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Resounding Endorsements for Rail Ballot Measures in Seattle, St. Louis, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Honolulu

Light Rail Now Project Team • November 2008

In our article » Armada of Transit Initiatives Heads Toward USA's November 2008 Ballots « news/n_lrt_2008-10a.htm 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, and Honolulu.

Seattle-Tacoma area

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]

 Seattle Link

Here are statements of support from two major papers in the Seattle-Tacoma area:

• Seattle Post-Intelligencer • 17 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 administration.

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.


• Tacoma News Tribune • 10 October 2008


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 County.

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

St. Louis MetroLink 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 environment.


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.

• More MetroLink
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 opportunities.

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 us.

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 hold indefinitely.

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

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 buses. 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.


Los Angeles

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 the voters.

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]

 LA Red Line

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 that.

[...] 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 transit.


Light Rail Now! website
Updated 2008/11/04

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