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What to Expect from Public Transit Ballot Measures on Nov. 6

Campaign Director
Center for Transportation Excellence
Washington, DC

On election night, Nov. 6, APTA will be tracking public transit ballot results and commenting throughout the night and into the next day. Here’s a backgrounder on the transportation ballot measures we’ll be watching.

Voters across the country will head to the ballot box Nov. 6 (unless they voted early!) to choose their elected leaders and decide the fate of critical measures that affect us all—including 22 ballot measures to support America’s public transit. All told, the infrastructure ballot measures being considered would total more than $3.6 billion annually, a significant amount of which would go toward public transit.

Plus, 16 additional measures were considered during elections that occurred earlier this year, which returned an 81 percent success rate (13 passed, three fell short). So far in 2018, voters have supported a $4.45 billion measure in the San Francisco Bay Area to expand the number of San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit cars as well as the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s fleet, increase ferry service and study a second “Transbay Tube”; a Kansas City streetcar; a measure funding SMART millage in Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties in the Detroit area; and a millage renewal in Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti and Ypsilanti Township, MI, which passed with 83 percent support, among others.

Historically, over the past two decades, voters have supported public transportation at the ballot box more than 70 percent of the time.

Additionally, in growing numbers, candidates for city council, mayor, governor and state legislatures are making infrastructure and public transit key aspects of their platforms. These candidates know that public transportation is an issue that wins bipartisan support, creates jobs and grows the economy, helps reduce poverty and connects communities.

This election cycle promises to be especially interesting given the widespread success of public transit ballot measures in the 2016 cycle: 70 percent of the 49 public measures passed. Also, early vote totals, absentee voting and voter enthusiasm indicators all suggest a higher-than-usual turnout for a midterm election. Indeed, high-profile elections in states also considering public transit measures—like California, Florida, Michigan and Arizona—are likely to grow the base of support for measures that traditionally support public transportation.

You can preview all the 2018 public transportation-related ballot ­measures here. Below, we highlight some of the biggest measures being considered:

California, statewide: The state is considering a repeal of the gas tax and vehicle fees overwhelmingly passed by the California legislature in 2017 (SB 1). The issue, “Prop 6,” would repeal more than $5 billion annually of dedicated funding for transportation projects across the state.

San Mateo County, CA: This county, just south of San Francisco, is considering a half-cent sales tax aimed at relieving traffic congestion. One half of the revenue would go toward maintaining and enhancing rail, bus, paratransit and other public transit options in the county, with an additional 10 percent earmarked for new and enhanced transit options for travel to neighboring counties.

Colorado, statewide:
Let’s Go Colorado (Proposition 110) is a .62 percent increase in the state sales tax for transportation projects—45 percent of revenue will be devoted to state highway needs, 40 percent to local government transportation needs and 15 percent to multimodal transportation, including public transit. It is running against a competing road-only measure, Proposition 109. Learn more here.

Broward County, FL: In Central Florida, voters will consider a one-cent increase in the sales tax, for a 30-year period, to fund transportation upgrades. This could help fund electric buses and light rail.

Tampa, FL: Voters are considering a one-cent increase in the sales tax, for a 30-year period, for transportation. Forty-five percent would go to the local public transit authority, the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority. Read more here.

Los Alamos County, Rio Arriba County, Santa Fe County, Taos County, NM: Voters will decide whether to renew a one-eighth of one cent gross receipts tax to support Rail Runner Express commuter rail and the regional bus system, operated by the North Central Regional Transit District. If the measure passes, it will extend this revenue source indefinitely. If it fails, the funding will expire in 2024. Learn more here.

Maine, statewide: Maine Question 3 covers $106 million in general obligation bonds for transportation infrastructure projects, of which some funds would go to public transit. Learn more here. Maine has voted on 33 bonds since 2007 and voters approved all but one.

Arlington County, VA: Voters in the Washington, DC, area will consider a bond issuance measure for a variety of transportation projects across the county, including $44 million for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s capital improvement program. Learn more here.

"Commentary" features authoritative points of view from various sources on timely and pressing issues affecting public transportation. APTA would like to hear from you. If you are interested in submitting a original, thought-leader Commentary for consideration, please contact Senior Managing Editor David A. Riddy.

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