7. Is AirTrain a `Public Transit Guideway'?

If the AirTrain is a "public transit guideway," then the plain meaning of

§ 99152 is that the AirTrain is subject to safety oversight jurisdiction of this Commission. City Charter provisions that suggest otherwise cannot stand in the face of Article XII, § 8 of the California Constitution, which provides: "A city, county, or other public body may not regulate matters over which the Legislature grants regulatory power to the Commission."

SFO argues that § 99152 is applicable only to transit districts because the legislation falls within Division 10 of the Public Utilities Code entitled "Transit Districts." What SFO fails to point out is that § 99152 is contained in that division's Part 11, entitled "Provisions Applicable to All Public Transit," and Chapter 3, entitled "Miscellaneous." Section 99152 pointedly omits any reference to "transit districts" in its language.

We have dealt with this issue before. In Brown v. Santa Clara County Transportation Agency (1994) 56 CPUC2d 554, 55b, we stated:

While PU Code Division 10 (which contains § 99152) is titled "Transit Districts," it is not limited to transit districts (e.g., it includes special benefit districts (§ 99101); nonfixed route operator, dial-a-ride, paratransit (§§ 99155 and 99155.5); public entity (§ 99160)). The treatment of these other entities is interspersed with statutes dealing with transit districts. Thus, Division 10 is not limited to transit districts.

Moreover, § 99152 is within Chapter 3 ("Miscellaneous"), Part 11 ("Provisions Applicable to All Public Transit") of Division 10. That is, the subject section covers miscellaneous aspects applicable to all public transit.

We conclude that the literal reading of the statute accurately reflects the Legislature's intent to include "[a]ny public transit guideway." We reject the notion that the Legislature intended the Commission to regulate guideways of public transit districts (the primary business of which is to safely transport millions of people) while not regulating guideways of an airport (the ancillary business of which is its new AirTrain), thereby exempting an inexperienced entity from Commission safety standards for a new unmanned guideway trolley system.

We also reject SFO's argument that because it does not charge a fare for use of AirTrain, § 99152 does not apply pursuant to the definitions of "transit" contained in §§ 40005, 70005, 90005 and 980052. SFO's interpretation is predicated on a reading of the language of those statutes that uses "fare-paying" to modify the word "transportation." We believe that a more reasonable reading would use "fare-paying" to modify the words "any other motor vehicle," presuming that the Legislature sought to exempt private cars but not taxis.

In any event, the interpretation of the language is irrelevant because the sections that use such language apply to transit districts. If one is to use language defining transit for the purposes of a district to interpret the applicability of § 99152, one can just as easily use §§ 24505, 50005, 100012, 102012, and 103012. Those provisions define "transit" as "the transportation of passengers and their incidental baggage by any means."3 (Emphasis added.)

To reiterate, § 99152 does not apply just to districts; it applies to "[a]ny public transit guideway." "Fare-paying" is not a determinative factor because (1) it rests on a definition of "transit" applicable to some, but not all public transit districts (no one except the City and County of San Francisco is here suggesting that SFO needs to be defined as a public transit district, which it decidedly is not, for § 99152 to apply); (2) it rests on a strained interpretation of how "fare-paying" modifies the word "transportation" instead of "any other motor vehicle"; and (3) it presupposes that the Legislature wanted only those who pay to ride a transit conveyance to be safe from negligent operators, something that even the most cynical observer of our Legislature would be reluctant to infer.

As Staff points out, the California Attorney General has defined "public transit guideway" in a manner that clearly includes the AirTrain. So has the Commission, both in GO 143-B, section 2.11, and in Brown v. Santa Clara, supra, 56 CPUC2d at 556 ("A system of public transportation utilizing passenger vehicles that are physically restricted from discretionary movement in a lateral direction"). Those definitions are consistent with that of the Federal Transit Administration:

Fixed guideway system means a mass transportation facility which utilizes and occupies a separate right-of-way, or rail line, for the exclusive use of mass transportation and other high occupancy vehicles, or uses a fixed catenary system and a right of way usable by other forms of transportation. This includes, but is not limited to, rapid rail, light rail, commuter rail, automated guideway transit, people movers, ferry boat service and fixed-guideway facilities for buses (such as bus rapid transit) and other high occupancy vehicles. (49 CFR Part 611.5; emphasis added.)

The state's interest in the safety of public transportation is controlling and supersedes that of cities, counties and local governments. (Civic Center Ass'n v. Railroad Com. (1917) 175 Cal. 441.) The Legislature has declared that "the fostering, continuance, and development of public transportation systems are a matter of state concern." (§ 99220(b).) Section 99211 defines a public transportation system as "any system of an operator which provides transportation services to the general public by any vehicle which operates on land or water, regardless of whether operated separated from or in conjunction with other vehicles." The AirTrain clearly is a public transportation system, and the safety regulation of such systems has been delegated by the Legislature to this Commission.

We conclude that the SFO AirTrain is, in the words of § 99152, a "public transit guideway planned, acquired, or constructed, on or after January 1, 1979," and that, therefore, it "is subject to regulations of the Public Utilities Commission relating to safety appliances and procedures." We further conclude that the Commission is required by the Legislature to inspect all work done on the

guideway, make additions or changes necessary for the purpose of safety, and provide safety oversight in the design, construction, and operation of the guideway.

2 Each of these definitions of "transit" is identical. For example, § 98005, applicable to the Santa Cruz Metropolitan Transit District, states as follows: 3 Section 103012, applicable to the San Mateo County Transit District, has a slightly different definition, stating that: "'Transit' or `transit service' means the transportation of passengers and their incidental baggage and parcels by any means."

Previous PageTop Of PageNext PageGo To First Page