America’s mass transportation systems were once the envy of the world. The United States was one of the first nations to use ferries to carry commuters to work and recreation. By the end of the Industrial Age (1760s – 1840s), the United States mass transit system was a prototype for other Western Nations: France, Germany, and England patterned their public transit systems after America’s. New York City was the crown jewel of America’s transportation systems. As early as 1862, street cars operated by the Washington and Georgetown Streetcar Company were carrying passengers down Pennsylvania Avenue pass the White House.
Urban mass transportation in the United States has a great and storied history. In 1962, President John F. Kennedy recognized the need to upgrade the urban mass transit system to help urban dwellers travel to places of work and play. President Kennedy realized that a strong urban transit system was crucial to the economic well-being of the nation’s cities. After the assassination of President Kennedy, President Lyndon Johnson moved forward with Kennedy’s mass transit legacy and introduced legislation to improve the mass transportation infrastructure of America’s cities. Congress passed the Urban Mass Transportation Act in 1964.
New York City Subway Train Derailments in the Past Two Decades
New York City’s subway system is in shambles. The infrastructure (tracks, trains, stations, signaling and communications technology) has outlived its normal life cycle by several decades. New York City’s “subway’s infrastructure is crumbling, and those in charge don’t know how to fix it” (Kerns, 2017, p.2). New York City’s subway system is still controlled by outdated technology that cause major delays (25% of the New York Metro’s scheduled subway stops are late), and outworn tracks and antiquated signaling systems put travelers at risk. New York transit passengers depend on a safe and reliable transit system to ensure that the world’s largest city remains world-class.
Washington, D.C. is the home of political power, big money politics, and a subway system that is fraught with danger and trouble. The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) operates the District of Columbia’s beleaguered subway system. The history of WMATA’s problems is well-documented. In the past three decades D.C. subways have suffered several major accidents that have killed numerous passengers and injured hundreds more. Federal and state officials have attributed these accidents to both poor safety process implementation and an inadequate transit infrastructure.