California Labor Federation Secures $1 Million to Provide Green-Job Training for Public Transit Workers

The goal of California's Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology Program (which was created by AB 118 and is administered by the California Energy Commission and the Air Resources Board) is to transform California’s fuel and vehicle types to meet the state’s climate change policies. The evolution to a low-carbon transportation economy requires a well-trained workforce to produce and distribute new alternative fuels and design, construct, install, operate, service, and maintain new fueling infrastructure and vehicles.

In late January, the Employment Training Panel (ETP) awarded $1.2 million in funding for just this type of training  — and almost $1 million of that $1.2 million was awarded to the California Labor Federation to support joint labor-management training programs in public transit. The funding will provide advanced technology training for about 900 bus and rail technicians and mechanics working with energy efficient and green transportation vehicles and equipment.

Our three transit partners on this project include:  the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LA METRO), Sacramento Regional Transit District (SACRT) and the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (Santa Clara VTA). Each agency has short- and long-term plans to increase public transit usage without adding to the environmental footprint created by public transportation vehicles. To meet this incredible challenge, the transit agencies have turned to new green technological solutions, incorporating high tech propulsion systems that use compressed natural gas, hybrid drive trains, clean diesel and electric rail. Here is a glimpse of what is happening in each of the transit agencies:

Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LA METRO) is the third largest public transportation system in the United States by ridership with a 1,433 square mile operating area. . Metro operates North America’s largest Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) powered transit bus fleet, with more than 2,500 clean-burning CNG buses, which is 95% of Metro’s overall fleet. In June 2010 Metro launched a new project for upgrade of its CNG facilities to support America’s largest clean-air bus fleet. The transit agency also designed, built and operates 79 miles of urban rail service. Their rail ridership in June 2010 was up 7.5 percent. Significant rail expansion is planned -the construction of the Gold Line extension began this year and 9 other rail line expansions are being planned or considered.  The key union partner in this project, representing the mechanics, is Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 1277.

Sacramento Regional Transit District (SACRT) has been committed to reducing Greenhouse Gases (GHG) since 1993, when the decision was made to phase out diesel power engines on buses. SACRT plans to add several Hybrid Cutaways to its short bus fleet and has also started talks with a fuel cell bus builder to bring fuel cell power to its fleet. The California Energy Commission awarded $500,000 to the RT to install three CNG dispensers at their bus maintenance facility to support 40 buses. The CNG buses supported by this station will displace over 2.6 million gallons of petroleum-based diesel fuel per year.

RT plans to expand its light rail service on two lines including a new service that will eventually go to the Sacramento airport. Light rail serves the region’s growing population by providing reliable transit service, reducing automobile congestion and decreasing air polluting emissions. The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) 1245 represents mechanics and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 146 represents supervisors at SACRT whose members will receive training through this grant.

Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (Santa Clara VTA) operates an active fleet of 450 buses and 99 Light Rail vehicles, serving 326 square miles of Santa Clara County, and VTA Light Rail carries 31,000 passengers daily. Their labor-management program will be overseen jointly by VTA and Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 265. By 2013, a new “Bus Rapid Transit” (BRT) service will begin on VTA’s heaviest service segments using hybrid vehicles. The new Hybrid Electric buses, funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, will provide a huge environmental benefit, while also providing greater access for disabled riders than any other bus available today.  VTA’s investment in hybrid buses is a stepwise approach towards its ultimate long-term strategy of all electric buses.

As an important next step, the California Labor Federation’s Workforce and Economic Development Program (WED) will work with the CEC and ETP to provide additional funding for transit training through future allocations. If your union represents a workforce that needs training and you believe the AB118 funds could fit your needs, please contact: Tim Rainey our WED program director at trainey@calaborfed.org or 510.915.9945.