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Public Transit Measures Win

Voters across the U.S. approved 15 of the 25 public transit-related measures that appeared on the Nov. 4 ballot. Factoring in these wins with other votes earlier this year, ­public transportation prevailed at the ballot box by more than 71 percent in 2014, or 41 out of 58 measures, as tracked by the Center for Transportation Excellence.

These measures will represent more than $6 billion in state and local public transit investments.

“While American voters have become more discerning on what issues to support with their tax dollars, citizens continued to vote to overwhelmingly support public transportation ballot initiatives because it helps to grow their communities,” said APTA President & CEO Michael Melaniphy. “These votes serve as affirmation of the strong bipartisan ­support that public transit initiatives enjoy throughout the country. Voters place great value in public transit and are willing to vote to tax themselves to invest in their communities.”

Below are results from Election Day.

In both Maryland and ­Wisconsin, voters statewide approved constitutional amendments protecting transportation funds from non-­transportation uses.

Two measures passed in San Francisco. A charter amendment that would use $23 million from the general fund for transportation measures—three-quarters of which would support the San Francisco Municipal Railway—passed with 61 percent of the vote. Proposition A, authorizing $500 million in general obligation bonds for transportation purposes, received 71 percent of the vote.

“Through the passage of Prop. A, voters have affirmed the importance in improving transportation in our city,” said Ed Reiskin, director of transportation, San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency. “This is a great first step in securing much-needed investment to create safer, more attractive transportation options for San Franciscans today and for the future of our city.”

Two other California counties approved sales tax measures for public transportation by the required two-thirds vote. Monterey County passed a one-eighth cent sales tax with 72 percent in favor, while Alameda County voters, by a 70 percent to 30 percent margin, doubled the size of its tax from one-half cent to 1 cent.

“The success of this measure means that Monterey-Salinas Transit (MST) will achieve fiscal sustainability during these uncertain times and receive over $6.5 million annually for 15 years to ­continue a host of popular and well-utilized services for veterans, seniors, and persons with disabilities,” said MST General Manager/Chief Executive Officer Carl Sedoryk. “For the first time, our county has come together to over­whelmingly pass a transportation measure that required a two-thirds supermajority to win. It is both gratifying and humbling to know that such a large percentage of the residents of Monterey County are so supportive of meeting the mobility needs of some of the most vulnerable members of our community.”

In San Bruno, 67 percent of voters approved modifying an ordinance to raise height restrictions from 50 feet to 90 feet for buildings around the city’s Caltrain commuter rail station.

Almost three-quarters of voters in suburban Clayton County, GA—74 percent—voted for a 1-cent sales tax to fund its participation in the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA). 

“Officially welcoming Clayton County to our transit system is an incredible anniversary present for MARTA as we celebrate 35 years of combined bus and rail service in metro Atlanta,” said MARTA General Manager/Chief Executive Officer Keith T. Parker. “Starting as soon as March 2015, we look forward to bringing affordable, reliable, and customer-focused transit service to the citizens of Clayton County.”

Seattle voters approved Proposition 1, which will support improved King County Metro Transit bus service with a $60 car fee and a 0.1 percent sales tax increase.

“It’s good news that we can improve Seattle service, where 43 percent of ­people heading to work already take transit,” said King County Metro Transit General Manager Kevin Desmond. “This favorable vote should be seen as a building block to achieve a real regional approach to transit funding that can ensure we are able to meeting the growing demands of all people of King County.”

Sixty percent of voters statewide in Rhode Island approved $35 million in Mass Transit Hub Infrastructure Bonds, which will fund public transportation infrastructure.

Four Michigan municipalities—Bay City, home of the Bay Metropolitan Transportation Authority, as well as Wexford County, Genessee County, and Spring Lake Township—all approved property tax measures to support public transportation.  

Sales tax measures in three Florida counties—Alachua, Pinellas, and Polk—all fell to defeat, along with similar ballot issues in New Mexico’s Dona Ana and Sierra counties, Wichita, KS, and two measures in Kansas City, MO. Other losses included a Massachusetts vote to repeal a provision in a 2013 law that would have increased the gas tax annually to match the growth in the consumer price index; a property tax measure in Addison Township, MI; a bond for urban rail in Austin, TX; and a statewide measure in Louisiana that would have established a state infrastructure bank.

CFTE will review lessons learned from public transit’s electoral campaigns in 2014 at a webinar Nov. 10 at 3 p.m. To register, click here.
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