News & Media
CFTE Express Vol.13, No.3May 07, 2015
In This Issue …
- Narrow Loss in Spokane
- Michigan's May Elections
- Preview the Rest of May's Elections
- 2015 TIC
- Infrastructure Week
Narrow Loss for Transit in Spokane
Last month, voters in Spokane, Wash., considered a measure to increase the sales tax by 3/10 of 1 percent to support new and current transit projects. The Spokane Transit Authority (STA) announced a broad plan called STA Moving Forward that detailed projects and the potential economic benefit if the measure was passed by voters.
Unfortunately, Porpostion 1 was narrowly defeated at the polls. Around 600 votes separated the final tally, with 49.6 percent of voters voting in the affirmative and 50.4 percent in the negative. According to the local media, the measure did well within the city of Spokane and the immediate regions around it. Where the measure fell short is in the suburbs and more rural regions of the county. The loss is a blow to increased public transportation in the Pacific Northwest.
While transit ballot victories are common, our data has shown that elections are often narrowly won at the ballot box. Campaign strategy and tactics are incredibly important in every race, even when the transit agency has a thoughtful transportation plan and obvious economic benefits.
Mixed Resultes in Michigan's May Elections
The State of Michigan has a history of successful local transit measures and leads the nation since 2000 in number of measures and record of success. May 5th was a major election day in Michigan and the state saw five transit referendums, with voters approving three of the five measures.
The most noteworthy measure was the statewide proposition that amended the Michigan constitution to raise the state sales tax by 1 percent. The measure would have raised an estimated $1.3 billion for transportation improvements, with $130 million, or 10 percent, of funds going to public transportation. While 10 percent is a low funding level for public transportation, it is also the maximum amount allowed under Michigan state law. Only days ahead of the election, polls revealed the measure to be unpopular with voters. Ultimately the proposition was crushed at the ballot box with 80 percent of voters voting against the measure. Much of the blame can be placed on turnout, as only 1 in 4 Michianders voted in the May 5th election.
The other four races in Michigan were local measures to increase or renew property taxes to fund local transportation agencies. Measures in Addison Township, Iosco County, and Van Buren County were all successfully passed. A combined measure to fund Lake Erie Transit (LET) was successful in the city of Monroe, but failed in Frenchtown Township. Unfortunately, LET needed the property measure to pass in both areas to avoid service cuts. The community may return to the ballot as early as this fall.
Michigan will continue to be a leader in transportation funding, despite the recently defeated statewide measure. The Mineta Transportation Institute recently released a report that found a majority of respondents in Southeast Michigan support a funding mechanism for public transit and they also indicated rapid transit as a top priority for the region. You can learn more about the report at the 2015 Transit Initiatives and Communities Conference this June, as coauthor Megan Owens will be speaking at the conference in Grand Rapids.
A Look Forward in May
This month will continue to be a busy for transit referenda. Voters in San Antonio, Texas, may set an interesting precedent for transit referendum by passing the May 9th measure to require all future rail projects to be approved by voters. Meanwhile, the town of Bourne, Mass., will decide whether to petition the Massachusetts legislature to include Bourne in the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) service area. Inclusion into the system would bring a new commuter rail station to Buzzards Bay.
Later this month, the mail-in election in the Vancouver, B.C., metro area will come to an end on May 29th. At the beginning of the race, polls showed the “no” side ahead in the election. Fortunately, the early returns are showing high return rates from the city of Vancouver, where voters are more supportive of the sales tax measure. The race has morphed into a referendum on Trans Link, the transit agency, rather than the planned improvements to come from the 0.5 percent sales tax increase. This is an important race to watch in 2015.
TIC is around the corner!
The 2015 Transit Initiatives and Communities conference is only weeks away and there is still time to register! In addition to the regular registration, there are still group discounts available and one day rates, including the grassroots workshop on Sunday, May 31. An updated preliminary program has been released and we are expecting a lively crowd at this year’s conference.
We have also confirmed several high profile speakers for this year’s conference, including:
- Michael Melaniphy, CEO, American Public Transportation Association
- Honorable George Heartwell, Mayor, City of Grand Rapids
- Mike Zuhl, Government and Public Affiars Director, R&R Partners
- Campaign managers from Alameda County CA, Clayton County GA, and King County WA
If you are interested in joining us in Grand Rapids, you can register online. You can learn more about why we chose Grand Rapids for the 2015 TIC conference here. If you have any additional comments or questions on the conference please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Infrastructure Week- Free CFTE Webinar
Next week is Infrastructure week, and CFTE is proud to be an affiliated organization for this year’s activities. On May 15, CFTE will partner with the National League of Cities and the National Association of Regional Councils to provide a free webinar on Innovative Approaches to Infrastructure Funding. The webinar will be held from 2:00pm – 3:15pm EST and is open to the public. Please register here.