Get to Know the Federal Transit Administration

A smiling woman looks out the window of a bus.

The United States Federal Transit Administration (FTA) is on the lookout for the next generation of career seekers to continue their mission of safety. Working for the FTA, you would do your part to keep public transit one of the safest ways to travel in United States.

We interviewed FTA’s Lynn Spencer to learn more about FTA’s mission and the career opportunities waiting for students. Spencer is the director of FTA’s Office of Systems Safety within the Office of Transit Safety and Oversight, which is the branch of the FTA that deals specifically with public transit safety. There are various offices at FTA that deal with other topics related to transit in the United States, such as funding or environmental sustainability.

Lynn Spencer, U.S. Federal Transit Authority

Click a button to watch an interview with Lynn Spencer:

Spencer’s job, in particular, involves working with policymakers and transit agencies across the nation. She makes sure congressional rules and regulations are in place and are being followed by local transit agencies in order to ensure the safety of America’s public transit systems.

“Congress drafts legislation that tells our agency what we need to do. And we in turn need to write those regulations that tell transit agencies what they must do,” Spencer said, listing a few examples. “Maybe we want [transit agencies] limiting the amount of hours their employees can work, because maybe we’ve had accidents where employees are falling asleep when they’re trying to operate a bus or train. … Or we might give them technical requirements. Or certain safety equipment that they have to have on their buses or their trains.”

She noted that, while public transit is already very safe in United States, it is FTA’s job to maintain this level of safety and further improve it.

“We’re really looking at, similar to aviation, zero accidents. That’s really an acceptable number. And I think people should have that expectation,” she said.

Spencer noted that, to continue its mission, FTA will need future career seekers to pick up where the retiring generation left off.

“A lot of our expertise is getting older. The people who truly understand how transit works … they’re aging. We need the younger generation to come in and develop their expertise. To take the reins when the older generation of expertise retires,” she said.

According to Spencer, there are a wide variety of career opportunities waiting for students in the FTA Office of Transit Safety and Oversight. These range from writing regulations, to accident investigation, to information technology.

“From the government end, we need people that are great writers. That can write training. That can write regulations. … We need accident investigators that have their boots on the ground, investigating when something happens. We need IT people that work all of our data systems that feed us the safety information. We need to know what’s happening out there in transit.”

FTA even has employees that are devoted entirely to researching the cause of transit accidents and different ways to prevent them. These are individuals who are trained to look at data and conduct scientific research that might result in new policies.

“[We have people] that really know how to work data and look at the data in different ways. People that study human factors, that understand why humans respond the way they do, and study why humans react the way they do to certain stimuli,” Spencer said, describing different types of FTA safety researchers.

Check out Lynn Spencer’s video to learn more. Then, visit the FTA website to learn more about its programs, important transit-related issues, and career opportunities within the organization. Find out what you could do in this great Federal Government career!

Aaron Mack
Fast Forward: Volume 3 Issue 4 – Public & Active Transportation