SMART International Organizer Warren Faust speaks during a rally for Green Transit, Green Jobs in New York.

SMART International Organizer Warren Faust and International Representative Larry Kinzie joined fellow union members, environmental advocates, industry leaders and New York state legislators on January 30 to call on Governor Kathy Hochul to include the Green Transit, Green Jobs bill (S.6089/A.6414) in the SFY 2025 Final Budget. Standing in front of an electric bus built by SMART Local 105 members in Lancaster, California, the coalition urged New York lawmakers to pass common-sense legislation that puts workers first and creates union jobs.

“As the union that represents workers at a major zero-emission bus manufacturer, we recognize that government spending can support good, community-sustaining jobs throughout the country and in New York,” said Faust. 

The Green Transit, Green Jobs bill would mandate that public bus systems convert to zero-emission buses, incentivizing the manufacturing of electric buses in New York communities that need jobs and opportunity. It would require that all new buses purchased by New York public transit authorities be electric by 2029, and it would ensure that zero-emission buses purchased by the state achieve a dual goal: helping reduce carbon emissions in New York State and creating good, family-sustaining jobs that take New Yorkers into the middle class.

During the January 30 rally, Faust pointed to the work of Local 105 members at electric bus manufacturer BYD as an example for New York to follow, noting that their work helped the Antelope Valley Transit Authority achieve North America’s first fully zero-emission bus fleet in 2022. He also emphasized the importance of SMART and BYD’s work to develop the country’s first electric bus manufacturing apprenticeship program, creating firm pathways to union careers for local community members.

“SMART and BYD have shown that a successful partnership between unions and manufacturers can lead to a well-trained workforce ready for the transition to a green economy,” Faust said. “This was possible through policy proposals like the U.S. Jobs Plan, a strong jobs and equity tool that is part of the Green Transit, Green Jobs bill.”

Currently, according to Earthjustice, the transportation sector accounts for 41% of all fuel combustion emissions in New York state – helping spur the ongoing climate crisis and leading to high levels of air pollution that make up more than 2,000 premature deaths from ingesting toxic pollution from tailpipe emissions annually. The public health damages from vehicle emissions cost the state $21 billion each year.

“New York state can change the way it invests our public dollars to maintain and create good, community-sustaining jobs in manufacturing,” Faust concluded. “New York can lead the way by passing the U.S. Jobs Plan and the Green Transit, Green Jobs bill.”

Rail rodeo participants, left to right: Josiah Lewis, Richard
Montano, Hector Rivera, Jesse Lopez, Marina Mancilla, Steven
Ramirez, Omar Vivente, Gilbert Jaurequi and Eden Vazquez.
Not pictured: Norma Marlowe.

On Saturday, November 4, SMART-TD Local 1565 members working at Los Angeles Metro participated in the Monrovia division rail rodeo, competing with other transit rail workers and showing off the skills they use to transport passengers safely and efficiently every day. In addition to the skills competition, SMART-TD members and families showed out to support their union family, and Local 1565 set up a table representing SMART to fellow transit workers and potential members.

SMART–TD is proud to represent the men and women driving the buses in America. The vast majority of our bus operators are assigned to fixed routes and drive 40–50-foot buses which require a Commercial Driver’s License, (CDL). These norms are and always have been the standards of mass transit.

Another consistent theme of mass transit has been that it transported people “in mass.” That seems like a detail that should be baked into the cake. Lately, bussing companies bussing departments in some metropolitan areas, and even the federal government have begun to lose their focus on this truth.

There is a new focus emerging known as “Micro-Transit.” This entails folks using an app or calling in and requesting personal transportation from their door to the location of their choosing. Maybe I’m missing something, but that is called calling a cab or an Uber.

What is not clear, is why our tax dollars are going towards subsidizing someone’s taxi ride. During the pandemic, there was a natural incentive to get creative finding ways to reduce the amount of people in confined spaces like public buses. But the offering of these micro transit options at the expense of the public feels like we are all being taken for a ride.

This is not just a waste of all of our money in the form of government spending, but it is a direct threat to the livelihoods of our SMART Bus Operators. These micro transit options that are popping up nationwide are beginning to reduce ridership numbers on the fixed bus routes. Reduced head counts will eventually manifest themselves as issues in the way of reductions in fixed routes, less need for our traditional bus operators, and a decline in the budget for maintenance on the bus fleets.

It is not a matter of our operators transitioning to driving micro transit vehicles and moving on with their lives. There are many factors that make that an unrealistic solution to the problem.

First, and most obvious, is that CDL’s are not a requirement to drive the types of vehicles used in micro transit. All that is needed to operate these vehicles is a Class C driver’s license in most states. A Class C is much easier to obtain, requiring far less training and does carry with it the federal standards and expectations of a CDL. Fittingly, the micro-transit operators do not get paid on the same scale as our SMART–TD fixed route brothers and sisters. Additionally, some micro transit drivers are not union workers therefore they do not enjoy collective bargaining or the pay and healthcare benefits that come with it.

These operators have families who depend on their income, benefits packages, and the schedules they have earned via their seniority. Working on call for less money and no union protection and losing their seniority by working for new employers is not an apples-to-apples comparison.

On top of the injustice that publicly subsidizing micro transit heaps on our SMART membership, there is the short-sited use of our public dollars at issue. The Federal government has a fixed amount of funding set aside for public transportation each year. This is to say that for every dollar that gets sent to the micro-transit sector, mass transit loses access to that dollar. From SMART–TD’s perspective, our union members are not the only people with a dog in this fight.

Mass transit receives public funding for a reason. It brings about public good. Getting people to work, medical appointments, and the grocery store each day is not only a public service, but it is good public policy. Our bus operators are critical to this country’s economy and the quality of life for many of our citizens. The return on investment that occurs when tax dollars are used to promote and enhance public transportation has proven time and again to be among the best investments this country can make in itself. To take a single dollar away from this system to provide door-to-door service to get Karen from the suburbs to a restaurant in the city and back home is not creating anywhere close to the same benefit for our nation.

The arguments against publicly funding micro transit go on and on. Higher cost of maintaining larger fleets of vehicles that are more prone to problems, lower life expectancy of the smaller vehicles compared to the standard busses, and most importantly the loss of safety brought on by running these vehicles through our communities without the valuable and certified expertise of our SMART brothers and sisters operating them, are among the problems being referred to.

To highlight SMART–TD’s objections to this shift to publicly supporting micro transportation, we would summarize by saying that it is nonsense to spend our tax dollars on a more expensive transportation model that serves fewer people, pays lower wages, and reduces the role of our highly skilled bus operators. As SMART members, and as tax-paying Americans, we should all be aware of the slippery slope we are on with this phenomenon and should take every opportunity to speak out against it.

SMART members work to manufacture electric public transportation vehicles at BYD in Los Angeles, an example of the green union jobs SMART is pursuing.
SMART members work on green union jobs across our two nations, including the manufacturing of electric vehicles and transit systems.

Earth Day represents both an annual celebration of our natural environment and a call to action for our planet, our jobs and our families. Awareness continues to grow regarding the damaging effects of climate catastrophe, and governments are reacting accordingly by shifting towards green economic and energy systems. From offshore wind farms, to public school retrofitting, to electric vehicle battery manufacturing, climate change is requiring new innovations across all sectors of North America’s workforce.

SMART members have been on the forefront of green union jobs for decades. Buildings account for about 40% of total energy use in the United States, with more than 35% of the energy generated in the U.S. used to operate buildings’ HVAC systems. SMART’s manufacturing members produce energy efficient air movement equipment, heating and cooling machinery and insulated duct systems. Across our two nations, these production workers build dedicated outside air systems (DOAS) units, rooftop units, water-source heat pumps, underfloor air distribution systems and chilled beams – all designed to increase energy efficiency and keep our buildings running smoothly. These green, leading-edge technologies are not only designed and manufactured by SMART members; our union sheet metal workers install the products as well.

Members of the SMART Transportation Division are also doing their part to reduce harmful pollution, particularly in the transit sector. Whether moving passengers from point A to point B on electric buses in California or bringing citizens to work on commuter rail systems in Chicago, New Jersey and beyond, TD workers are helping accomplish the dual achievement of reducing automobile emissions and efficiently and safely transporting Americans to their destinations. And at BYD in Los Angeles, the sheet metal and transportation sectors combine, as SMART Local 105 members help manufacture electric busses for local communities.  

“Whether schools, hospitals, offices or apartment buildings, SMART workers are helping reduce energy output and keeping our nations working in cleaner, healthier ways,” said SMART General President Joseph Sellers, Jr. “These green union jobs are vital for our countries and our membership.”

SMART Local 0023 bus drivers pose for a picture in front of a bus.
SMART Local 0023 members working for Santa Cruz Metro.

In Canada, meanwhile, the government’s commitment to achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 has placed a new emphasis on SMART’s skilled workforce.

“The transition to net-zero is a once-in-a-lifetime economic shift, not seen since the industrial revolution, and it is absolutely vital that this work is performed by union members,” noted SMART Director of Canadian Affairs Chris Paswisty. “Whether retrofitting buildings across Canada to increase energy efficiency, performing indoor air quality work or installing green roofs, the incentives included in the 2023 Federal Budget will put our members’ labour in high demand, creating green union jobs.”

The electric vehicle industry has proven to be fertile ground for SMART, with hundreds of members currently working to build EV battery factories in states like Kentucky and Ohio. But the burgeoning sector also presents a warning – unlike the “Big Three” automakers of old, many electric vehicle manufacturers are extremely nonunion. That’s why SMART members and locals must do more than merely take on the green energy work of today, Sellers added. Labor needs to organize and engage lawmakers to ensure the economy of tomorrow works for future generations.

“There was once a time when green energy goals were at odds with the labor movement. But SMART sheet metal and transportation workers know the importance of ensuring the jobs of the future are good, family-sustaining, green union jobs,” he explained. “Across our two nations, SMART members and local unions must push our communities to adopt green energy policies with strong labor standards attached – from decarbonizing schools in Rhode Island to installing green roofing technology in Canada. We will continue bringing workers into our union to meet these new workforce needs, and work with our elected officials to make this transition to green energy with union labor.”

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Americans took more than 2.5 billion passenger trips on public transportation in the second quarter of 2019, according to the quarterly Transit Ridership Report released by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), representing 11 million trips more than during the same period last year.
These second-quarter results show an increase of nearly 0.5% across all modes compared to the second quarter of 2018, APTAA said in a news release summarizing the report. This includes a rise of 1.44% for heavy rail, 3.54% for commuter rail systems, 0.5% in bus systems in population areas exceeding 2 million people, and 1.51% in systems in communities of less than 100,000 residents, APTA said.
Among commuter rail carriers that saw notable increases, the New York MTA’s Long Island Rail Road saw an increase of 10.6%. SMART TD represents employees of the carrier.
The full second-quarter APTA Transit Ridership Report is available here as a PDF.

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao said at CES, an annual technology show in Las Vegas, that she plans to take steps toward creating policy guiding the development of self-driving transportation for trucks, buses, transit systems and trains. One of the steps that Chao plans to take toward creating this new policy is to deregulate these industries.
“I also want to take this opportunity to announce that the Department (DOT) will be seeking public input from across the transportation industry to identify existing barriers to innovation. This includes not only barriers that impact vehicles, but also impediments to innovations that can impact our highways, railroads, trains and motor carriers,” Chao said.
In response to Chao’s announcement, SMART Transportation Division National Legislative Director John Risch wrote in an email, “This rush to autonomous vehicles of all kinds should worry all transportation workers.
“We have been working with Congress to limit legislation on self-driving vehicles to automobiles and to not include buses and trucks. So far our efforts on that front have been successful,” Risch said. “We will continue to work on this issue, but the times they are a-changing.”
As part of Chao’s efforts to deregulate the transportation industry, notices for public comment have appeared in the Federal Register on behalf of DOT’s Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), Federal Transit Administration (FTA) and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

  • Click here to read the Request for Information on Integration of ADS into the Highway Transportation System as published by the Federal Register – to be published 01/18


  • Click here to read the Request for Comments on Automated Transit Buses Research Program as published in the Federal Register
  • Click here to read the Request for Comment on Removing Barriers to Transit Bus Automation


  • Click here to read the Request for Comment on Removing Regulatory Barriers for Automated Vehicles from the Federal Register

FTAlogoProgressive Railroading reported that the Federal Transit Administration has chosen nine cities to receive technical assistance to promote economic development around local transit service. This assistance will include in-depth, multi-day visits and workshops. Read the entire story here.

cameraFollowing last week’s terrorist attacks in Paris that left 129 dead and hundreds of others wounded, U.S. transit agencies have stepped up security measures.

Among agencies that announced tighter security yesterday is the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), which has upped the number of patrols, K9 sweeps and random bag checks and screenings for explosives across its system.

Read more from Progressive Railroading.

csx locomotiveTAMPA, Fla. — Is the solution to the Tampa Bay area’s mass transit woes already crisscrossing Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas counties?

That’s a question local planners will begin considering in the weeks and likely years to come as Jacksonville-based CSX Corp. considers selling off two rail lines that could conceivably be operated as commuter routes.

CSX floated the sale of 96 miles of track at a recent meeting of the Tampa Bay Transportation Management Area Leadership Group, which includes three elected officials each from the three counties’ Metropolitan Planning Organizations and sets regional transportation priorities.

Read more from The Tampa Tribune

bus; CATS; CATS busWith public transportation usage growing around the nation, many agencies are looking at ways to attract millennials, who are looking for more options and driving less and less, according to respondents of METRO’s Top 100 Bus Fleets survey.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s (MTA) New York City Transit/MTA Bus Co. tops this year’s list with 5,759 total vehicles. Showing some movement this year, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (2,378), New Jersey Transit (2,233), Seattle’s King County Metro Transit (1,882) and the Toronto Transit Commission (1,869) round out this year’s top five, which collectively totals 14,121 vehicles, or 21 percent of this year’s overall 66,056 total vehicles — down slightly compared to 2014, although last year’s list ranked the Top 110 bus fleets.

Click here to read the full results of the survey.

Read more from Metro Magazine.