by Cathy Calfo, Executive Director, The Apollo Alliance

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The oil-slicked beaches, out-of-work fishermen and devastated local economies along the Gulf Coast are a stark reminder of our nation's costly addiction to oil. While the Gulf States are now experiencing the most disastrous consequences, Americans nationwide bear the costs of this addiction.  Each day, we send more than $1 billion overseas to purchase oil, and the clean-up to oil spills like the BP disaster is an added financial burden to the American people.  Meanwhile, working people and their families here at home who live in communities without viable alternatives to cars and traditional fuels are dependent on oil and face the hardship of wildly fluctuating gas prices. This is not sustainable for our economy, and it's not sustainable for our environment.

As the world recovers from the current recession, and moves to lessen its dependence on carbon-intensive fossil fuels, the manufacture of advanced public transit and freight vehicles that utilize cleaner, more efficient technologies is emerging as a key growth sector in the new global clean energy economy. The goal of putting the United States at the forefront of the low-carbon economy, and assuming leadership in the design and manufacture of new world-class clean transportation systems, is yet another important reason for America to pursue new transportation policies that spur domestic demand for cleaner ways to move people and goods throughout our economy.

Next generation rail vehicles, energy-efficient buses, and clean trucks are all central components of a cleaner transportation system that can, and should, be made in America. To examine what it will take to build a dynamic U.S. industry around the manufacture of transit systems and clean freight movement, the Apollo Alliance has called upon leading transportation manufacturers, labor unions, and transportation, energy and economic development policy experts to join a TMAP task force and give us their best ideas. We also turned to a set of respected research partners from Duke and Northeastern Universities and the Worldwatch Institute to help us document the job creation potential of a large-scale investment in advanced transportation infrastructure.

America's existing public transit investments already support more than 1.9 million jobs throughout the economy and generate more than $100 billion of economic activity. These investments also generate environmental benefits, saving the equivalent of 4.2 billion gallons of gasoline and reducing carbon emissions by 37 million metric tons each year. Expansion of service and adoption of new technologies can increase these savings even more. Each additional rider on public transit reduces carbon emissions by 4,800 pounds per year, and adoption of hybrid and alternative drive technologies in buses and medium to heavy-duty trucks can reduce fuel use and carbon emissions by 20 to 50 percent.

A recent study by the Economic Policy Institute, in partnership with Surdna grantee Transportation for America, finds that a $500 billion transportation reauthorization (increased from $286 billion in 2006) that aggressively funds expanded public transit and passenger rail services could create 7.1 million jobs throughout the economy, more than 760,000 of which would be in the manufacturing sector. In the freight sector, widespread deployment of advanced medium to heavy-duty trucks could create 124,000 jobs by 2030; and investments to support the manufacture of modern, efficient freight rail cars could support up to 50,000 new jobs.

Currently, the public transit bus, clean truck, passenger and transit rail industries support nearly 50,000 U.S. manufacturing jobs throughout their supply chains.  Jobs in these supply chains are spread across all 50 states, among more than 320 existing companies that could scale up to meet expanded demand. Filling the current backlog of public transit capital investment needs alone - estimated at more than $75 billion - would dramatically expand the market for new public transit vehicles, systems and their component parts. Over the next six years, an estimated 27,600 transit buses, 4,000 passenger rail cars and locomotives, and 220 light rail cars will need to be replaced.

Moreover, freight sector demand for cleaner trucks and rail services is poised to grow as a result of continued growth in freight shipping tonnage combined with new freight efficiency policies, such as the tighter fuel economy standards for heavy-duty vehicles expected in the fall of 2010 and pending legislation that would expand incentives for heavy-duty electric and natural gas trucks. Even without new regulations or incentives, the market for medium to heavy-duty hybrid, plug-in hybrid and full-electric trucks is expected to increase by 63 percent per year over the next five years.

Under the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU), less than 20 percent of total federal transportation spending is invested in public transportation, a trend that has left our nation's transit systems underdeveloped and in a state of disrepair.  Today, almost 30 percent of all transit assets - rail, bus and paratransit - are in poor or marginal condition.

The first step toward the creation of new jobs manufacturing buses, rail cars and other transit vehicles will be to build a stronger domestic market for these vehicles through increased investment.

A $30 billion investment to double current public transit ridership by 2030 would save nearly 5 billion gallons of gas each year - an amount three times greater than our annual oil imports from Kuwait. This level of investment would also support more than 3.5 billion job-years of employment throughout the economy, including more than one million in construction of public transit infrastructure and more than 500,000 in transit-related manufacturing. Adding investment to intercity passenger rail and building a high-speed rail network will create even more economic opportunity.

In 1956, President Eisenhower laid the foundation for decades of American prosperity through a national transportation policy suited to the automobile age. Today, on the cusp of an emerging low-carbon economy, we must again use forward-thinking transportation policy to drive national prosperity.

 


The Apollo Alliance is a coalition of labor, business, environmental, and community leaders working to catalyze a clean energy revolution that will put millions of Americans to work in a new generation of high-quality, green-collar jobs. Inspired by the Apollo space program, we promote investments in energy efficiency, clean power, mass transit, next-generation vehicles, and emerging technology, as well as in education and training. Working together, we will reduce carbon emissions and oil imports, spur domestic job growth, and position America to thrive in the 21st century economy.

Fostering sustainable communities in the United States — communities guided by principles of social justice and distinguished by healthy environments, strong local economies, and thriving cultures.