Voters Approve $170 Billion for Public Transportation; 71% Approval Rate for 2016

Public transportation agencies throughout the U.S. will receive more than $170 billion thanks to voters approving 34 of 48 local and statewide public transit measures on the Nov. 8 ballot—69 percent—including those funded by sales and property taxes and bond measures, reported the Center for Transportation Excellence. This brings the approval rating to 71 percent for all measures passed in 2016.

Here’s a recap of a few measures:

Seventy percent of voters in Los Angeles County approved Measure M, which could raise up to $120 billion over 40 years through renewal of an existing half-cent sales tax and addition of another half cent to expand and improve light rail and subway lines. The new tax will be permanent. Sixty-two percent of the $120 billion is specifically targeted to public transit.

“Obviously, this is the outcome we have been hoping for. And now the real work begins, and we’re ready,” said Los Angeles Metro CEO Phillip Washington. “This plan came from the people, for the people, and has now been given the go-ahead by the people. Together we are making history and are showing the nation—even the world—how to be bold and forward thinking as we continue to transform transportation across this great region.”

Seattle’s Sound Transit 3 measure, which received 55 percent of the vote, incorporates a half-cent increase in the sales tax, a 0.25-mill increase in the property tax and a 0.8 percent increase in motor vehicle excise tax over 15 years to support 62 new miles of light rail, additional BRT and an extension of commuter rail. It is expected to raise $54 billion.

"Our region has embraced a generational opportunity to move forward with a transit network to connect millions of people across three counties,” said Sound Transit Board Chair and King County Executive Dow Constantine. “After decades of waiting, we are ready to start building a light rail system that will grow our economy, improve our quality of life and ensure access to jobs, education and all the Central Puget Sound has to offer.”

The Bay Area counties of San Francisco, Alameda and Contra Costa jointly approved a $3.5 billion bond measure (Measure RR) to fund capital improvements for state of good repair for the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART) with 70 percent of the vote. The bond will be funded by an increase in homeowners’ property taxes ranging between $35 and $55 a year for the 40-year life of the bond. Both of these measures, as well as Los Angeles, required a two-thirds majority.

BART Board President Tom Radulovich thanked “all the Bay Area voters who doubled down on their commitment to transit and to BART.  ... The investments we make say a lot about the future we want to create. By reinvesting in BART, Bay Area voters said yes to a regional future that’s more equitable, sustainable, inclusive, connected and prosperous.”

In Atlanta, 72 percent of voters approved a half-cent, 40-year sales tax supporting expansion of the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority, including improved local bus service, new streetcar lines and building infill stations. The measure is expected to raise $2.5 billion.

In Marion County (Indianapolis), IN, 59 percent of voters approved an 0.25 percent income tax for transit expansion that, according to IndyGo, could raise $56 million per year to fund improved service and new BRT construction. As a next step, the Indianapolis City-County Council, which must review and vote on the measure, is expected to hear it early in 2017.

“IndyGo has been challenged to meet the growing demand for transportation options in Marion County,” said Mike Terry, president and chief executive officer. “We are encouraged by the public’s show of support for transit.”

Voters in New Jersey approved a constitutional amendment requiring that all revenue raised by the state’s current fuel taxes be used only by transportation system upgrades.

Several public transit initiatives fell short on Nov. 8, including a half-cent sales tax in San Diego County, CA, that would have generated an estimated $18.2 billion over 40 years for several San Diego Association of Governments projects including public transit; in Sacramento County, CA, an additional half-cent sales tax that would have generated an additional $120 million annually for 30 years, of which 30 percent would have gone to transit; and a measure in four Detroit area counties for a 1.2-mill property tax that would have raised $2.9 billion over 20 years to fund BRT and commuter rail between Detroit and Ann Arbor at the Regional Transit Authority of Southeast Michigan.

In Virginia Beach, VA, an advisory measure regarding the spending of local funds to extend Hampton Roads Transit’s (HRT) Tide light rail was voted down with 57 percent opposed.

“This action in no way lessens the urgent need for better public transportation in Hampton Roads and, more specifically, the city of Virginia Beach,” said HRT President and Chief Executive Officer William Harrell. “It is our hope that Virginia Beach will consider expanding local bus services to support transit demand that would have been met by expanded light rail service.”

"Americans from every background agree that more public transportation is great for their community.  And with a passage rate of 71 percent for the year, they show they are more than willing to pay for it,” said APTA Chair Doran J. Barnes.

“This remarkable passage rate sends a strong message to President-elect Donald Trump and to Congress that Americans support moving forward with funding from all levels of government that connects infrastructure investment with job opportunities and our country’s economic vitality,” said APTA Acting President and CEO Richard White. 

Find APTA’s news release here and a complete list of measures at www.cfte.org

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APTA Looks Forward to Working with President-Elect Trump, Vice President-Elect Pence

President-Elect Donald Trump’s victory has put the spotlight on prospects for a $1 trillion, 10-year infrastructure investment package, as he has promised to make America’s transportation infrastructure “second to none.”

Under the leadership of its Legislative Committee, APTA is developing its position – and list of priorities – on new infrastructure funding.  

In a press release Nov. 8, APTA congratulated Trump and Vice President-Elect Mike Pence, stating that during the campaign, Trump spoke of the "need for increased infrastructure investment and APTA is grateful to have had the opportunity to share its perspective and expertise with the transition team in recent months. APTA members stand ready to build on this work with President-Elect Trump and Vice President-Elect Pence on revitalizing our economy and creating jobs through greater federal investment in infrastructure."


Audit Says FTA Could Improve Oversight of WMATA, Other Systems

FTA could do more to improve its oversight of the Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority and the network of state-based agencies that monitor many of the nation’s heavy and light rail systems, according to a recently released audit by US DOT’s Inspector General (IG). The report states that while  FTA is working to develop policies and procedures to guide its oversight, it lacks milestones for finalization. The report offers seven recommendations for creating a system that would hold transit agencies accountable for passenger safety.  FTA Acting Administrator Carolyn Flowers responded to the audit in a letter saying her agency concurred with the IG’s findings and would implement the recommendations by the end of 2017. For the full report, click here.



High-Speed Rail Policy Forum
APTA Offices, Washington, DC
Nov. 30

APTA 2017 Business Member Board of Governors' Annual Business Meeting
Clearwater, FL
Jan. 25-27

APTA 2017 Transit CEOs Seminar
San Diego, CA
Feb. 11-14

APTA 2017 Legislative Conference 
Washington, DC 
March 12-14 
Early Bird Deadline: Jan. 27 



Common Ground: This New York Times article called infrastructure investment an issue that united voters across the country.

Public Transit in National Spotlight: USA Today reported on some of public transportation’s big wins nationally. See the story here.   

Restoring SF’s ‘Backbone':  See three brief videos that tell the story of San Francisco Municipal Transportation Authority’s restoration of historic Van Ness Avenue, an initiative that includes building the city’s first BRT.

Fact or Fantasy? Fast forward a few decades to imagine what trains, buses and infrastructure might look like. Will we see anything resembling underwater floating tunnels, China’s “straddling bus” or Elon Musk’s podlike hyperloop?

Getting There: The first mile/last mile challenge often begins with a sidewalk. This blog entry proposes that sidewalks be considered transportation infrastructure and maintained as a public service.


"The example our nation's veterans set throughout their lives is a testament to the drive and perseverance that define the American character. Let us uphold our obligations to these heroic individuals and never forget those who paid the ultimate price for our liberty. On this day and throughout the year, may we sustain their lasting contributions to our nation's progress and carry forward their legacy by building a future that is stronger, safer and freer for all."

                                                                  President Barack Obama
                                                                  Veterans Day, Nov. 11, 2016 

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