Press Release

September 22, 2020
Cardin, Van Hollen Introduce Legislation to Invest in Transit Workforce Training
Bill would help train more American workers to close nationwide skills gap in transit industry

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.) joined Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) today in introducing the National Transit Frontline Workforce Training Act, legislation to establish a national training center to help meet the need for highly skilled workers in the transit industry’s maintenance and operations occupations. This legislation will provide more American workers with the skills to obtain good-paying, in-demand jobs in the transit industry. Closing this skills gap – and growing the pool of qualified applicants – is especially important to our national capital region, where transit systems like WMATA, Amtrak, and MARC are vital to commuters and visitors alike. This legislation was introduced in the House by Congressman Anthony Brown (D-Md.).

New and changing transportation jobs on the horizon require an investment in our national workforce. Currently, there remains a skills gap for frontline local transportation employees. As our country increasingly looks to transit to mitigate congestion and increase sustainable travel, we must ensure our workers are properly prepared to maintain and operate public transportation systems.

“Expanding opportunity in our cities and regions means investing in transit. And to achieve the transit systems of the future that we need, we must invest in the workforce necessary to operate those systems,” said Senator Cardin, ranking member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee. “I am proud to join my colleagues in introducing a bill that recognizes that in order to strengthen our competitiveness and grow our economy, investments in our physical infrastructure go hand in hand with investments in people.”

“Every day, thousands of Marylanders rely on our public transportation to get to where they need to go. Ensuring that these systems are fully-staffed with well-trained employees is crucial to their safety and efficiency. This legislation will ensure just that, while providing more Americans with the skills they need to obtain these good-paying jobs. I urge my colleagues to take up this legislation to strengthen our transit workforce and, ultimately, to improve our transportation systems nationwide,” said Senator Van Hollen, a member of the Senate Appropriations and Environment and Public Works Committees.

“Throughout this pandemic, frontline transportation workers have gone above and beyond to keep us moving forward. As we build for the future, with investments in 21st century infrastructure, we must also train the next generation of transit workers on the latest best practices and skills to stay safe on the job,” said Congressman Anthony Brown. “Local partnerships and apprenticeships will be a vital to these efforts. A modern transit system and workforce are essential to getting our economy back on track, and creating good paying, middle class, union jobs right now.”

The National Transit Frontline Workforce Training Act is supported by the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU), American Public Transportation Association (APTA), Transport Workers Union (TWU), and the Transportation Trades Department of AFL-CIO (TTD). 

“The National Transit Frontline Workforce Training Act is long overdue. Technology in the transit industry is rapidly evolving. Entire fleets are changing over to electric vehicles right before our eyes. But who is going to maintain these buses and make sure that they are safe for the riding public?  This bill, for the first time, would create a national training center for frontline transit employees where workers will get the skills needed to keep up with new technology. ATU is grateful for Senator Van Hollen for introducing this groundbreaking legislation,” said John A. Costa, President of ATU.

“On behalf of the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), I want to thank Senator Van Hollen for his leadership in crafting the National Transit Frontline Workforce Training Act of 2020,” said Paul P. Skoutelas, President and CEO of APTA. “This legislation recognizes our essential frontline employees and the importance of labor-management training partnerships. We look forward to addressing this and other critical issues in bipartisan surface transportation legislation next year.”

“Frontline transit workers are the heart of our transportation systems. The National Transit Frontline Workforce Training Center Act will ensure that these workers are always prepared for the challenges ahead. As we continue to suffer the ravages of the ongoing pandemic, this investment in the next generation of transit will be key to returning our country to prosperity. The Transport Workers Union applauds Senator Van Hollen for introducing this vital bill,” said John Samuelsen, President of TWU.

“On behalf of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD), I want to thank Senator Van Hollen for introducing the National Transit Frontline Workforce Training Act of 2020. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, our nation’s public transportation and commuter rail workforces faced serious retention, training, and technological challenges,” said Larry Willis, President of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO. “The Coronavirus crisis has only exacerbated these problems. Now, these critical workforces are putting their lives on the line to work through the pandemic, often without the specialized training and equipment they need to ensure their safety and the safety of their passengers. By meeting the training needs of our transit and commuter rail workforces, this legislation will make a positive impact in the lives of hundreds of thousands of public transportation workers and the communities they support.”


The National Transit Frontline Training Center will award grants to a nonprofit organization with a demonstrated capacity to develop and provide transit career ladder programs through labor-management partnerships and apprenticeships on a nationwide basis. The Center, in coordination with the Federal Transit Administration and public transportation authorities, will develop and conduct training and educational programs for frontline local transportation employees engaged in Government-aid public transportation work. Along with establishing national standards for transit maintenance and operations skills, the new Center would provide training to local transit operators in both rural and urban transit systems. 

The full text of the bill is available here.