway deaths, including bicycle-pedestrian fatalities. By putting rigorous new standards in place, we are making safety an important part of an ambitious new performance management program. Safety is our top priority, and ensuring that states and large cities are setting benchmarks to which they will be held accountable is a step in the right direction.
As has been reported widely, roadway fatalities have increased nationwide. The reasons are many, but we can do a better job of reducing crashes – whether fatal or not – by updating our Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP). Major provisions involve requirements for all states to set safety targets and report on their progress toward achieving them. A performance-based approach, with improved data about roads and consistent definitions of serious injuries, will help increase roadway safety and set a higher standard for data-driven safety decision-making. These updates will also boost collaboration among our state and local road safety partners, and provide transparency for the American public. By requiring states to set and report on their safety targets, and provide greater consistency in the reporting of serious injuries, these rules will help save lives.
Last December, we launched our Smart City Challenge, where we asked medium-sized cities to present us with ideas for how to create a fully integrated, first-of-its-kind transportation network that uses data, technology and creativity to shape how people and goods move in the future.
I’m proud to say that cities across the U.S. rose to meet our Challenge, and the response was overwhelming. By early February, we received applications from 78 cities that fully embraced the spirit of the Challenge and presented us with unique visions, partnerships, and blueprints for making their ideas into reality.
The seven winning cities are: Austin, TX; Columbus, OH; Denver, CO; Kansas City, MO; Pittsburgh, PA; Portland, OR; and San Francisco, CA. And on Saturday, I was joined by representatives of the finalists, including Austin Mayor Steve Adler, Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther, Kansas City Mayor Sly James, Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto, and Portland Mayor Charlie Hales, as well as private sector partners to announce the Smart Challenge City finalists.
Pictured: Mayor Sly James (Kansas City), Mayor Andrew Ginther (Columbus), Mayor Bill Peduto (Pittsburgh), Mayors Steve Adler (Austin), Secretary Anthony Foxx, Mayor Michael Hancock (Denver), C), Mayor Charlie Hales (Portland) and Spencer Reeder of Paul G. Allen’s Vulcan Inc.
You may have noticed that we listed seven cities, rather than what we originally announced, which was five. The truth is, after we had a chance to read through the tremendously impressive concepts and designs, it became almost impossible to narrow it down. Ultimately we decided to invite two additional cities to the next round, to give a broader range of communities a chance at winning the ultimate prize.
Once again, on March 13th, most Americans will return to daylight saving time at 2 a.m. and turn their clocks ahead one hour, giving them an additional hour of daylight in the evening.
Officially, daylight saving time is observed from the second Sunday in March to the First Sunday in November, with the nation returning to standard time later in the year. Federal law specifies that those areas observing the time change must use these starting and ending dates.
That means, if you live anywhere in the U.S. except Hawaii, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Marianas, and most of Arizona, you should set your clocks ahead one hour this weekend.
In January, at the North American International Auto Show, I unveiled a 10-year, $3.9 billion proposal in the President’s budget to advance autonomous vehicle technology. That same day, the Department released a series of steps we will take to pave the way for the development of these new vehicle technologies, including fully autonomous vehicles, in the safest way possible.
Today, we’re announcing some important milestones towards reaching those goals. The first is that the U.S. DOT will hold two public hearings - one in Washington, D.C., and one in California – to hear directly from you about how to best integrate the safe operation of automated vehicles.
The first meeting will take place April 8th in Washington; we plan to announce the date and location for the California session soon. Your opinion matters and I encourage everyone who is able to attend these hearings to stop by. The feedback from these meetings will help the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) provide manufacturers with the rules of the road for how we expect automated vehicles to operate safely.
Around this time last year, I was wrapping up a national bus tour to galvanize support for long-term transportation funding. Ten years of short-term extensions to our Highway Trust Fund had left roads and bridges in bad shape – congestion was choking economic growth, business owners were finding it harder to ship their goods, and everyday folks were finding it harder to get to work.
So I hit the road to spread the word. After two bus tours and visits to leaders in 43 states, I’m happy to say that we finally received a long-term bill – the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act.
Today we began rolling out changes to the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act, known as TIFIA, that were mandated by the FAST Act. These changes will allow the Department to expand the types of projects and applicants eligible for TIFIA credit assistance, while also working to streamline the credit review process.
They will allow us to support even more projects with even less money – projects like the Presidio Parkway in San Francisco, the new U.S. 301 in Delaware, and the Cooper River Bridge Replacement in Charleston.
My grandfather worked as a railroad Pullman porter helping to move U.S. troops across the country during World War II. My father and husband both served in our armed forces. As someone who has been surrounded by veterans my entire life, I understand how valuable the strong work ethic, self-discipline and commitment of military service members are to our Nation’s economy.
I was reminded of this earlier today when I attended this year’s Washington Women Speak: Celebrating Women in Military. These highly esteemed women shared their inspiring personal stories of leadership and accomplishment during their military experience.
I’m proud to work at an Agency that actively creates opportunities for America’s veterans. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is involved in several initiatives aimed at helping veterans find post-military careers across the truck and bus industries.
At DOT, we see that innovative ideas and new technologies are offering us an opportunity to improve safety in all modes of transportation.
We also know that the U.S. aviation industry is on the leading edge of generating many of these new technologies and products. In recent years, manufacturers have developed robust and increasingly affordable products that can offer pilots sophisticated weather information and increased situational awareness, along with other safety devices such as seatbelts with built-in airbags.
I’ve been spending a great deal of time talking about how government must work hard to keep up with innovation coming out of the private sector. Both DOT and FAA are mindful of the fact that technology is moving at a pace that requires the government to adopt a fresh, agile, forward-looking regulatory framework to accommodate the industry’s efforts to incorporate the latest technologies into its products.
This is especially important when it comes to aviation. We have the largest and most diverse general aviation community in the world and its overall health is vital to the U.S. economy.
Summary: Yesterday, DOT announced that $2 billion in unspent earmarks can be freed up for states to use for new investments in infrastructure. This is an important milestone in ending the use of earmarks and investing in U.S. infrastructure – but more remains to be done.
Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced that roughly $2 billion can be freed up for states to use for rebuilding our nation’s transportation system. All of this funding was previously unspent “earmarks” that were more than a decade old, so yesterday’s action takes potentially wasteful pork barrel spending stuffed into transportation bills by Congress and puts it to good use. Instead of sitting idle, these funds will now be available to help improve our infrastructure, keep drivers safe, and provide opportunities for communities nationwide.
These steps build on actions that began in the earliest days of the Obama Administration, when the President worked together with Congress to change the way that business is done in Washington - by increasing transparency and accountability for the way that taxpayer dollars are spent, including helping end transportation earmarks. Today, those efforts are yielding real results. Clearing out this legacy backlog of earmarks frees up stranded dollars to repave roads, fix bridges, or build new interchanges, which will create jobs and lay the foundations for long-term economic growth. Yesterday's action also builds on a similar action taken in August 2012, when USDOT made over $470 million in unspent earmarks immediately available to states for projects that create jobs and help improve transportation across the country.