Transport Canada’s Rail Safety Improvement Program (RSIP) is a fantastic way for any public agency (large or small) to fund rail safety improvement projects of all sizes and costs. The program funds 80% of project costs and the remaining 20% can be provided by the public agency through cash or in-kind contributions. There is no limit to the number of applications you can submit each year, although the maximum total funding you can receive is $10 million per fiscal year. Applications are due on August 1, 2020.
Although RSIP is one of the most effective, underutilized, simple, and flexible programs available to address the immediate needs of communities related to rail safety, more than half of the applications are rejected for various reasons.
TRAINFO has successfully applied for RSIP funding twice, has helped 7 public agencies apply for nearly $2.5 million in funding, and regularly meets with Transport Canada to discuss RSIP and learn how to leverage the program most effectively. Based on our experience and these discussions, we compiled a list of tips for successfully applying for RSIP funding.
The most common reason RSIP applications are rejected is due to a poor business case. Rail crossing safety problems must be quantified in terms of the number of collisions, fatalities, vehicle exposure to collision risks at rail crossings, and trespassing. Data to support these metrics are available from Transport Canada’s Grade Crossings Inventory database here. Transport Canada also produces inspection reports for rail crossings which should be referenced in RSIP applications. Applicants should note the issues raised in these reports, particularly the notice of orders if applicable.
Additional data can also strengthen your application, including recent traffic counts, detailed rail crossing blockage data (e.g., number of blockages by hour, average blockage duration), and vehicle delay at rail crossings. Analyzing this data, cross-referencing it with inventory data, and comparing it to regional and national trends demonstrates a thorough understanding of the rail crossing safety issue. Tools such as GradeX are helpful for predicting collision risk for a specific rail crossing and can help you prioritize crossings for improvement.
This understanding also positions you to identify targeted solutions, which leads to the other side of building a strong business case: quantifying the benefits. Seek research and publications that quantify the expected reduction in collisions by treatment type. Accident prediction models, such as those provided by GradeX and the US Federal Railroad Administration, can be used as a tool and Crash Modification Factors from the FHWA Clearinghouse can provide inputs for these models. Referencing published research reports on the expected benefits of various treatments is also helpful. Sometimes benefits, such as expected changes in driver behavior, can be difficult to quantify but are nonetheless important to consider. Applicants should qualitatively describe these changes and reference sources that support these claims.
The more data you can provide and source, the better your chances of receiving RSIP funding. Transport Canada will review and assess each application, but does not have the resources to search for data to verify the claims in every application and is not responsible for making the business case on your behalf. Do yourself and Transport Canada a favour and put in the effort to find/produce, analyze, and document this data.
Improving rail crossing safety is a joint effort between Transport Canada, the railroads, and local public agencies. RSIP is a mechanism to facilitate dialogue between these parties and partner together to improve public safety. Obtaining support from railroads for your RSIP application helps accomplish this objective, validates the problem you are trying to address, and demonstrates that the railroad is supportive of the proposed solution. The railroad may also be a useful resource for better quantifying the problem and identifying solutions. Beyond this validation, obtaining railroad support also de-risks Transport Canada’s decision to award funding to your organization since the project is unlikely to be impacted by railroad opposition.
As you can tell from the above tips, experience with rail crossing safety, relationships with the railroads, and familiarity with the RSIP process is critical. Many public agencies do not have an internal resource that checks all these boxes, or this resource has limited time to commit to preparing an RSIP application. This inexperience or lack of a dedicated point person for the RSIP project is another reason why RSIP applications are rejected or projects are unsuccessful.
That’s why the cities of Vancouver, Calgary, Winnipeg, Niagara Falls, Edmonton, Burnaby, and others have come to TRAINFO for help. We have access to GradeX tools, have completed more than 10 RSIP applications in the past two years, and have experts that can quantify collision risk and benefits. Best of all, we will prepare and submit your RSIP application for qualifying technological solutions for no charge.
Please contact us at email@example.com to learn more about our complimentary RSIP application services.