Transit's Big Day at the Ballot Box

Even with the fiscal uncertainty of the pandemic, voters around the country overwhelmingly supported new funding for public transit projects.

2 minute read

December 10, 2020, 12:00 PM PST

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell


Link and Bus Seattle

Oran Viriyincy / Flickr

Given the number of U.S. jurisdictions where voters approved new public transit funding programs in the November election, it might seem like government's have a mandate to support transit through the trying economic and social uncertainties of the pandemic.

An article by TransitCenter surveys the election results for lessons to be inferred by the messages sent by voters in November.

First up: the few measures that didn't pass were "designed to appeal to people who don’t ride transit," according to the article. "The strategy of diluting transit investment to get more votes may have worked in the past, but the winning formula this cycle was different."

"In Austin, San Antonio, Seattle, and other cities, voters not only supported transit — they supported smart, rider-focused transit investment. These winning initiatives will benefit entire transit networks by investing in frequent service on several routes. And in Austin, high-capacity expansion projects will be built where such large-scale investment is justified — within walking distance of where lots of people live and work."

The big wins in those three cities are contrasted with the success of ballot initiatives from recent history in Denver and Los Angeles, for example, which tended to focus on large capital investment programs to expand the transit system to various corners of the region.

In addition to dissecting the success of the San Antonio, Austin, and Seattle transit votes, the article also digs into the notable failure for public transit in November: the "Get Moving" plan in Portland.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020 in TransitCenter

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