News & Media
CFTE Express Vol.14, No.2April 21, 2016
In This Issue …
- Voters in Tulsa Support Sales Tax for Transit and Other City Services
- Good News Emerges from Uncertainty: The Path to Dedicated Funding for MARTA
- Measures We’re Watching
- APTA Announces 2016 Local Coalition Grant Program
- Upcoming Events
Voters in Tulsa Support Sales Tax for Transit and Other City Services
Earlier this month, voters in Tulsa, Oklahoma went to the polls to decide on an $885 million plan to fund increased investment in transportation projects, public safety, and economic development efforts. To pay for this plan, referred to as Vision Tulsa, residents were asked to support an increased sales tax.
Each specific area of investment—transportation, public safety, and economic development—had individual propositions on the ballot that voters considered separately. The transportation-specific proposition passed by a wide margin, with 75 percent voting in favor of the measure and only 25 percent opposing it. The other two propositions of Vision Tulsa passed as well.
Vision Tulsa invests $102 million of the new revenue generated by the sales tax in transportation projects around the city. Of that $102 million, 56 percent will go to transit operations and capital, while the remaining 44 percent will be allocated to street maintenance and traffic.
The fact that transit received a majority of the funding set aside for transportation in the final Vision Tulsa plan is particularly noteworthy. Earlier this year, city leaders considered substantially cutting the public transportation investment included in the plan. Thanks to the work of advocates on the ground, officials decided not to move forward with these detrimental cuts, compromising by adding street maintenance funding to the proposition, which had initially been reserved solely for transit. Yet transit is still set to receive a majority of revenue generated by this dedicated sales tax for transportation.
According to the regional transit authority, Tulsa Transit, this additional funding will support four initial projects throughout the city as well as future projects down the line. The initial projects include two bus rapid transit lines, an expansion of the downtown circulator, and Sunday bus service.
As we head into what promises to be a big year for transit elections around the country, this exciting win in Tulsa demonstrates that people continue to recognize the importance of investing in transit as a means of helping their cities thrive and remain competitive in the 21st century.
Good News Emerges from Uncertainty: The Path to Dedicated Funding for MARTA
In February, the Georgia state legislature struck down an ambitious regional plan to fund MARTA expansion in metro Atlanta, discouraging many in the region hoping for transit expansion. With that proposal thwarted, many thought the hopes of a dedicated revenue source for MARTA becoming a reality this year were lost altogether.
Yet in a somewhat surprising move, the legislature passed SB 369, a pared-down version of the original proposal. Instead of permitting a regional ballot measure that would have included Fulton, DeKalb, and Clayton counties, lawmakers authorized just the City of Atlanta to go before voters with a half-cent sales tax through 2057 explicitly for transit. Such a measure would generate an estimated $2.5 billion for MARTA over that 40-year period and could go before voters as early as November of this year.
Furthermore, the bill gives the City of Atlanta the authority to ask voters for an additional half-cent sales tax for road improvements as a separate ballot question should they choose to do so. In the areas of Fulton County that fall outside the City of Atlanta, SB 369 also allows mayors to place a ¾-cent sales tax on the ballot only after jointly agreeing to a list of transit and road projects.
While this is less than MARTA would have received under the initial regional proposal, a transit sales tax measure in the City of Atlanta would be a strong first step toward improving transit throughout the region and would clear the way for MARTA’s largest expansion to date. Support for transit expansion is stronger in the city of Atlanta than elsewhere in the region, and a successful measure there could catalyze increased support in other counties in the future.
Measures We’re Watching…
2016 is a busy year for transit advocates around the country, with dozens of measures on the horizon. The next election on CFTE’s radar will take place in Ellensburg, WA on April 26th. Ellensburg officials will ask voters to approve a 0.2 percent sales tax increase for ten years to support the Ellensburg Transportation Benefit District, which oversees Central Transit. If passed, revenue from this tax would effectively eliminate the need for any Washington State DoT funds to keep public transit in the city running.
On May 3rd, residents of Port Huron, MI will consider a 4-year renewal of the current 0.6214-mill property tax that funds the Blue Water Area Transportation Commission. This renewal would generate an estimated $374,900 during the first year it’s levied, providing continued funding to the local bus system.
In Castle Hills, TX, residents will decide on May 7th if they would like to opt out of transit service currently provided to them by VIA Metropolitan Transit and instead direct the current half-cent sales tax reserved for transit service to road and other infrastructure improvements.
On May 10th, voters in Monongalia County, WV will consider a 0.022 percent property tax levy to support the Mountain Line Transit Authority. This measure will require support from 60 percent of voters to pass.
Finally, on May 14th, Richland Hills, TX will consider leaving the regional transit agency known as the Trinity Railway Express, or the T. In doing so, they would cease collection of the half-cent sales tax that currently funds T service. This will be the fourth referendum held in 23 years on this issue. In the past, transit advocates have managed to win the elections in landslide victories. However, this time around, the mayor and city council called the election have expressed open frustrations with the T.
APTA Announces 2016 Local Coalition Grant Program
Grants for coalition building and advocacy are now available through the American Public Transportation Association's Local Coalition Grant Program. Since 2003, APTA has supported grassroots advocacy organizations through this grant program. As public transportation across the country continues to provide necessary services while facing tight budgets, local grassroots efforts can often be the turning point in successful advocacy efforts and campaigns to advance the funding of public transportation.
For more information on the grant and to apply, please visit the APTA Local Coalition Grant Website.
Six Stops to Success Webinar Series 2015-2016, Part 4
Tuesday, May 10th, 2016
A key element of most advocacy and ballot campaigns is an effective champion. Local officials can be some of the biggest advocates for transit. Fostering positive relationships with elected officials and partnering on campaign strategies, messaging and events can, in many cases, mean the difference between a project or initiative’s success or failure. This webinar will examine how these relationships are cultivated and used in successful transit initiatives.
Join us to hear from Councilmember Rob Johnson and Commissioner Sig Hutchinson, elected officials working hard on transit campaigns in Seattle, WA, and Raleigh, NC, respectively. Additionally, Mike Alexander from the Atlanta Regional Commission will provide the planning perspective on how best to work with elected officials to improve and expand regional transit.
Speakers: Rob Johnson, Seattle City Council; Sig Hutchinson, Wake County Board of Commissioners; Mike Alexander, Atlanta Regional Commission
May 15-18, 2016
This technical, educational program covers operations and maintenance, accessibility and paratransit, integrated mobility and transformative technology, first- and last-mile transportation, safety and security, planning and sustainability, funding and finance, capital programs, procurement, and workforce development. Participate in the Maintenance Managers Workshop and Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) Tuesday, DBE Academy Training, National Transit Institute training courses, Bus Display, Products & Services Showcase, and technical tours.
Who should attend: bus and paratransit system employees and managers, board members, contractors, suppliers, manufacturers, and consultants