Election Day 2014 has passed, and while some of us may be happy and some of us may be in mourning, what remains the same is that transit measures continued the trend of being successful at the ballot box.
In eight states across the country, voters approved 15 out of the 25 proposed ballot measures supporting transit for a success rate of 60 percent for Election Day. Combined with measures from earlier in the election cycle, CFTE has recorded 41 successful measures of 58 on ballots across the nation for an approval rate of 71 percent. Even in a period of marked political polarization, 2014 is the seventh consecutive year voter approval of transit ballot measures has topped 70 percent.
The theme of the measures that were approved yesterday show that voters place importance on the transit services in their communities, along with maintaining and restoring those services. Most notably, residents of Clayton County, Ga., voted on Election Day to join MARTA three-to-one, restoring transit service to the county since C-TRAN was terminated by the county commission in 2010. The one cent sales tax is estimated to generate $50 million a year for bus service and commuter rail, the first commuter rail line in the state.
Election Day also reinforced the idea that even if voters fail to approve a referendum, it doesn’t mean that they don’t support the services in their cities. Seattle returned to the ballot in November with a city-wide version of Proposition 1 that failed in King County April of this year. The measure to improve and increase bus service within city limits received 59 percent of the vote. Alameda County, Calif., was also successful with a second attempt at Measure B, the sales tax increase for transportation that was narrowly defeated in 2012. $3.8 billion of the $8 billion plan will go to transit services, as well as significant investments in bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure.
Despite the continuing trend of voter support, several measures did fall short. High profile campaigns in in Florida and Austin, Texas, were ultimately unsuccessful yesterday. Kansas City, which failed to pass a referendum in August to expand the streetcar system currently being built, is already considering a second attempt in 2015, as is Atlanta to fund the Beltline following the failure of the TPLSOT in 2012. In a time where voters wonder, “What’s in it for me?” being unsuccessful at the ballot box doesn’t mean voters aren’t supportive of transit, only that current option isn’t the right sell at the right time.
Ashley Robbins is the transportation policy manager at Advocacy Associates and manages the Center for Transportation Excellence. A psychologist by training who fell in love with transit advocacy, she moved to Washington, D.C., from Atlanta, Georgia, in 2014 to become a policy wonk.