Developing Resources for Transit Emerging Technologies

The rapid advancement of technology in transit, from zero-emission buses (ZEB) to autonomous shuttles, is transforming the industry and reshaping the skills needed for frontline workers. Today’s transit vehicles are akin to “Computers on Wheels,” requiring a new level of digital literacy and technical expertise among employees. This shift presents an opportunity to attract individuals, particularly young people, interested in green technologies and sustainable industries.

TWC is collaborating with industry stakeholders to produce critical resources as part of a nationally coordinated effort to prepare frontline technicians and operators with their training needs to prepare for new technologies. TWC worked with the American Public Transportation Association, transit agencies, labor unions, and ZEB manufacturers to facilitate discussions among subject matter experts and developed the National ZEB Maintenance Training Standards. These standards were approved last October and are being used by agencies as the starting point for identifying skills gaps, assessing training needs, and designing curricula.

Six months ago, TWC released a complete training course to supply agencies with instruction-ready materials to familiarize technicians with Battery Electric Bus technology. The package includes classroom materials, instructional videos, hands-on exercises, and assessments and is available for download on our website. This course has been piloted at five transit locations and will be delivered officially for the first time at Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority at the end of May, through a partnership with NTI. TWC has scheduled a webinar “Powering Up the Workforce: Transit Workforce Center’s Zero-Emission Bus Resources,” featuring this course as well as other ZEV-related resources. Registration is currently open.

The successful implementation of emerging technologies in transit hinges not only on technological innovation but also on inclusive and participatory processes. Engaging frontline workers as stakeholders is crucial for ensuring that their voices are heard and their expertise is leveraged in the design and implementation of new technologies. Projects such as those led by Carnegie Mellon University’s Human-Interaction Institute and partnerships like Microsoft and the AFL-CIO offer initial examples of co-designing and co-implementing technologies with the involvement of frontline workers.

To lay a foundation for such co-designing, the industry needs to elevate digital literacy and digital skills among workers. According to the National Skills Coalition, half of construction and transportation workers lack basic digital skills, such as operating a computer for simple tasks. The successful adoption of a national digital infrastructure strategy announced at the recent ITS America Conference requires the proactive engagement of workers who are highly affected by these technologies. At TWC’s upcoming Making Connections 2024 conference, experts from around the country in transit and related industries will come together to examine collaboration strategies for the government, employers, labor, innovators, and research institutions to ensure that these emerging technologies serve as tools for empowering workers and improving worker safety and health, rather than a cause for disruption or displacement.

Register for TWC’s upcoming webinar, “Powering Up the Workforce: Transit Workforce Center’s Zero-Emission Bus Resources.