Transit Union and Sierra Club Join Forces for Earth Day and Beyond

Earth Day is a week from tomorrow. How many people will drive to their local environmental festival without even a second thought to how they got there?

The ATU and the Sierra Club are teaming up to promote transit as a solution to fast-rising transportation emissions. Photo: ## News China##
The ATU and the Sierra Club are teaming up to promote transit as a solution to fast-rising transportation emissions. Photo: ## News China##

The Amalgamated Transit Union and the Sierra Club will announce tomorrow that they are joining forces to highlight the connection between transportation and climate change.

Transit is important, “not only to people who ride it but also to everybody who breathes oxygen in the world,” said ATU President Larry Hanley. That’s why the union is strengthening its coordination with the Sierra Club.

“They completely get the importance of mass transit,” he said. “It’s just that we haven’t found ways to formalize our public relationship in the past. That’s what we’re going to do now.”

Transit advocates, including the ATU, have been working to advance the full range of arguments for transit with the Transit Is Greater campaign. The ATU’s new “Transit > Pollution” leaflet [PDF] is all ready to be rolled out at bus stops and train stations around the U.S. and Canada, where the union will be encouraging riders to become more active in the push for better transit. They’ll also be doing climate-themed events with the Sierra Club in May, and beyond that with events they’re calling “Transit Tuesdays.

“We’re working with elected officials and candidates for public office to get out and ride transit with us, to organize riders to contact Congress for a better transit bill,” Hanley said, referring to the pending reauthorization of the MAP-21 transportation bill. They’re also planning a rally May 20 on Capitol Hill, after which members of the ATU and the Transport Workers Union will visit Congressional offices. Sierra Club locals and other community groups from around the country will support that event with phone calls to their representatives.

While initially timed around Earth Day, the partnership launch also coincides with a spike of interest in climate change following the release of a new report from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that issued a dire warning about the consequences of inaction. “Climate change, to those of us who don’t believe in voodoo but believe in science, is a real serious concern,” Hanley said. “We’re watching polar ice caps melt at the same time that our Congress has turned its back on the things that could slow that down — like mass transit.”

Even many lawmakers concerned about environmental issues don’t pay enough attention to the power of transit to allay climate change, said Hanley. “That’s really the whole point of what we’re doing in May and throughout 2014,” he said. “We’re going to remind the ones who should know and alert the ones who don’t about the value of mass transit.”

According to the IPCC report, emissions from transportation could rise by 71 percent from 2010 levels by 2050, while the scientific consensus holds that the world needs to reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by then. The transportation sector is projected to be the fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions in the world.

18 thoughts on Transit Union and Sierra Club Join Forces for Earth Day and Beyond

  1. Kind of a wierd lefty thing here tbh. Why wouldnt Sierra join with APTA or another organization that actually represents transit organizations?

    Im sorry to have to point this out, but putting as many employees on every transit vehicle as possible hurts transit ridership and air quality.

  2. Former climate change believers know science has been 95% certain for 32 years.
    Know YOU know.

    Get ahead of the curve;
    *Occupywallstreet now does not even mention CO2 in its list of demands because of the bank-funded and corporate run carbon trading stock markets ruled by politicians.
    *Canada killed Y2Kyoto with a freely elected climate change denying prime minister and nobody cared, especially the millions of scientists warning us of unstoppable warming (a comet hit).

  3. Why would air quality suffer if more people switched from less efficient cars to more efficient public transit?

  4. How many people do you think it takes to run a bus or a train?

    Are you suggesting these things should be run without drivers?

    I think the self-driving Google cars are cool, don’t get me wrong, but I don’t think they’re ready for prime time just yet…

  5. There are trains with single operators as well as fully automated trains all over the world, as well as in other cities in the United States. BART, DC Metro, LA Metro, Paris Metro, and so on.

  6. I really don’t think fully automated trains are a good idea just yet. What if someone jumps in front?

    … and BART has an operator in every train. What are you talking about?

  7. BART is automated, though maybe an operator handles doors. He is otherwise an expensive sentry for emergencies.

    But BBnet3000 is absolutely right. Our optimal strategy would be to maximize transit investment and minimize operating costs. It may well be that adding more personnel buys a little more safety, but you buy the most safety by maximally reducing automobile use and maximizing transit use.

  8. I agree about cars, but ZPTO trains have been pretty safe and feasible for decades now, however.

  9. Nothing weird about it. The transit unions are full of drivers. The Sierra Club is full of NIMBY greenwasher types who, well, drive. Neither is that concerned about the working class or the environment.

    If anything, it’s the archetypal liberal-conservative alliance. Ritzy suburban liberals in the Sierra Club and blue collar union workers who both got theirs.

  10. Yes, BART has an operator in every train. The NYC subway has an operator and a conductor in every train.

    The subway is paying 2 people to do the job of 1, particularly on lines with modern signals where the operator doesnt need to actually drive the train (the L train, and soon the 7 train).

    The commuter rails services such as LIRR are much worse, with ~3-5 employees on each train last I heard when 1 would do (with either faregates or random fare inspections as are common abroad, and used on Caltrain within the US for instance).

    For fully automated services theres generally (if not always) platform edge doors that keep people from jumping in front of the train.

  11. I’m not saying a human needs to actually drive the train, I’m saying a human really needs to still be there, in case of emergencies as you said.

    Even though train transit is far more safe for passengers than car transit, a single train accident has such a high media profile, it paradoxically pushes more people into less sustainable and more dangerous transportation.

    I don’t think it’s a good idea to take that risk by removing humans from trains completely.

  12. I agree, I don’t think it makes sense to have people walking through the train taking tickets, though I’m sure it is old-tymey, 19th century hipster fun…

    I’m just saying I still think it’s important to have at least one person on a train who has the ability to communicate with the people controlling the electricity and the switching, etc, etc.

    … and this discussion has centered on trains, which get most people halfway to their destination. Eliminating drivers from busses is much farther into the future, I would think.

  13. They work in airports, but I’m not so sure how well they’d work with the general public.

    I like the idea of a person on a train who keeps it safe, clean and free of graffiti.

    …I actually would like to see operators taking a little more responsibility for the last 2 items… at least in San Francisco.

  14. Pure Fear Mongering;

    32 years of needless CO2 panic can only be judged as a war crime in the history books.

    Celebrate our success not our fears on this Earth Day for we have achieved the laws, protections and standards that have enhanced the environment since we defeated the smoggy 70’s when a river caught fire in Ohio. So celebrate. Xmas bird counts have risen every year since Rachel Carson days a half century ago. So celebrate. Most of the US and Canada has not had one single smog “warning day” in almost 10 years. So celebrate.

    *Alerts, watches and advisories and “be kind to the air days” are not measurements of smog; just predictions of a possible smog day warning being issued within the next 36 hours.

    Polar Bears were indigenous to as far south as Minnesota upon settlement but called the Yellow Bear because it retained its summer coat longer but still the same bear and yes you were lied to about Polar Bears dying. But celebrate anyways. If Human CO2 was burning up the planet they would have been 100% certain not 95% certain for 32 years. So celebrate and love and respect our planet not fear for it.

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