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USA: Huge Net Gain for Public Transport in November 2006 Vote

Light Rail Now Project Team · November 2006

Despite several setbacks, the net result of the USA's nationwide vote of 7 November 2006 has been a huge victory for public transport. Major funding measures were approved in California, Minnesota, Seattle, and Salt Lake City; a light rail transit (LRT) plan was given the go-ahead in Kansas City; and, across the nation, many legislators and local political leaders more favorable to public transport assumed the reins of governmental power.

The following are highlights of some key specific results from the Nov. 7th US elections with relevance for public transport.

green arrow California: Huge win with the passage of over $40 billion of public works bonds, including a $20 billion transportation package of which $4 billion is allocated to public transportation projects. For Los Angeles alone, this will mean an additional one billion dollars in new discretionary funding.

green arrow Minnesota: Major win for public transportation, as voters approved an amendment to the state constitution that locks the state government into spending more money on roads and public transit by restoring all money collected from the sales tax on motor vehicles to transportation - a move that's expected to funnel an extra $300 million a year into transportation projects, including not less than 40% of revenues for transit – a whopping $120 million per year.

Minneapolis LRT Minnesota's voter-approved amendment to dedicate 40% of motor vehicle sales taxes to public transport could mean major influx of funding for expansion and improvement of services, such as Minneapolis LRT system, shown here.
[Photo: Joe Kurland]

green arrow Seattle: Major win for public transit, particularly in the approval of Proposition 2, which will permanently increase sales taxes by one-tenth of one percent to expand Metro bus service. Prop. 1, a nine-year property tax increase, will address the city's backlog of street, bridge, and sidewalk repairs, plus a host of transit, bike path, and safety improvements.

green arrow Kansas City: A huge win for rail transit ... In what the Kansas City Star calls "a stunning upset", local activist Clay Chastain's persistent, nearly decade-long crusade for light rail transit (LRT) won Kansas City voter approval, passing 54 percent to 46 percent. It was Chastain's seventh ballot attempt in nine years. The measure approves a 25-year extension of a 3/8-cent sales tax to help pay for a 27-mile light rail transit line, electric shuttle buses, and a cable-gondola system. The measure was opposed by almost all of Kansas City's political establishment, along with the Area Transportation Authority and the Regional Transit Alliance, and some local leaders are expressing reluctance to implement the LRT plan, despite voters' endorsement. However, campaign supporters are determined to see it carried out.

KC LRT Kansas City voters' thumbs-up to grassroots-initiated LRT plan could lead to revival of 2001 plan. Rendition shows simiulation of LRT system in downtown Kansas City.
[Graphic: KCATA]

red arrow Spokane: A loss for rail transit, as voters rejected two "advisory" questions which would have given a green light to the transit authority's plans for a $263 million diesel-powered light railway project. Proposition 1, asking if a funding package (probably including a local sales tax increase of up to 0.3 percent ) should be determined, was defeated 56%-44%. The second question, asking if Spokane Transit should use its existing resources to pay for engineering studies and design work, was defeated 54%-46%. The No vote to both questions probably kills the project for the foreseeable future.

red arrow Sonoma-Marin (California) Area: A loss for rail transit, as Measure R, which would have authorized a quarter-cent sales tax for 20 years to build and operate a diesel-powered rail transit line (plus pedestrian and bicycle facilities), narrowly failed with 65% of the vote, 2 points short of the required 67% (2/3). Sonoma County voters gave the measure 69.3 percent approval but only 57.3 percent of Marin County voters approved the measure. However, local rail advocates are planning to regroup, with a view to placing a rail plan back on the ballot in 2008.

red arrow Broward County (Ft. Lauderdale, Florida area): A loss for transit, as voters overwhelmingly rejected increasing the local sales tax to improve mass transit. A major component would have been a light rail starter system.

green arrow Salt Lake City area: A big win for public transit, as Salt Lake County voters approved, by 64 percent, Proposition 3, raising the sales tax by a quarter-cent to pay for rail expansion and road projects.

green arrow Grapevine (Ft. Worth, Texas area): Major win for rail transit, as Proposition 1, an economic development one-half-percent sales tax, which was largely focused on bringing regional passenger rail ("commuter rail") from Ft. Worth to Grapevine, was supported by 73 percent of voters.

green arrow Nationwide: Generally, a huge net win for public transport, as dozens of Road Warrior legislators and local political opponents of public transportation were replaced by others somewhat more favorable to investment in surface public transport and other alternatives to private motor vehicle and air travel.

For a complete tabulation of the results of all the transportation-related issues in this past November 7th election, the Light Rail Now Project recommends the extensive listing provided by the Center for Transportation Excellence, which can be viewed at the following webpage:

SLC TRAX Overwhelming success and popular appeal of Salt Lake City's TRAX light rail transit system continues to generated strong public support throughout the Salt Lake region, as ecidenced by Nov. 7th vote to raise sales tax to pay for expansion.
[Photo: LRN file]

NOTE: Much of the information in this report has been adapted with permission from the Public Transport Progress Digest.

Light Rail Now! website
Updated 2006/11/10

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