Public transportation is an economic engine in its communities, but the links among the procurement process, business development, and job growth are increasingly complex, especially regarding emerging procurement evaluation methods, said the panelists at “Creating New American Jobs through Public Transportation Investments,” a well-attended session at the APTA Bus & Paratransit Conference.
Panelists discussed how to include U.S. job creation in evaluating procurement proposals, the difficulty of determining net job growth in rolling stock procurements, and FTA requirements restricting geographic preferences.
Richard Wieczorek, department manager of procurement, San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART), discussed the agency’s “marketplace-driven approach” to procurement. “We wanted a new strategy,” he said, citing outside pressure to “do more” than the FTA-mandated 60 percent stipulated in Buy America and the BART Board of Directors’ desire to create more U.S. jobs and support the development of technology in the country.
Members of the panel also discussed Los Angeles Metro’s use of a U.S. Employment Plan (USEP) in its bus and rail procurements that gives credit for new jobs created. FTA has approved USEP for use in “best value” requests for proposals.
David White, executive vice president of sales and marketing, New Flyer, which won Los Angeles Metro’s contract for building up to 900 compressed natural gas-powered buses, said that Buy America rules impact the entire supply chain and thousands of suppliers. “Like bus [Original Equipment Managers], all suppliers have built their business to comply with current requirements,” he said. “To comply with increased Buy America or regional content, time is needed to design, source, integrate, test, and validate.”
Madeline Janis, national policy director and co-founder of the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy, an advocacy organization that promotes economic and community development, questioned the efficacy of Buy America.
“Federal rules restrict an agency’s ability to incorporate local jobs and economic development as part of a procurement because geographic preferences are prohibited,” Janis said. Consequently, she said, the Buy America program, which requires that public transit purchases made with federal funds include 60 percent U.S.-manufactured content, allows high-value production to leak overseas.
“Public transit bus manufacturing in the U.S. is not a growth business,” White said. “It’s replacement-driven and cyclical, which makes jobs very difficult to sustain. Building buses puts Americans to work, but if you want to put more Americans to work, you have more money to build more buses.”