New report calls for investing in transit workers to bolster transit service

Feb. 4, 2022
The report recommends transit systems and community stakeholders work to develop the transit workforce to ensure the long-term strength of transit within communities.

A new report released Feb. 4, Transit Equity Day, by the Alliance for a Just Society, the Labor Network for Sustainability and TransitCenter builds a case that a healthy transit industry that serves communities is tied to robust investments into the transit workforce.

The report, Invest in Transit Equity, Invest in Transit Workers, says the time has never been better to invest in public transit, which includes operators, maintenance workers and other transit employees.

The report notes that as of October 2021, public transit employment sat at 84 percent of pre-pandemic levels, which is the result of “the aging of the transit workforce, inadequate investments in job quality and the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The report is peppered with personal stories of how transit workers helped during times of need, such as a rider who needed aid during a snowstorm and provided subtle but steady concern and empathy, such as the rider who shared a pair of bus drivers would ensure she safely reached her car following regular late-night shifts.

The recommendations urge agencies to partner with transit unions, rider organizations and other stakeholders to guide workforce investment to build a “skilled, stable transit workforce for the long-term strength” of transit systems.

“There has never been a more important time to invest in public transit — including investing in the skilled, experienced transit operators, maintenance employees and other transit workers that keep our buses and trains running. Such an investment will have widespread benefits, providing better service to riders, boosting local economies and expanding opportunity and racial equity. In short, what is good for transit workers is also good for the people who ride trains and buses and good for the communities transit workers serve,” the report reads.

The recommendations

The report includes four recommendations with several options that would support the overall recommendation. There is recognition that a single solution does not exist to answer every system’s staffing challenges, but urges outreach and engagement as a first step.

“Whatever the problems, the first step to addressing them is engaging workers directly in the process through their democratically elected union representatives, as well as involving rider organizations and other community stakeholders,” the report states.

The four recommendations include:

  • Ensure family-sustaining wages and good working conditions for all transit workers;
  • Protect the health and safety of transit workers;
  • Expand access to transit jobs and invest in workforce development; and
  • Provide training and workforce development to help protect workers who could be displaced by electrification and other modernization efforts.

The full report is available on the National Campaign for Transit Justice’s website and is linked here.

About the Author

Mischa Wanek-Libman | Group Editorial Director

Mischa Wanek-Libman serves as editor in chief of Mass Transit magazine and group editorial director of the Infrastructure and Aviation Group at Endeavor Business Media. She is responsible for developing and maintaining the editorial direction of the group and is based in the western suburbs of Chicago.

Wanek-Libman has spent more than 20 years covering transportation issues including construction projects and engineering challenges for various commuter railroads and transit agencies. She has been recognized for editorial excellence through her individual work, as well as for collaborative content. 

She is an active member of the American Public Transportation Association's Marketing and Communications Committee and serves as a Board Observer on the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association (NRC) Board of Directors.  

She is a graduate of Drake University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and Mass Communication with a major in magazine journalism and a minor in business management.