Study: Fed transit funding to boost Calif. economy

Posted on June 24, 2010

As Amtrak upgrades its railcars and adds high-speed trains, and as lawmakers consider a transportation bill that calls for significantly greater investments in public transit, including rail, the U.S. rail manufacturing industry stands to undergo considerable growth in the coming years, according to a new study by Duke University prepared for the Apollo Alliance.

California, which is home to 22 rail-manufacturing facilities and is planning its own high-speed rail network, would reap major benefits from such a bill.

The report, "U.S. Manufacture of Rail Vehicles for Intercity Passenger Rail and Urban Transit: A Value Chain Analysis," looks at the manufacture of U.S. rail vehicles in six categories: intercity passenger, high-speed, regional, metro, light rail and streetcars. It finds that the U.S. rail supply chain includes at least 247 manufacturing locations in 35 states.

Although the U.S. rail manufacturing industry is small — the report's authors estimate its employment at between 10,000 and 14,000 employees — industry analysts expect it to grow due to pent-up demand for intercity and urban rail service.

"California has a real chance to be at the center of America's 21st century rail manufacturing industry," said Phil Angelides, chairman of the Apollo Alliance. "Our nation needs a new transportation policy that invests in expanded public transit and more energy-efficient transportation, including rail. Done right, these investments could mean a windfall of manufacturing jobs for Californians."

A similar study on transit bus manufacturing released by Duke researchers in October 2009 identified 14 transit bus-manufacturing facilities in California. These companies also would benefit from increased public transit investments in a new transportation bill.

The report's authors conclude that to grow the U.S. rail manufacturing industry will require committing much larger and more consistent U.S. investments to intercity passenger and urban transit rail. The report also recommends that Buy America provisions be improved through additional accountability mechanisms and the closing of loopholes.

Finally, it recommends that policymakers and manufacturers implement measures to capture higher-value activities in the supply chain, such as design and engineering, for the U.S. market. Currently those activities are mostly performed abroad.

The full report is available at apolloalliance.org and at cggc.duke.edu.


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