In our article » Armada of Transit Initiatives Heads Toward USA's November 2008 Ballots
the Light Rail Now Project team have detailed a number of crucial transit measures, most of
which would impact the prospects for rail transit development, that will face voters on November 4th.
Several of these major rail transit ballot initiatives are receiving crucial support from the top echelons
of their local civic leadership.
Major newspaper and business publication endorsements are a key indicator of this support.
This report provides a sampling of some of these endorsements for ballot initiatives that would fund
large-scale rail projects in several of the largest cities: Seattle, St. Louis, Kansas City, Los Angeles,
As we detail in our article
» Seattle Area — Another public transit expansion effort «
Proposition 1 would finance a plan to extend light rail transit (LRT) as well as to expand regional bus
service and Sounder commuter train services in the Seattle-Tacoma-Puget Sound region, using a
0.5% increase in the local sales tax to fund operations, maintenance, reserves, and debt service
totaling $17.9 billion (including inflation) through 2023.
[Seattle Link photo: Sound Transit]
Here are statements of support from two major papers in the Seattle-Tacoma area:
Seattle Post-Intelligencer 17 October 2008
Tacoma News Tribune 10 October 2008
Yes to more transit
All things being equal, we'd support the expansion of Sound Transit for many reasons. This
metropolitan area is underserved by buses, trains and other alternatives to the car with a single
driver. We could make the case on transportation grounds, the environment or even pocketbook
issues such as the cost of filling a gas tank.
But all things are not equal. Not now. Those were arguments for ordinary times; we are entering a
period of extraordinary economic uncertainty. The first priority in this economy must be the creation
of good-paying jobs and voting yes on Proposition 1 will do just that.
Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels said the project would create at least 66,000 direct and indirect jobs. But
that figure could be conservative. The U.S. Department of Transportation estimates that 47,500 jobs
are created for every billion dollars invested in transportation projects.
Let's be clear about this: These are jobs that will not come to the region if we do not expand mass
transit. We could also pick up more federal dollars for the project, especially in a Barack Obama
Rail, unlike bus systems, opens up all sorts of additional development opportunities (that's another
way of saying, "Yes, even more jobs"). Portland's experience is that $6 billion in development
occurred within walking distance of MAX light rail stations since 1980. There are similar findings in
Dallas and San Diego, where property values around the light rail stations jumped by double-digits.
Sound Transit is a critical public works project. A one-half cent boost in the sales tax seems a
reasonable price to pay for so many new jobs.
Prop. 1 transit expansion deserves a yes vote
The region’s highways will get more crowded in coming decades. The price of gas will continue to
rise. Air pollution and global warming will become greater concerns. Mass transit is an essential
alternative to highways and gas pumps, and it comes at a far lower environmental cost.
Proposition 1 would greatly extend the reach of Sound Transit’s light rail, commuter rail and express
bus service. The new buses would show up quickly, and the commuter rail runs would not be far
behind. The measure would give Puyallup, Sumner and the Tacoma area four new Sounder round
trips to and from Seattle, greatly increasing the capacity of this extremely popular line.
Light rail takes a long time to build. This plan would extend it from Sea-Tac Airport to the northern
edge of Federal Way by 2023. A third vote would be needed to bring the tracks all the way to the
Tacoma Dome – but getting the line to Federal Way is likely to ensure a final build-out to Pierce
The investment would pay off for generations to come. Light rail service through the Interstate 5
corridor coupled with Sounder service through the Kent Valley will assure that South Sound residents
can get to jobs and colleges without hazarding increasingly unreliable freeways.
St. Louis's Proposition M, a half-cent sales tax increase ballot measure for St. Louis County, would
raise $80 million to operate and expand MetroLink, the region's 46-mile light rail transit system.
Passage of Prop M will also trigger a 1/4-cent sales tax in St. Louis City based on a measure that
was previously passed in the city in 1997.
For more details, see our article
» St. Louis — Support for LRT with dedicated revenue «
[Photo: Greater St. Louis Alliance]
St. Louis Commerce Magazine October 2008
A lot rides on the Proposition M vote in November. Use of the St. Louis Metro public transit system is
way up this year—and continues to grow. The system recorded a 12.4% increase in ridership during
the first four months of the year, and projections are Metro will finish the calendar year with an annual
increase in double digits.
In fact, Metro is enjoying the highest ridership in over 30 years. MetroLink posted a 15.6% increase in
riders the first quarter. That was the third highest increase in the nation, beating the national average
of 10.3% And, the increase on MetroBus for the same period, at 4.2% over last year, was more than
twice the 2% national increase in bus usage.
What’s behind this increased popularity for public transit? Gas prices, better bus and rail services, an
aversion to roadway congestion, employer incentives to take transit, a better way to get to the
game—it’s all that and more. People want to live in a region with quality alternatives to the
automobile. They want to save money on commuting. They want to do something good for the
There is a choice to be made. Do we fix public transit funding and move forward with better,
expanded services for the future? Or, do we decide that we will turn our back on investments made
to date and settle for a reduced system of service?
A “Yes” Vote: More Transit Options
In addition to providing funds to adequately operate Metro into the future, a “Yes” vote also means
new transit investments for the years to come.
New funding would allow the St. Louis region to compete for federal and state funding needed to
begin analysis required for expansion of MetroLink in the Daniel Boone/MetroNorth, major corridors
defined by East-West Gateway for enhanced transit including light rail.
Increased frequency on express and arterial bus routes nearing capacity
Ridership on MetroBus express routes has risen 22% over last year. Adding capacity, frequency, and
park-ride spaces to heavily traveled routes could be accomplished within one year.
High-speed bus service between major residential and employment centers
In the absence of light rail, enhanced bus corridors can offer quality, high-speed travel linking
residential and high density employment centers. New routes and expanded frequency could be
implemented within three years with the purchase of new vehicles.
Develop express bus corridors into Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) lines
Enhanced routes carrying very high numbers of riders can be converted to BRT lines, which would
use high capacity vehicles, dedicated stations, and limited stops. BRT development would occur in
phases as demand warrants and could be implemented in three to five years.
At stake in November are not just the personal convenience and cost savings that accrue to users of
the Metro system, but also the many benefits the region derives from having a quality, effective and
responsive transit system. Metro services reduce traffic congestion in major corridors, reduce air
pollution, provide access to employment and schools, and afford access to recreation and special
events. And, MetroLink in particular spurs economic development and increased real estate values
along its corridors.
According to the American Public Transportation Association, for every additional $1 invested in
transit approximately $6 in local economic activity is generated. Every $10 million in capital or
operating investment yields $30 million in increased business sales.
A growing transit system is an asset to users and non-users alike, to the businesses benefitting from
the economic activity the system generates, and to the region – making St. Louis a more
livable, competitive and prosperous place of choice.
Proposition M – a choice for the future.
St. Louis Post Dispatch 5 October 2008
Yes on Proposition M
Simply put, the outcome of the sales tax vote will influence whether St. Louis remains competitive
among metropolitan regions that are trying to attract top talent, top jobs and other economic
Dynamic public transportation – systems that are smart, efficient and convenient – is a
key indicator of a community's confidence and vibrancy. Our region has made major strides toward
creating such a system with its $1.4 billion investment (bus and rail) over the past decade. But many
voters still need to know what's in it for them.
Only 8 percent of county residents tell pollsters they regularly ride the Metro system. Forty-five
percent say they use the system for special events. The rest never get on a bus or train. Why should
they pay a nickel more in taxes for every $10 they spend?
The answer: Because the people of our community who do use and depend on the transit system are
an essential cog in the local economy on which all of us depend. They're the men and women who
keep our hospitals and nursing homes operating; the people who cook the food, serve the meals, bus
the tables and wash the dishes in the restaurants we patronize; the people who help find us shoes
and cell phones and hammers and baby clothes in thousands of retail stories, and countless other
businesses large and small.
Without public transit, many couldn't get to work. Without public transit, the worlds of many elderly or
disabled transit riders would shrink. Ask not for whom the buses and trains run; one way or another,
in an era of $4-a-gallon gasoline, global climate change and economic hard times, they run for all of
Proposition M's defeat would force Metro to make deep cuts in service early next year. Trains and
buses would run less frequently and serve fewer areas. Plans to expand MetroLink would be put on
A scaled-back system would mean less federal operating support. The inability to raise local
matching funds would mean missed opportunities for capital subsidies. And given the very long
planning and budgeting process that transportation systems require, we would be living with the
consequences of those missed opportunities for years to come.
Metro faces a $45 million shortfall in its operating budget, and, yes, some of the problem is of its own
making: poor planning on the Cross County MetroLink extension, flawed judgment and poor oversight
of its failed lawsuit against the Cross County's construction managers. Larry Salci, the agency's
former president, ran roughshod over a sleepy board of commissioners.
But most of the shortfall was beyond the agency's control, a toxic combination of cutbacks in state,
federal and county support and new accounting rules. Metro's strong new management needs an
alert, involved and astute board of commissioners and active support from the politicians on both
sides of the river who appoint them.
Prop M would raise an estimated $80 million a year. Half would be used for ongoing operations, with
the remainder banked for future MetroLink expansion. Approval in St. Louis County also would trigger
a similar sales tax in the city that voters approved in 1997.
Too often public transit is misperceived as a social service for the poor; it is, in fact, a crucial tool for
economic development. To change that skewed public perspective, the members of our region's
business and civic community need to realize that writing a check, while necessary, is not enough.
This is a time for leadership, not merely lip service.
Kansas City voters are being asked to approve a 3/8-cent sales tax measure to fund the local match
for a 14-mile, $815 million light rail starter line, running from Northeast Vivion Road and North Oak
Trafficway in the northland, through downtown Kansas City to the Country Club Plaza, east to Bruce
R. Watkins Drive, then south to Watkins and 63rd Street..
In North Kansas City – an important suburb– voters are being asked to approve a half-
cent sales tax to pay for the section of the system that will serve their city.
For more details, see our article
» Kansas City – Light rail project with dedicated revenue – re-vote «
[Graphic: Kansas City Light Rail]
Kansas City Star 20 October 2008
Vote ‘yes’ on light rail in Kansas City
Voters should understand that in the context of urban development, rail lines are wholly different from
Rail lines are permanent.
Unlike bus lines, a rail route can’t be shifted to a new location overnight.
Because rail lines concentrate large numbers of potential customers in compact areas, they can
encourage a denser pattern of housing, retail and commercial development.
They have encouraged development in cities as varied as Denver, Tampa, Fla., and Little Rock, Ark.
That’s why the question facing voters on Nov. 4 is not simply whether to increase a sales tax, but
what sort of city we want to build for the future.
The proposal before the voters has been endorsed by a variety of civic groups, including the Greater
Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, which has taken a dim view of light-rail plans in the past.
Voters should approve the next step in the development of Kansas City, and vote “yes” for the rail
plan on Nov. 4.
As our article
» Los Angeles – Tax increase for highways & transit «
recounts, what's proposed is a half-cent sales tax increase that could raise between $30 and $40
billion for transit and highway projects over 30 years. The measure will need approval of two-thirds of
About 65% of the revenue from the ballot measure would be used to expand the region's bus and rail
transit systems, while 35% would be earmarked for highways, streets, bikeways, and sidewalks.
Thirteen transit projects are slated to receive funds, including extension of the subway down Wilshire
Boulevard from Western Avenue to the sea, a Gold Line (LRT) extension into the San Gabriel Valley,
a light-rail line along Exposition Boulevard to Santa Monica, and about $1 billion for some form of
public transit along the 405 Freeway through the Sepulveda Pass.
About $6 billion would be shared by all the cities in LA County for their own projects.
[LA Red Line photo: Eric Haas]
Los Angeles Times 9 October 2008
Yes on Measure R
Los Angeles is as famous for its traffic congestion as it is for its sunsets and palm trees, and it has
paid a steep price, in smog and gridlock, for its love affair with cars. Belated attempts to devise a
functional public transit system have run up against a shortage of funding and a steep hike in
construction costs, producing only a patchwork of street buses and light-rail lines, as well as a single
dedicated busway and a single subway line – which don't connect well with one another, not
to mention with the parts of the county where they're most needed. Measure R would help change
[...] The money would pay for a wide range of transportation projects, including an extension of the
subway toward the Westside, light-rail extensions through the San Gabriel Valley, dedicated busways
in the San Fernando Valley and a host of highway improvements.
L.A. County residents have a chance to turn our Third World transit network into something more
befitting a world-class metropolitan area, and they should take it by approving Measure R.
As we explain in our article
» Honolulu — Rail transit referendum «
Honolulu voters must decide on a ballot referendum that asks: "Shall the powers, duties, and
functions of the city, through its director of transportation services, include establishment of a steel
wheel on steel rail transit system?"
Funded mainly by a 0.5 percent surcharge to the state's General Excise Tax, the project on the table
would install a 20-mile elevated rapid rail line that would link East Kapolei to Ala Moana, with an
estimated investment cost of $3.7 billion.
[Graphic: Honolulu Transit]
Honolulu Star-Bulletin 20 October 2008
Give OK to rail transit
Hawaii residents indicated in recent polls that they approve of the city's plan for rail transit between
Kapolei and Ala Moana, a goal that has been proposed for the past three decades.
Voters should end the continuing debate by approving a ballot item that will end the debate and
authorize the city to go ahead with the important project.
The proposed amendment to the City Charter would give the city transportation director the authority
to proceed with the "steel-wheel-on-steel-rail transit system." Rejection of the amendment would
greatly jeopardize the city's attempt to meet the growing need for an adequate transportation system
between downtown Honolulu and the island's Second City.
Blocking the plan at this point would greatly jeopardize federal funds in the future for any major transit
project in Honolulu, where the lineal nature of the island's leeward population is ideal for a single-line