American public transportation carries more than 35 million people every weekday. This massive undertaking is made possible by a $66 billion public transportation sector that directly employs about 400,000 people.
The employment and economic value of American public transportation reaches much further than just mobility. The government investment made in public transportation supports millions of private-sector jobs all across the country. In fact, more than 70 percent of government funding for public transit flows through the private sector.
These private-sector jobs are part of a critical, but often unseen, public transportation supply chain. When Washington focuses on infrastructure in the coming months, members of Congress should remember that public transportation investments benefit a broad array of American businesses.
What Makes Up the Public Transportation Supply Chain?
Private-sector companies across the United States serve the public transit industry in many ways. In some cases, local businesses with various specialties provide services to their area's transit system. In other instances, larger manufacturers or nimble software companies serve public transit systems in many states. What do all these companies do?
- Vehicle and Parts Manufacturers — America’s public transit supply chain includes manufacturers of rail cars, buses, and vehicle equipment and parts, such as electric systems, chassis, and interiors. Public transportation manufacturers can be found in more than 30 states.
- Equipment Manufacturers and Suppliers — Public transit operations rely on much more than vehicles. Think of the public transit system in its entirety: rail platforms, escalators, shelters, safety equipment, fare collection systems, and more are all pieces of the public transportation supply chain.
- Professional Support — Engineers, architects, transportation planners, and other professional specialties are instrumental to building and maintaining the public transit ecosystem. Some public transit systems also retain advertising and public relations agencies, outside accountants, and attorneys in addition to the full-time staff who support their day-to-day operations.
- Service Providers — Public transportation systems contract with private-sector companies to provide a range of services, such as security, facility maintenance, vehicle repair, and more.
- Emerging Technologies — Public transportation systems invest in innovation to improve their operations. Companies specializing in clean fuels and vehicles, safety technologies, and software, Wi-Fi service, and apps are all part of the public transportation supply chain.
The takeaway: Public transportation has positive employment, economic, and innovation impacts for communities across the nation because this industry supports a large, diversified supply chain. Congress needs to recognize this bigger picture when it takes steps to improve and expand America’s transportation infrastructure. Money invested in public transit is money that supports much more than just mobility.