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Advocates tout ballot victories for public transit systems

Advocates tout ballot victories for public transit systems

Voters approved a majority of the unprecedented $200 billion worth of transit-related measures that appeared on the ballot this Election Day.

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Infrastructure advocates say the results prove that Americans not only want improved public transportation, but are also willing to pay for it.

Voters approved 33 out of 48 local and statewide public transit measures, or 69 percent, according to the American Public Transportation Association's Center for Transportation Excellence.

“Voters have spoken through the ballot box, and they said they want more public transit and are willing to pay for it,” said Larry Hanley, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union. “Even Americans who don't depend on transit themselves voted for it because they understand we all need better transit for economic opportunity, cleaner air and less congestion.”

State, city and local governments have increasingly turned to the ballot box to boost transportation spending, as long-term funding solutions at the federal level have evaded Congress.

On the ballot this year were initiatives that would raise property, sales, carbon or cigarette taxes to fund local transportation and infrastructure projects.

Not all transit initiatives were approved, including a $4.6 billion plan to bring a regional transit system to Detroit that is projected to fail and a referendum to build a light-rail line in Virginia Beach that went down in a landslide.

But here are some of the notable transportation ballots that succeeded on Tuesday.

Los Angeles

Nearly 70 percent of Los Angeles County residents voted in support of Measure M, a sales tax increase to fund massive transit projects in the area. The tax hike would provide $120 billion over four decades for transit improvements and rail expansions, including a rail line to connect downtown L.A. with southeast cities. But some critics have slammed the proposed line because it wouldn’t be completed until 2041.

Seattle

A ballot measure passed in Seattle that would give Sound Transit, the metropolitan area’s regional transit system, nearly $54 billion over 25 years to pay for rail extensions and bus rapid transit corridors. The proposal — which was the second-largest transit measure on the ballot in the U.S. after L.A.’s Measure M — would be paid for through a tax increase.

Marion County, Ind.

A referendum was approved in Marion County to hike the income tax by 0.25 percent, which would generate $56 million to expand bus service and bus rapid transit lines, including the next phase of the Red Line.

Atlanta

In Atlanta, voters agreed to raise the sales tax by half a cent in order to generate $2.5 billion to expand transit services at the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority. They also supported a 0.4 percent sales tax increase to raise $340 million for other transportation projects, including a bikeshare program.

Toledo, Ohio

Toledo voters supported a 10-year, $1.5 million renewal levy to finance Toledo Area Regional Transport Authority’s bus service, which includes personnel, facilities and maintenance.