Rail and Transit Manufacturing: Two New Reports

This blog post was co-authored by Michael Renner and Gary Gardner

The Worldwatch Institute has produced two companion reports that assess the state of rail and transit vehicle manufacturing in key countries worldwide and, with the help of investment scenarios, offer calculations on possible employment gains in the United States.

International Rail Report

The international assessment, Global Competitiveness in the Rail and Transit Industry, was co-authored by us. The U.S. report, Reviving the U.S. Rail and Transit Industry: Investments and Job Creation, was written by a number of researchers at Northeastern University’s Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy under the guidance of Professor Joan Fitzgerald. Both reports are available for free download [registration required].

The Worldwatch and Northeastern reports form part of an ambitious project that was managed by the Apollo Alliance under its Transportation Manufacturing Initiative. The purpose was to conduct research, engage stakeholders, and develop policy recommendations aimed at the emergence of a comprehensive strategy to create good jobs in the United States by bolstering the domestic manufacture of advanced rail and transit vehicles systems and component parts.

U.S. Rail Report

The initiative was supported by the Rockefeller and Surdna Foundations. An earlier product of the initiative was a report [PDF] by the Duke University Center on Globalization, Governance & Competitiveness, U.S. Manufacture of Rail Vehicles for Intercity Passenger Rail and Urban Transit, released in June.  The principal author of the CGGC report [PDF] is Marcy Lowe, a former Worldwatch senior researcher.

Our international report draws on lessons from four dominant international rail manufacturing countries: Germany, Spain, Japan, and China. We intend to offer additional blog items on these country experiences. Their experience suggests that greater U.S. rail investment could revive an industry in which the United States once excelled, but nowadays lags badly.

CGGC Report

The Obama Administration’s 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act injected a welcome $9.3 billion for intercity rail and $8.4 billion for urban transit capital programs. But beyond this one-time injection of funds, annual funding levels remain paltry. By comparison, China is planning to invest as much as $149 billion annually for the next five years in urban and intercity rail construction and manufacturing.

The Northeastern report—a short summary of which was also published as an op-ed in the Boston Globe—reveals that the United States could gain more than 79,000 jobs in rail and bus manufacturing and related industries under an investment scenario sufficient to double transit ridership in 20 years. If the United States were to invest at levels similar to China’s $24.4 billion per year over six years, it could create more than a quarter million well-paid blue collar jobs, with additional employment in construction and operations.

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