An Historic Election for Transit-Related Ballot Initiatives - Metropolitan Planning Council

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An Historic Election for Transit-Related Ballot Initiatives

On Election Day, voters across the U.S. approved 72 percent of transportation referenda.

Sen. Barack Obama was not the only big winner on November 4.  More than 43 million people in 16 states were asked to approve transit-related ballot initiatives – including proposals for high speed rail, to expand transit services, and increase multimodal accessibility to move people more quickly and efficiently.  AcrossAmerica, voters chose to increase sales taxes, property taxes, or issue bonds for the next 20 to 30 years to support, create, or expand various inter-city, suburb-to-suburb, countywide, and regional transportation projects. Streetcars in West Sacramento, Calif., new bus fleets in Aspen, Colo., street improvement projects in Lawrence, Kan., and a new commuter rail system in Honolulu, Hawaii are just a few of the projects that received voter approval on November 4th.


Election Day - Photo Courtesy of Danny Arenas


In 2007, voters in Seattle, Wash., were asked to approve an all-inclusive ‘roads and transit’ construction plan.  They rejected the proposition, arguing it was too costly, would take too long, and did not adequately address the specific needs of the city.  Last week, voters approved a new and improved $17.8 billion proposition that eliminated the initial plan’s road and highway provisions, and instead focused squarely on transit enhancements.  Funded by a sales tax increase, the proposition will add 34 additional miles of light rail and an expanded bus system in 15 years.  Improvements outlined in the proposal will reduce approximately 30 percent of Seattle’s congestion and cost the average person $69 per year – about the same price as filling up one tank of gas.


According to the U.S. Dept. of Transportation, approximately 34,000 jobs are supported with every $1 billion invested by the federal government in transportation. Nationwide, voters authorized approximately $75 billion in expenditures for transportation projects – an investment that supports more than 2.6 million jobs.  Furthermore, the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) estimates that for every $1 taxpayers invest in transportation, $6 are generated in economic returns. In a stumbling economy, supporting high-quality, smart transportation infrastructure is a long-term investment that will help build regional sustainability across the country.


In an era of fluctuating gas prices, high costs of living, and financial strains on family budgets, Americans from coast-to-coast expressed their desire for change by investing scarce resources on long-term transportation projects.  These investments will create jobs for working Americans, savings at the gas pump, and a cleaner, better environment.


This article was featured in Talking Transit, MPC’s bi-weekly e-newsletter. To receive the newsletter, email with ‘Subscribe’ in the subject line.

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