Public Transport’s Crucial Role in Fighting Climate Change; Remembering ATU President Larry Hanley — TUED Bulletin 86

May 30, 2019

TUED’s latest working paper takes on the challenges involved in decarbonizing the transport sector. Public transport can make a vital contribution to reaching agreed, science-based targets for reducing global emissions, but realizing its potential will require a radical shift in policy.

In this Bulletin, TUED also remembers Larry Hanley, International President of the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU), who passed away on May 7, 2019.


The Road Less Travelled: Reclaiming Public Transport for Climate-Ready Mobility — TUED Working Paper #12

Note: As this paper was being finalized for publication, TUED received the sad news of the passing of Larry Hanley, International President of the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU). For that reason, the paper is dedicated to Larry’s memory. Please see the Bulletin item below for more information, and tributes.

In this latest Working Paper for TUED, authors Sean Sweeney and John Treat examine some of the key questions at the heart of climate-related debates on transport, and around passenger road transport in particular. The paper also looks at some of the more important issues surrounding public transport specifically, and the failure of neoliberal transport policy to improve and expand public transport in ways that fulfill its full social and environmental potential. The paper is structured in five parts:

Part One: Mobility Rising: Transport, Energy and Emissions Trends

In Part One of this paper, we survey the current trends in energy, transportation and emissions. Although emissions continue to rise across the global economy, transport-related emissions are growing faster than those of other major sectors. Transport is now responsible for almost one-third of final energy demand and nearly two-thirds of oil demand. It is also responsible for nearly one-quarter of global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from the use of fuel. This means that controlling and reducing CO2 emissions from cars, trucks, and motorcycles must become a policy priority.

Part Two: Neoliberal Transport and Climate Policy at the Crossroads

In Part Two, we review the policy landscape, including how transport-related emissions from the transport sector are addressed in the Paris Climate Agreement—which is hardly at all. We show that neoliberal climate policy has failed to make any real progress in addressing transport-related emissions, while at the same time preventing public transport from realizing its potential, mainly due to the insistence on a “public-private partnership” model in a futile effort to “unlock” private investment.

Part Three: The Electric Car—Myths and Realities

We summarize the myths and realities surrounding electric cars, and highlight some of the major issues associated with their possible mass deployment. We show that common assumptions about the role of private EVs in the future of sustainable mobility are not at all consistent with what is actually happening, what is likely to happen in the future, or with what is even possible or desirable from a trade union perspective.

Part Four: Taming the Transport Network Companies (TNCs): From Uberization to Enhanced Public Mobility for All

In Part Four, we look at the rise of TNCs and other recent developments and trends in urban transport. This has triggered a global debate on “new mobility services.” In this part of the paper we argue that TNCs currently undercut public transport systems and contribute to traffic congestion and often increase emissions. But the same “platform technologies” that gave us Uber and similar companies can become integrated into public transport systems in ways that complement traditional public transport modes and reduce dependence on private vehicles.

Part Five: Shifting Gears: A Trade Union Agenda for Low-Carbon Public Mobility

Finally, we summarize some of the climate-related arguments that unions can use in their fight to defend, expand and improve public transport. We believe these arguments are consistent with the values and priorities of many transport unions and progressive trade unionism in general.

We hope the paper will encourage unions representing workers in all sectors to deepen their discussions around the future of transport—to join the conversation about what public transport can and should look like in future, and what needs to happen in order to bring that vision to reality.

To download a full pdf, please click here.


Remembering ATU International President Larry Hanley

It is with tremendous sadness and a real sense of loss that the TUED team notes the passing of Lawrence J. “Larry” Hanley, International President of the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU), who passed away on May 7, 2019.

Hanley was a dedicated fighter for the rights of working people and for justice in their communities. He was recognized especially for his exceptional leadership in forging coalitions between riders and drivers to demand more, better, and more affordable public transportation.

In its official announcement of Hanley’s passing, the ATU made clear how profound his impact on the union and the wider labor movement has been:

Under Hanley’s leadership, the ATU was transformed into one of the fiercest and most progressive unions in the labor movement, aggressively advocating for more and better public transportation and fighting for social, racial, and economic justice for all working people.

Hanley devoted more than 40 years of his life to the ATU and the broader labor movement. He was a tireless and tenacious advocate for his members, transit riders, and all trade unionists.

In reflecting for TUED on Hanley’s legacy, ATU’s International Vice President Bruce Hamilton emphasized Hanley’s commitment to the struggle against climate change:

Larry was such a strong leader because he was as brilliant as he was incorruptible.  He never failed to adhere to his core values and beliefs, and his deepest belief was in advancing the cause of the working class.

Larry also understood that unions have to lead on issues like climate change and saw the fight to defend and expand public transport as critical to that effort.

Larry Cohen, past president of Communications Workers of America and Board Chair of Our Revolution, has also written a moving tribute to Hanley. Hailing him as “an amazing friend, brother, comrade and union builder,” Cohen also highlighted Hanley’s pathbreaking commitment to the struggle against climate change:

More than any other union president, Larry understood that climate change is a threat to our very existence. Investing in mass transit as opposed to expanding carbon-intensive transport fundamentally benefits ATU members and their jobs. But Larry spearheaded the creation of an ATU committee on climate and was willing to push back against anyone who denied the disastrous impact of fossil fuel expansion, while fighting just as hard to expand unemployment benefits and to provide a path to good paying jobs for those displaced in the transition to renewable energy and a sustainable economy.

In communications with TUED, author Naomi Klein reflected on her own history with Hanley, and on the importance of his example for the broader labor movement:

I met Larry Hanley in Washington, D.C., during the time of mass civil disobedience against the Keystone XL pipeline in September 2011. A month earlier, the ATU had become the first union to come out against the project. I remember the statement had said, “We call for major ‘New Deal’-type public investments in infrastructure modernization and repair, energy conservation and climate protection a means of putting people to work.”

Today, calls for a “Green New Deal” echo around the world. Larry was a New York bus driver. He knew the direction things were moving. Now it’s up to others in labor to get behind the wheel.

The sad news of Hanley’s passing arrived just as TUED’s forthcoming Working Paper, The Road Less Travelled: Reclaiming Public Transport for Climate-Ready Mobility, was being finalized for publication. We are pleased and honored to dedicate the paper to his memory.

Larry Hanley, ¡presente!

By |2019-05-31T14:32:06+00:00May 31st, 2019|News, Uncategorized|Comments Off on Public Transport’s Crucial Role in Fighting Climate Change; Remembering ATU President Larry Hanley — TUED Bulletin 86