Green Jobs and Workforce Development

Transportation reform has the potential to create green employment opportunities for low-income individuals and communities of color as well as revive struggling regions throughout the state.  As unemployment rates continue to rise as a result of the economic downturn, communities of color in New York are experiencing far worse economic conditions than their white counterparts. In New York City the jobless rate for blacks rose to 14.7 percent in the first quarter of 2009. During the same period the unemployment rate for white New Yorkers rose only moderately to 3.7 percent. The rates among other ethnic groups also disproportionately increased during this time. For Hispanics, the rate rose to 9.3 percent and among Asians and other ethnic classifications, the rate increased to 7.1 percent.

Investments in mass transit increase mobility, reduce pollution and provide steps towards energy independence. Moreover, they can also provide a gateway out of poverty for many left on the sidelines of economic investment and recovery.  It is imperative that job creation target populations currently underrepresented in the labor force.  The previous federal transportation bill (SAFETEA-LU) took steps to address inequities in the hiring process for highway positions. In the “Sense of Congress” amendment to SAFETEA-LU, states were encouraged to hire locally for highway construction projects. This provision recommends that 30 percent of work hours on large projects be reserved for low-income people, ex-offenders, women and minorities.  However, encouragement is not enough – a percentage of local hiring must be a requirement for transit and highway projects.

Public transportation yields a significant economic return. The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) reports that $1 billion invested into transit generates 30,000 new jobs. Moreover, many of these transit investments not only engender opportunities for local residents in the short run, but also create long term high quality employment options.  “Of the 350,000 people directly employed by public transportation systems, more than 50 percent are operators or conductors. In addition, 10,000 to 20,000 professionals work under contract to public transportation systems or are employed by companies and government offices that support these systems. Thousands of others are employed in related services (i.e. engineering, manufacturing, construction, retail, etc.)”

As the demand for mass transit increases, so too will the demand for jobs associated with the transportation system.  Through local hiring, people facing traditionally high levels of unemployment would be able to find work in areas such as construction, maintenance, as engineers, rail layers, rail conductors and dispatchers.

Green jobs are a being discussed and debated in cities and towns throughout the country as well as in the halls of Capitol Hill. Jobs generated from investments in transportation are green jobs if they help create and maintain transit infrastructure reducing our carbon footprint and improving air and water quality. They are equitable if they provide access and opportunity for the citizens of this country and can also be a conduit to get communities and individuals out of poverty and into the workforce.


New York Times

-American Public Transportation Association Public Transportation: Benefits for the 21st Century

– Economic Development Research, APTA updated “Job Impacts of Spending On Public Transportation,” 2009.