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, November 08, 2016

A few transit referenda I'm watching

I've taken on a new project so it's hard to find time to write about everything I'd like to be blogging about, including even national politics or the latest issues with WMATA, as well as testimonies and other submissions.

But we can't avoid today's election.  IN San Francisco, to encourage voting, the Zipcar car sharing service is offering free reservations for this evening, from 6pm to 10pm ("Zipcar offers free vehicles in Bay Area to get out the vote," San Francisco Chronicle).

According to the American Public Transportation Association,  there are 45 transit ballot proposals across the country, with a total spend of $200 billion. NPR ("On November Ballots: $200 Billion For Transit, Roads, Buses") and the Center for Transportation Excellence cover the transit "all" of the measures.  These are the ones that interest me.

1591 MTA Expo Line Santa Monica Sta 20160513 AKWLA MTA Flickr photo.

Measure M in Los Angeles County is a transit expansion program which would authorize an increase in sales taxes and an indefinite extension of the current dedicated sales tax.  It requires a supermajority so it is very difficult to pass.   (It has failed once already.)

Some parts of the County feel they will be disserved by the program, so the vote may not succeed.

-- "Why these southeast L.A. cities are banding together to fight Measure M, the transportation tax," Los Angeles Times

Recent expansions, especially to Santa Monica, have given the agency even more visibility recently. The "subway to the sea" extension is adding significantly to ridership.

- Sound Transit 3 in the Puget Sound provides for expansion of transit there, mostly light rail, but also streetcar, rapid bus, and other transportation improvements.  They are coming off a "high," recent light rail expansions, especially within Seattle, have led to a doubling of light rail ridership.

New Link Rail stations have large scale public art works.  Capitol Hill Station, Sound Transit photo.

But even with the success, people criticized the agency for expensive publicity activities around the expansions, and the local newspaper tends to be not as pro-Growth Machine when it comes to taxes, unlike most other newspapers, which understand the value of rail transit to real estate development, which is the primary economic engine at the city-county scale (cf. "Developers are building more around Metro" and "Metrorail's true value could lead to a badly needed funding fix," Washington Post).

-- "Sound Transit puts $54 billion light-rail plan on ballot," Seattle Times
-- "Reject Sound Transit 3 and demand a better plan," Seattle Times

It is a multi-jurisdictional ballot measure, so it is harder to pass, because some of the areas such as Seattle, are much more transit-positive than other areas.

- Measure RR in the San Francisco Bay would pay for rehabilitation -- not expansion -- for the Bay Area Rapid Transit commuter rail-subway system.  It's noteworthy because it's a repair "bond," and is situationally comparable to the financial needs of the Washington area's Metrorail system, where because it is multi-state, it's much harder to take similar action.  It also requires a supermajority for passage.

-- "Yes on Measure RR: The Bay Area can't work without BART, San Francisco Chronicle
-- "BART's future on line: Can transit system gain voters' trust?," San Francisco Chronicle
-- "Past decisions haunt BART as it seeks voter OK for $3.5 billion bond," San Francisco Chronicle
-- "Vote no on Measure RR: $3.5 billion BART infrastructure bond," San Francisco Chronicle

Interestingly, like here, some question whether the agency has the capacity to carry out the proposed program ("Politicians, citizens doubt Measure RR can fix BART," KGO-TV/CBS

- Proposition J in San Francisco would dedicate funds to transit improvement -- many people in San Francisco complain that the city's Municipal Transit Agency, because it generates revenue, is saddled with other programs and costs that aren't fully related to the agency's mission.

But the ballot measure includes funding for homelessness, and another measure, Proposition L, calls for more involvement in the MTA by the Board of Supervisors.

- Wake County, North Carolina transit sales tax.  I have been meaning to write about how the transit agencies in the Raleigh-Durham region are developing an incredibly intricate "integration" program where the individual agencies are still independent but increasingly coordinated.  They are a national model of best practice that needs to be closely considered by other metropolitan areas.

For example, all but one of the agencies uses the same branding program ("Go Transit" and a shared graphic communications framework, with different colors adopted by the different agencies), with mostly integrated fare media including a multi-agency pass system, A SINGLE CALL CENTER PROVIDING CUSTOMER SERVICE FOR ALL OF THE TRANSIT AGENCIES, and transportation demand management initiatives organized under the same branding system.

They have a transit referendum on the ballot to fund various projects ("Wake adopts transit plan, will seek voter approval of half-cent sales tax," Raleigh News & Observer). Given the bifurcated nature of politics in the State of North Carolina these days, it will be interesting to see what happens with this measure, and other election results there.

-- Detroit area transit referendum. Detroit used to control a regional streetcar system, but the system was shuttered over time, as the automobile reigned supreme in the local mobility paradigm. Detroit and the counties ran their own transit systems, with the counties especially Oakland seeing transit as something for poor people, and not wanting to fund transit as a way to keep Detroiters from moving there.

But over the past couple years the State Government has forced the consolidation of transit services through the creation of regional transit agencies and funding referenda.

While putting a measure on the ballot failed initially ("Plan for Metro Detroit transit millage fails," Detroit News), it made it eventually, after various machinations focused on placating Oakland and Macomb County ("Metro Detroit will get to vote on transit funding after all," Michigan Radio/NPR). Hopefully those compromises won't make for a bad process.

While for all intents and purposes, Washtenaw County, with progressive Ann Arbor and an existing transit service anchored by Ann Arbor, is not super integrated with the "Detroit area"--Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb County--it was forced to be integrated with the other counties.  This might help the measure pass.

Separately, Detroit is readying a new streetcar line on Woodward Avenue ("First M-1 Rail streetcar arrives in Detroit," Crain's Detroit Business) scheduled for service next year, and already has a intra-city People Mover system Downtown ("Making the case for intra-city transit planning").

Other election matters are also very interesting and terrifying. I have a couple of half written pieces about that. Of course, the national election, what will happen with the Senate, whether or not Democrats will pick up seats in the House of Representative. Whether people like John Mica will stay in office or L. Brooks Patterson, County Executive in Oakland County, Michigan, and some other ballot measures here and there.

We will know tomorrow and throughout the week.

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At 8:33 AM, Anonymous charlie said...

I'd say the geographic scope of these projects has been narrowed down a lot, compared to the Atlanta project a little while ago (or if you go further back, the NoVA taxing authority).

Again, if DC wanted to, they could but traffic/parking fines (about 120M a year) into a trust fund for the streetcar and raise money off that.

Or create a separate streetcar agency with separate bonding authority.

Anyway, isn't there a rule in DC that the polling location has to be in a percent?

If the Puget Sound, SF and LA ballots fail, I can see a big push by HRC administration to throw federal dollars into transit.

At 9:25 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

... I just don't think that putting all our eggs in the streetcar basket is the way to go. More Metrorail in the city, plus great bus (e.g., my "making transit sexy and more equitable"). I think double deck buses could completely reposition surface transit for a lot less cost than streetcar. Just as fast. Maybe not quite as much ridership.

+ bike and car share

Good point about Seattle, SF Bay, LA and a Democratic administration. Now it makes more sense that Sound Transit hired Peter Rogoff (ex high USDOT official) to be the CEO. A top Metrolink official is the ex CFO of FTA. Etc.

At 1:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In DC the condition of the roads is such that I don't think a double-decker is desirable. All that bobbing and swaying would have people throwing up all over the interior.

At 5:32 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

Based on my riding of buses, the roads aren't "that bad." But yes, I can read on the bus in Baltimore, and I can't read on the bus in DC.

Although, if that is an issue, then we should "fix" the roads. (Road improvements also help cyclists.)

At 3:01 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

VB advisory referendum on light rail fails.

Safe Roads Amendment to Constitution in Illinois puts a "lock" on transportation funding derived from fees.


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