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Five Policy Prescriptions for Transportation Job Creation and Growth




After the President’s State of the Union address, federal policy circles are squarely focused on how to speed and grow America’s economic recovery. President Obama was right when he said America needs “a set of concrete, practical proposals to speed up growth, strengthen the middle class and build new ladders of opportunity.”

America’s public transportation infrastructure provides one excellent opportunity to build a more equitable, prosperous economy. Here are five policy prescriptions that can help create good jobs and growth in the transportation sector:

1. Make a globally competitive investment in infrastructure. Increase federal funding to address America’s infrastructure deficits identified by the American Society of Civil Engineers and detailed in the BlueGreen Alliance’s Repair America report, especially in the transportation sector. Investments in transportation can put Americans back to work while rebuilding our crumbling roads and bridges, and improving the efficiency of our rail and transit systems. Modern, smarter, safer infrastructure is a critical foundation not just for job growth, but for competitive businesses and resilient world-class cities.

2. Sweat the details to rebuild local economies. Enact procurement policies that push transit agencies — and the bus and rail car manufacturers they contract with — to substantially increase the equipment and components they source domestically. Smart transit procurement can create good jobs, fill gaps in the American manufacturing supply chain and build more businesses able to compete in a growing and innovating global industry. A framework developed by the Jobs to Move America coalition (of which the BlueGreen Alliance is a member) provides an easily accessible tool for transit agencies to maximize the local economic benefits whenever they make large purchases of trains, subway cars and buses, while still optimizing quality and cost.

3. Make the most of our taxpayer dollars. Extend and enhance our commitment to Buy America. A recent post in the National Journal Transit Insiders blog asked transportation experts to assess federal Buy America requirements and their impact on the economy. As the National Journal post points out, the concept of “Buy America” is not controversial. However, in practice, federally funded transit projects vary significantly in the proportion of components sourced domestically. We can do more.

4. Extend the transportation renaissance. A combination of forward looking fuel economy and carbon pollution standards, and investments focused on retooling factories to build the next generation of advanced cars and trucks in the United States, has brought back hundreds of thousands of advanced engineering and manufacturing jobs to America’s rebounding auto sector. A commitment to deploying advanced, fuel-efficient, clean-fuel and electric buses and trains – and manufacturing them in the United States — can do the same, while cutting air pollution that hurts our health and destabilizes our climate.

5. Keep moving forward. Continue to take a systematic look at how to enhance the total value of all our infrastructure investments in American communities, businesses and the manufacturing sector. In 2010, the Apollo Alliance developed a Clean Transportation Manufacturing Action Plan, a comprehensive strategy to boost domestic transit and freight manufacturing that could have created 3.7 million U.S. jobs across the economy by 2016, while increasing public transportation ridership and building out America’s intercity and high-speed rail systems. Today, as we consider local, state and federal investments in repairing our infrastructure, it’s worth taking a second look at the full range of smart policies and approaches that can help us turn jobs promises into reality.

(Zoe Lipman is a Senior Policy Advisor at the BlueGreen Alliance.)

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