Local investments authorized by voters are an important complement to federal dollars provided in the FAST Act, and in some cases, can even help win federal matching support for local public transportation projects.
California Leads the Way
Californians will vote on more transportation measures than residents of any other state. It’s notable that these measures aim to improve public transportation in a wide range of communities — from large cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles, to suburban areas, small towns, and rural areas. Here are some of the measures being put before California voters:
- Los Angeles County Traffic Improvement Plan Proposal — Measure M would raise area sales tax by a half-cent to fund new rail lines, improve bus and rail service, and support multi-modal transportation.
- Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) Bond Measure RR — The current BART system is stretched beyond capacity and badly needs upgrades. Measure RR would raise $3.5 billion for BART via a modest property tax increase.
- County Transportation Sales Tax Proposals — Voters in several counties across California will consider sales tax increases — by a half-cent in most cases — to fund improvements in transportation, including public transit. Measures will be appearing on ballots in Contra Costa, Sacramento, San Diego, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, and Ventura Counties.
Transportation supporters should also be aware that some ballot proposals may seek to limit public transportation or reduce funding. In California, two state legislators filed a ballot initiative to take funding away from the state’s high-speed rail project. The measure did not qualify for the ballot, but it could return in 2018.
However, Prop 53, a measure that would limit the ability of the state to issue bonds for transportation and infrastructure projects, did make it onto the statewide ballot this year. Public transit supporters should vote NO on Prop 53.
It’s important to keep in mind that public transit funding is often included in measures to raise dollars for many transportation projects, including road improvements. As a public transit advocate, you may want to see more funding allocated specifically for buses and rail, but keep in mind that ballot proposals are often compromises, aimed at improving transportation for both drivers and public transit riders. In addition, of course, buses usually share roads with cars.
November’s elections are just weeks away, voters throughout the country will have the opportunity to vote on ballot measures to improve public transportation. Regardless of where you live, we encourage you to stay informed about — and support! — local proposals for advancing public transportation.
One important thing you can do if there’s a transportation measure on your local ballot — besides voting yourself — is to help raise awareness and encourage others to vote as well. Check out the Voices for Public Transit Election Toolkit for resources to help you get out the vote for public transit in your area!