News & Media
Special Issue: Election Day 2013 SummaryNovember 06, 2013
In This Issue …
- 2013 Six Stops to Success Webinar Registration
- 6 out of 7 Transit Measures Succeed on the November Ballot
- Overview of Election Day Races
- A Look Ahead at 2014 Ballot Measures
More Than Two-Thirds of All Transit Measures Find Success in 2013
Election Day 2013 saw voters in four states consider seven different transit-related ballot measures. Overall, six of the transit measures coasted to easy victories. In the lone defeat, the margin was a scant 26 votes. Those results bring the year-to-date approval rate for transit measures to 69.2% with nine measures adopted. While the approval rate is down slightly from recent record highs, it is still strong evidence of the popularity of transit initiatives with voters and maintains the 2000 – 2013 success rate at 71%.
The relatively modest number of campaigns this year is largely a reflection of the ‘off year’ election cycle. The total number of races this year is below the record high for ‘off year’ elections (28) set in 2011 but above the number for 2009. A look at this year’s races underscores the growth of transit in smaller communities and metropolitan areas. A full review of 2013 elections is available at www.cfte.org/elections.
Overview of Election Day Races:
Schoolcraft County, Michigan
This Upper Peninsula county passed a 0.87 millage property tax increase to support and expand local transit service. According to local officials, without the millage increase transit services would have been significantly curtailed. The additional funding will allow expanded weekday service and new weekend operations. The property tax was approved 68% to 32% and runs for five years.
Missoula voters approved the first property tax increase for transit service since the agency was established in 1976. The approved 14.5 mills increase is expected to generate $1.7 million annually to increase a service that has seen strong ridership growth. Plans also call for expanding specialized service for seniors and people disabilities. The campaign, run by Friends of Mountain Line, successfully brought together a wide array of supporters, including robust endorsements from the local business community. The measure won with 57% of voters in support.
Lake County, Ohio
Issue 2 was adopted 66% to 44% in Lake County. The measure supports the county’s Laketran service by guaranteeing a .25% percent set aside of the local sales tax. Previously, the agency had to go to voters to renew the funding every ten years. With Tuesday’s vote, the levy and transit set aside are permanent. According to Laketran officials, the county sales tax makes up 60 – 65% of the agency’s budget.
Spencer Township, Ohio
In a replay of the same initiative from 2012, voters in this Toledo suburb very narrowly opted to withdraw from the local regional transit authority (TARTA). The margin was a razor-thin 26 votes. Voters previously rejected a withdrawal effort with nearly 60% opposed. A number of communities in TARTA have seen similar withdrawal initiatives in recent years.
Grays Harbor County, Washington
A .1% sales tax for this coastal Washington county was adopted on a resounding 71% to 29% vote. The sales tax measure supports operations and maintenance for the local transit service. Earlier this year, the transit board approved a plan to cut service and increase fares to deal with a severe budget shortfall. The new tax revenue will restore service.
Okanogan County, Washington
This county lies northwest of Spokane along the Canadian border and is the largest county in the state by land mass. Despite its large geographic area, the county has not previously had a transit agency. On Election Day, county voters changed by adopting a 0.4% sales tax to support the creation of the Okanogan County Transit Authority. The measure was passed on a 56% - 44% vote. The tax will raise an estimated $2 million annually for local bus service.
Maine voters approved a $100 million bond issue for a variety of transportation and freight projects across the state. The transportation bond passed 72% to 28% and was the most popular of five state bond initiatives that went to Maine voters on Election Day. Transit and passenger rail projects are among those supported in the package. The bond funds will be used to match an estimated $154 million in federal funds.
2014 Races Heat Up in the Sunshine State
Pinellas and Polk Counties Approve Transit Votes for Nov 2014
Florida is poised to be home to a number of significant transit ballot races in 2014. Both Pinellas and Polk counties have taken formal steps to put sales tax measures for transit to voters next November. In Pinelleas County, the county commission has approved ballot language calling for a one-cent sales tax to support rail, bus and BRT projects and has scheduled a public hearing for December. Polk County will also have a one-cent sales tax on the ballot. Other counties in the state are also moving toward 2014 races. Hillsborough County, which sits between Pinellas and Polk in the Tampa Bay region, saw a sales tax go down to defeat in 2010, but leaders are actively looking at new options for bolstering transit and establishing new light rail in the region.