8660 Public Utilities Commission
Program Descriptions


The PUC oversees the safety of railroads, rail transit systems, rail crossings, and other forms of motor conveyance in California. All railroads, 7 major rail transit agencies, 6 smaller transit systems, and more than 13,500 public and private crossings are subject to PUC regulation and inspection. For traditional heavy rail, the PUC's specially trained and federally-certified inspectors inspect all tracks (annually), all train equipment and facilities (thrice annually), and all signals and appurtenances; investigate all rail accidents resulting in loss of life and property damage; and ensure safe transport of hazardous materials by rail.

For rail transit systems, PUC inspectors and engineers conduct safety inspections of track, vehicles, signals and train control, and operations, as well as overall agency triennial safety audits. The PUC also has exclusive authority to approve or disapprove all highway-rail crossings of railroad or rail transit tracks, and crossing safety treatments deployed at each crossing. Additionally, the PUC jointly (with Caltrans) administers the state's annual allocation of federal funds for crossing hazard elimination projects and the state's grade separation program, which assists localities with the high cost of grade-separating highway/rail crossings.

The transportation program also oversees passenger carriers, including privately-owned for-hire passenger transportation companies (e.g., limousines, airport shuttles, and charter and scheduled bus operators), privately-owned water ferries, and household goods carriers. The program regulates rates and services, issues certificates and other licenses, enforces safety standards and insurance requirements, and protects consumers from moving companies and for-hire passenger carriers operating illegally.