Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Interesting transportation initiatives on the ballot this November

I can't claim that this is an exhaustive list, the best sources would be the Center for Transportation Excellence and the Transportation Investment Advocacy Center.

But there are at least nine initiatives on the ballot next month for which the voting results will be indicators of the interest in pro-sustainable transportation policies at the local and state level.

1.  Clayton County, Georgia has put a sales tax initiative on the ballot so that the county could participate in the MARTA transit system, which currently is funded by sales taxes from the City of Atlanta, and DeKalb and Fulton County.  This is a big deal.  Clayton is where the airport is located, and there is a MARTA transit stop there.  But the County has never agreed to fund MARTA.  A few years ago it shut down its own bus service for lack of funds.  The sales tax would extend MARTA coverage to the county, and bring back bus service.

Interestingly, at the recent Washington Post transportation conference, America Speaks, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed talked about the failed referendum in 2012 (past blog entry "Failure of the transit-roads sales tax measure in Metro Atlanta") but not the upcoming vote in Clayton.  Given how the Atlanta Braves are moving to the non-rail-connected Gwinnett County, this initiative says something about how some jurisdictions in the car-centric Atlanta metropolitan area are "thinking differently."

-- Friends of Clayton Transit,"
-- Power of the Penny Facebook page
-- "Clayton’s Nov. 4 MARTA vote could shift metro growth to the south side," Saporta Report

2.  Seattle has an initiative on the ballot for King County Metro, which operates bus services in the city (rail services are operated by a different entity, Sound Transit).

Originally, a new sales tax and supplemental car registration fee was proposed for all of King County to ward off expected budget and service cuts, and a referendum was held earlier in the year, and it failed, although it passed in Seattle.  So a local initiative for Seattle-only service has been mounted.

However, since the earlier referendum and the certification of Proposition 1 for this fall's ballot, it's been determined that the forecast of the decline in revenues was wrong, so now the referendum is positioned as allowing for expanded service.  (Service has been cut quite a bit since the 2008 recession.)

-- Save King County Metro Facebook page
-- Municipal League of Seattle webpage (they, like the Seattle Times, don't favor the proposition)

While the State of Washington has authorized local referenda for car registration fee increases to fund local transportation beyond the $20 amount that can be imposed without a vote, not one such vote has been successful.  So it will be interesting to see what happens with this particularly initiative.

There's also a monorail proposal on the ballot, to provide rail service to West Seattle.

3.  Pinellas County, Florida (located within Greater Tampa Bay and home to St. Petersburg) has a wide-ranging transportation initiative on the ballot, focused on supporting transit development.  A similar initiative failed in Hillsborough County (home to the City of Tampa) in 2010 ("What Pinellas can learn from Hillsborough's failed 2010 referendum," Tampa Bay Business Journal).  Stakeholders argue that Pinellas has learned from the earlier effort.

-- Greenlight Pinellas

4.  San Francisco has a bunch of initiatives on the ballot, including a pro-car referendum put on the ballot by Republicans and Silicon Valley interests--most of the money behind the initiative comes from Sean Parker (pictured below at right), who isn't necessarily cool even if Justin Timberlake played him in a movie.  For 40 years, SF has had a charter amendment that specifies "transit-first" transportation policies.

This new initiative, "Restoring Transportation Balance," claims that a transit first agenda is imbalanced.  But most of the elements of the proposed amendment are focused on supporting parking--such as ending parking meter charges on Sundays, making it harder to expand variable pricing, and requiring all parking meter revenues be spent constructing parking garages.

-- Restore Transportation Balance
-- "Vote NO on Prop. L, a right-wing attack on biking and safe streets," Bikers Blog, San Francisco Chronicle

5.  Massachusetts gasoline tax indexing.  The Massachusetts Legislature passed a bill to increase the gasoline excise tax and to index annual increases based on inflation, which means that the tax will increase annually, without requiring a vote by the Legislature.  A referendum has been certified that, if passed, would overturn the indexing provision, which would make the gas tax pricing static, unless the Legislature were to vote on an increase. 

Some say that indexing the tax is an easy out for legislators, that they should have to vote on every gas tax increase.  Given how hard it is to organize the political capital necessary to get such a vote to begin with, and the reality of gas tax practice over the past 25 years, indexing makes a lot of sense.

6.  Maryland and Wisconsin have ballot initiatives that would protect transportation trust fund monies (usually derived from gasoline excise taxes) from being raided by the state government for purposes other than transportation.

7.  Texas has an initiative to direct some of the state's tax revenues from oil and natural gas production to the Transportation Trust Fund, for use on road and transit projects.  (Currently, some of this revenue stream is a major source of funds for the University of Texas and Texas A&M.)

-- Move Texas Forward

8.  Austin, Texas has a separate bond referendum to fund rail transit to the tune of a $600 million, which is a significant amount.

-- this entry from Hypstercrite, "AUSTIN’S PROP 1: SHOULD I VOTE FOR OR AGAINST THE TRANSPORTATION BOND?," is a great sum up,  listing organizations and articles for and against.

Labels: , , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home