Today is Election Day and Transit is On the Ballot
November 8, 2022
With the midterm elections less than a week away, we wanted to share information about ballot measures we’re endorsing.
ORIGINALLY POSTED ON 11/2/22
As a nonprofit organization, Rail Passengers Association is required to sit out the campaign season. That's fine by us: we have members from all across the political spectrum, so we understand that passenger rail works best when it’s a nonpartisan issue.
However, when transit is directly on the ballot, our mission requires us to let the riding public know where we stand. Midterm elections are less than a week away, and we want to share information about transit ballot measures we’re endorsing.
It’s no secret that, when given the chance, American voters are eager to support transit. The American Public Transit Association noted that 15 of the 17 pro-transit ballot measures that were put before voters earlier this year were approved. [Check the APTA Center for Transit Excellence to transit ballot measure tracker.] U.S. infrastructure lags behind our global competitors, and people of all political leanings are willing to invest their tax dollars in more and better trains.
(That’s probably why the group 'No Tax for Trax' resorted to filing a lawsuit against a Hillsborough County, Florida ballot measure in that would’ve implemented a one-cent sales tax increase for transportation purposes. Unfortunately, a judge ruled in favor of the lawsuit, denying voters the right to decide for themselves. The 'yes' group, All for Transportation, is in the process of regrouping, while making clear that, with 100,000 new residents added over the last four years and another 700,000 people expected to move to the greater Tampa area over the next three decades, existing infrastructure is insufficient to meet the growing demand.)
We’ve highlighted transit ballot measures with major fixed guideway transit elements. If you live in these areas, we hope you vote 'YES' for better transit! (And if we missed any important transportation ballot initiatives, let us know in the comments!)
Major 2022 Transit Ballot Initiatives
Arlington, VA – Metro & Transportation: voters will be asked to approve a $52 million bond for transportation and transit, with more than $42 million going towards Arlington County’s share of Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s (WMATA) Metrorail capital improvement program.
Boulder County, CO – Issue 1C: the Boulder County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) is asking voters to extend the sales tax at the current rate of 0.01% to continue funding countywide transportation improvements and maintenance work. Around 15% of the funds would go towards transit projects; proposed projects include additional Bus Rapid Transit lines and upgrades to rural transit service. The current transportation-dedicated sales tax is set to expire June 2024.
Massachusetts – Question 1: establishes a 4% tax on income over $1 million to used for the repair and maintenance of roads, bridges, and public transportation, as well as funding public education. An analysis done by Tufts University estimated the tax would raise $1.3 billion—however, since the funds are subject to appropriation by the State Legislature, it’s unclear which transportation projects would be funded.
Orange County, FL – Transportation System Surtax: implements a 1-cent increase in the sales tax for transportation purposes, with 45% of revenues dedicated to transit. The sales tax would raise an estimated $11.9 billion over a 20-year period, with around half of that revenue projected to come from out-of-county tourists. The SunRail regional passenger rail system would be a major beneficiary. Residents of Orange County have already identified high priority projects in a 2022 survey, which include the addition of evening and weekend service, increased frequencies, longer hours of service, a connection to the airport, and developing an east-west corridor.
Sacramento County, CA – Measure A: implements a 0.5% sales tax over 40 years, raising $8.5 billion in revenue to maintain and expand roads, as well as expand the Sacramento Regional Transit light rail system. The measure directs $80 million to the San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission for the Altamont Corridor Express (ACE) service, and $40 million to the City of Sacramento for the Sacramento Intermodal Transportation Facility. It will raise a projected $212 million annually and, beyond the earmarked projects, will direct 47.25% of remaining revenue to local street and road repairs; 25.11% to the Sacramento Regional Transit for light rail and bus vehicle refleeting, operations, and maintenance; and 22.43% towards congestion relief improvements.
San Francisco, CA – Proposition L: the San Francisco Board of Supervisors is asking voters to extend a half-cent sales tax for transportation, first approved by voters in 1989, for another 30 years. This sales tax is projected to raise $2.6 billion in revenue, and will fund the 2022 Transportation Expenditure Plan. Proposition L flips the standard script on road and transit funding, with transit getting the lion’s share of revenue and only 19% of funds going to streets and freeways. The plan calls for 41% of funds to go towards maintaining and enhancing Muni, BART, Caltrain and local ferries; 23% for major upgrades and expansion of rail and bus transit services; and 11% for paratransit services.
"It is an honor to be recognized by the Rail Passengers Association for my efforts to strengthen and expand America’s passenger rail. Golden spikes were once used by railroads to mark the completion of important rail projects, so I am truly grateful to receive the Golden Spike Award as a way to mark the end of a career that I’ve spent fighting to invest in our country’s rail system. As Chair of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, it has been my priority to bolster funding for Amtrak, increase and expand routes, look to the future by supporting high-speed projects, and improve safety, culminating in $66 billion in new funding in the Bipartisan infrastructure Law."
Representative Peter DeFazio (OR-04)
March 30, 2022, on receiving the Association's Golden Spike Award for his years of dedication and commitment to passenger rail.