Elections Infrastructure

On the ballot 2016


» If passed, referenda in dozens of cities could expand funding for transportation across America.

This year’s U.S. election has overwhelmingly focused on the dynamics between the two presidential candidates, and for good reason: As I documented earlier this year, the policy differences between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump on infrastructure are substantial. Control of the presidency and the U.S. Congress could dramatically alter the availability of funds for public transportation and active transportation projects; it is worth emphasizing that the Republican Party has repeatedly argued for the elimination of federal funding for transit, bike, and pedestrian programs while maintaining federal support for highways. At the state level, party control matters for transit as well; North Carolina’s GOP, for example, cut off most funding for light rail last year through a legislative maneuver.

But more is at stake, thanks to dozens of referenda offering voters the opportunity to support billions of dollars in new expenditures on public transportation. The largest referenda are Los Angeles’ Measure M, which would raise $120 billion for a huge expansion of that county’s transit network, and Seattle’s Sound Transit 3, which would fund one of the nation’s most extensive light rail networks. Many other metropolitan areas have smaller plans under review, from Raleigh to Atlanta.

Based on recent elections, we can expect between 70 and 80 percent of these referenda to pass.

In this post, I profile the most significant referenda for public transportation investments. Interestingly, though the majority of measures described here allocate more than half of their proposed revenues to transit, the argument put forward by many of the referenda supporters has been that these projects will address traffic congestion. As Laura Nelson documented in the L.A. Times, the traffic-reduction benefit of transit investments is limited at best, and often takes decades to be realized. Nonetheless, what many of the referenda will do is fund improved local bus services and new fixed-guideway projects, whether BRT or light rail.

For transit supporters, the real question is whether to support referenda that–even as they expand funding for transit significantly–nevertheless also invest in considerable highway expansion. Is it worth voting for new light rail lines if that also means voting for new highway capacity? In places like San Diego, for example, Measure A would pay for better transit, but also more road funding, and that’s provoked some in the environmental movement to oppose the measure; a similar dynamic is at play in Charleston. On the other hand, referenda in Detroit and Indianapolis fund transit alone.

Note that there are dozens of additional referenda on ballots countrywide. Many provide funding for highways only, or would reserve money collected through gas taxes to transportation uses, and others are for small cities that I do not provide details on here. Check out the Eno Center for Transportation’s ballot measure database for all referenda.

The following table lists the major public transportation-related referenda on this November’s ballots; details are provided further down in the post. I will update this page as election results come in on November 8. Live tracking will be here on this Google Sheet.

Referendum (click for details) Share in favor Passed?
California Proposition 53 49.0%* x_cc_naim_red
Alameda-Contra Costa CA Measure C1 82.1% check_cc_kimmi_studio_green
BART CA Measure RR 70.5% check_cc_kimmi_studio_green
Contra Costa CA Measure X 62.7% x_cc_naim_red
Los Angeles CA Measure M 69.9% check_cc_kimmi_studio_green
Sacramento CA Measure B 65.1% x_cc_naim_red
Santa Clara CA Measure B 71.5% check_cc_kimmi_studio_green
San Diego CA Measure A 56.9% x_cc_naim_red
San Francisco CA Measures J/K 66.9/34.9% x_cc_naim_red
Broward FL Sales Tax 51%** x_cc_naim_red
Atlanta GA MARTA Sales Tax 71.3% check_cc_kimmi_studio_green
Indianapolis IN Income Tax 59.4% check_cc_kimmi_studio_green
Detroit MI Region Property Tax 49.5% x_cc_naim_red
Wake County NC Sales Tax 52.7% check_cc_kimmi_studio_green
Central Ohio Region Sales Tax 73% check_cc_kimmi_studio_green
Toledo OH Property Tax 58.5% check_cc_kimmi_studio_green
Charleston SC Sales Tax 51.6% check_cc_kimmi_studio_green
Kitsap County WA Sales Tax 51.7% check_cc_kimmi_studio_green
Seattle Region WA Sales Tax 54.0% check_cc_kimmi_studio_green
Spokane WA Sales Tax 55.6% check_cc_kimmi_studio_green

* “Failure” in this case is good for transit, as it prevents having to undergo referenda for each major bond sale in the state.

** However, a related sales tax did not pass, so this funding will not go forward.

California (Polls close at 11 PM EST)

California Statewide Proposition 53 (constitutional amendment) [2/3 of voters must approve to pass]

  • Would require voter approval before state issuing of $2 billion of bonds or more that would require an increase in taxes or fees for repayment.
  • This would slow projects such as California’s High-Speed Rail by forcing new bonding capacity necessary to support the project to undergo voter approval.
  • Supporters | Opponents

Alameda/Contra Costa Counties Measure C1 [2/3 of voters must approve to pass]

  • Parcel tax ($96 per panel) extension for 20 years (does not raise existing taxes).
  • Would raise approximately $30 million annually; all would go to transit.
  • Maintains existing AC Transit services and continues low fares for youth, seniors, and people with disabilities.
  • Supporters

Bay Area region (Alameda, Contra Costa, San Francisco Counties) (BART) Measure RR [2/3 of voters must approve to pass]

  • Bond funded by property taxes
  • $3.5 b
  • Funding for more frequent and reliable service through the Better BART plan. BART infrastructure renewal would occur between 2017 to 2038. All funding would go to transit.
  • 90% of funding will extend to repairing critical infrastructure, with 10% aimed at potential expansion to relieve congestion.
  • Supporters | Opponents

Contra Costa County Measure X [2/3 of voters must approve to pass]

  • 1/2-cent sales tax
  • $2.9 billion/30 years
  • Would fund Keep Contra Costa Moving Transportation Plan.
  • 27% of funding would fund improvements to BART, bus, ferry, and train networks. Funds will aid in the acquisition of new BART trains, improved local bus service, and initial funding for a potential future East Contra Costa Transit Extension. The remainder of the funding would go to non-transit transportation projects.
  • Supporters | Opponents

Los Angeles County Measure M [2/3 of voters must approve to pass]

  • 1/2-cent sales tax
  • $120 billion/40 years
  • Would fund Los Angeles County’s long-term transportation plan
  • 27% of funding would go to transit operations; 35% would go to transit construction projects; 2% would go to state of good repair; 1% would go to regional rail; the remainder would go to active transportation, roadways, and local governments. Major new transit projects funded by the plan include extension of Foothill-Gold Line light rail extension; West Santa Ana light rail; Sepulveda Pass transit corridor; Green Line extension; Vermont transit corridor; Crenshaw light rail extension; and several BRT projects.
  • Supporters | Opponents

Sacramento County Measure B [2/3 of voters must approve to pass]

  • 1/2-cent sales tax
  • $3.6 b/30 years
  • Would fund Sacramento Go mix of transportation projects, including road, transit, and other projects. 26.35% of funding ($952 m) would be distributed to Sacramento RTD, including expansion of Green Line light rail to airport and BRT from Cosumnes River College to the Southeast Planning Area. Remainder of funding would go to highway and other non-transit projects.
  • Supporters | Opponents

Santa Clara County Measure B [2/3 of voters must approve to pass]

  • 1/2-cent sales tax
  • $6.5 b/30 years
  • Would fund Envision Silicon Valley.
  • Projects funded would include $1.5 billion for BART extension to downtown San Jose and Santa Clara; $1 billion for Caltrain grade separations and capacity improvements; $500 million for improvement of local transit service; the rest would fund highway projects.
  • Supporters | Opponents

San Diego County Measure A [2/3 of voters must approve to pass]

  • 1/2-cent sales tax
  • $18.2 b/40 years
  • Would fund transportation projects throughout the county, including highway, open space, transit, and other infrastructure projects.
  • Transit component is $7.5 billion and includes a new light rail line from San Ysidro to Kearny Mesa and more than a dozen new Rapid routes (arterial rapid transit lines). The remainder of the funding would go to highway and other non-transit projects.

San Francisco County (City) Propositions J and K [1/2 of voters must approve to pass]

  • 3/4-cent sales tax (Proposition K)
  • $150-155 m per year/25 years
  • 2/3 of funding will be dedicated for transportation (Proposition J); of this funding, 12.4% would be distributed to Muni transit service improvement and reduced fares; 18.8% would be distributed for Muni maintenance and infrastructure; 9.4% would go to expansion; 14.1% would go to regional projects; and the rest would go to street projects.
  • The two propositions interact; without the passage of Proposition J, the passage of Proposition K would mean funding would go to the general fund.
  • Supporters

Florida (7 PM EST)

Broward County sales tax

  • 1-cent sales tax
  • $12.6 billion/30 years
  • Half of the tax would extend over 30 years for regional transportation projects; the other half would extend over 20 years for municipal projects, with the last 10 years shared between municipalities and the county.
  • At the county level. bus service would be improved; BRT service would be added to several routes throughout the county; light rail between the airport and the convention center; east-west light rail would also be completed.
  • Supporters

Georgia (7 PM EST)

Atlanta City MARTA sales tax

  • 1/2-cent sales tax
  • $2.5 b/40 years
  • Would fund MARTA expansion projects ($6.3 billion in capital costs, $4 billion in operations costs in total). All funding would go to transit.
  • Projects planned include 7 light rail lines connected to Beltline, 2 BRT lines, a heavy rail extension, 5 infill stations. Clifton Corridor light rail, which extends into DeKalb County, would require additional funding. Local bus service would be improved, and new arterial rapid transit routes would be added.

Indiana (6 PM EST)

Marion County/Indianapolis Proposal 145

  • 0.25% income tax
  • $1.68 b/30 years
  • Would fund the IndyGo Marion County Transit Plan. All funding would go to transit.
  • Projects planned include three BRT routes, including the 35-mile, electric BRT Red Line, and improved local and express bus service. Project would be completed by 2021.
  • Supporters | Opponents

Michigan (8 PM EST)

Detroit Region (Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, Washtenaw Counties)

  • 1.2 mills property tax increase
  • $4.6 b/20 years
  • Would fund the Regional Transit Authority Master Plan. All funding would go to transit.
  • Projects planned include four BRT lines (Gratiot Ave, Michigan Ave, Washtenaw Ave, Woodward Ave), a commuter rail line from Ann Arbor to Detroit, and improved local and express bus services.
  • Supporters | Opponents

North Carolina (7:30 PM EST)

Wake County (Raleigh)

  • 1/2-cent sales tax
  • $1 b/10 years
  • Would partially fund the Wake County Transit Plan ($2.3 billion in total). All funding would go to transit.
  • Projects planned include a commuter rail line between Durham and Raleigh; new BRT lines extending in four directions from downtown Raleigh; and additional local and express bus service.
  • The plan would plug in directly to the already-passed sales taxes in Durham and Orange Counties, which are also funding transit improvements.
  • Supporters | Opponents

Ohio (7:30 PM EST)

Franklin County (Columbus) and portions of surrounding counties sales tax (Ballot Issue #60)

  • 1/4-cent sales tax
  • $62-65 million/year for 10 years. All funding would go to transit.
  • Renews dedicated sales tax for Central Ohio Transit Authority. Primarily funds operations for transit in the area.

Toledo City Issue 18

  • Renewal of existing 1.5 mil property tax.
  • $7.9 m/10 years. All funding would go to transit.
  • Supports Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority, funds a quarter of the agency’s operations.
  • Supporters

South Carolina (7 PM EST)

Charleston County sales tax

  • 1/2-cent sales tax
  • $2.1 b/25 years
  • 29% of funding would be distributed to public transportation projects. The remainder would be spent on road projects.
  • Opponents

Washington (11 PM EST)

Kitsap County Fast Ferries

  • 3/10-cent sales tax
  • Tax expected to raise $33 million/year. All funding would go to transit.
  • Funding would support faster, passenger-only ferry service from Bremerton, Kingston, and Southworth to Seattle, as well as improving bus service. Overall travel times would be reduced dramatically. Service would begin between 2018 and 2020.

Seattle Region Sound Transit 3 – Proposition 1

  • 1/2-cent sales tax; License tab increase of 0.8%; Property tax increase of 25 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation.
  • $27.7 billion/25 years.
  • Would support Sound Transit 3 (full cost $53.8 billion). All funding would go to transit.
  • Plan would support 62 miles of new grade-separated light rail, including new lines to Everett, Ballard, West Seattle, Redmond, Issaquah, and Tacoma; BRT would be added on I-405 corridor; commuter rail would be extended south to DuPont; express bus service would be improved.
  • Supporters | Opponents

Spokane County Proposition 1

  • 1/10-cent sales tax beginning in 2017; additional 1/10-cent sales tax in 2019; both taxes would extend to 2028.
  • $20 million/6 years
  • Would fund STA Moving Forward plan. All funding would go to transit.
  • Plan would increase service on local routes, creation of BRT routes between downtown Spokane, community college, University District, Gonzaga, and Browne’s Addition. Additional routes would be added.
  • Supporters

Image at top: Flickr user Mary (cc). Icons: Naim, Kimmi Studio, Austin Condiff (cc).

10 replies on “On the ballot 2016”

Hey Yonah, thanks for this amazing write up. I imagine Albuquerque Rapid Transit’s ballot measure isn’t included as it’s a non-binding vote? Thanks again!

Is it just me, or is there a fairly linear correlation between the portion dedicated to transit and the percent in favor? There’s a lot of highway spending in the ones that failed.

The San Diego measure was opposed by most transit advocates because, among other problems, the transit projects were to be built towards the end of the 40-year period while highway expansion would be done right away.

It will be difficult to build subways / trains here in the U.S. with the costs so high. The Second Avenue Subway cost almost $5 billion for less than two miles of track…while the Chinese just finished a 466 mile run for less. At what point are our politicians going to plan infrastructure improvements to benefit citizens rather than the very small building and trades constituencies?

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