Study after study has shown us that some transportation dollars are better than others for putting Americans back to work.  While automobile-only projects can create almost eight jobs per $1 million, mixed-use projects are a significantly better value, leading to almost half again as many jobs for the same investment. Researchers determined that if 20 major metropolitan areas shifted half their funding from highways to transit, they would see a net increase of more than 180,000 jobs. In Michigan, not only were six jobs elsewhere in the economy created for every 10 new jobs in the public transit sector, but the researchers found that transit freed up almost $350 million in discretionary spending for riders that could be spent on other goods and services. In fact, every dollar spent on transit delivered $1.46 of economic value to the state. Yet the House bill would end gasoline-tax dollars for public transit, an agreement that dates back to the Reagan administration; mandates privatizing public transit, which could limit service and raise costs; and gives local agencies even less flexibility to use federal funds to support existing routes that low-income workers depend on to get to their jobs. It seems designed to actually stifle robust transportation-related job growth and prevent workers from accessing jobs elsewhere in the economy.


Other elements of the bill would turn today’s quality transportation jobs into unstable and unsafe contingent jobs. One proposal would contract out Amtrak food service jobs to the lowest bidder, while another would suddenly make several thousand workers who move railroad employees between worksites exempt from the most basic protections: the minimum wage and the right to overtime pay. Several submitted amendments would end the long-standing practice of ensuring construction workers receive fair wages for their work on publicly-funded transportation projects. Moreover, provisions to roll back rules about the transport of hazardous materials put workers and community members alike in danger.
As the economy continues its slow recovery, the country truly needs an energy and infrastructure bill that will boost job growth while meeting our vital infrastructure and energy needs. But the measure proposed in the House of Representatives fails dismally. We need our elected officials to show some heart (and some good sense), and to pass a transportation reauthorization that supports robust job creation and upholds standards that make transportation-related jobs good jobs.

Christman is a senior policy analyst with the National Employment Law Project in Washington, D.C