News & Media
Vol. 5, No.8December 11, 2007
In This Issue …
- 2007 Continues the Trend of Transportation Investment at the Ballot Box
- St. Charles Avenue Streetcar Line Back in Service
- FY 2008 Appropriations Update
- 2008 Expected to be a Big Year for Transportation Ballot Measures
2007 Continues the Trend of Transportation Investment at the Ballot Box
TRANSIT TAX GETS AN OVERWHELMING ENDORSEMENT IN CHARLOTTE, NC
On November 6, voters across the country once again went to the polls in support of Transportation Investment. 70 percent of the voters in Mecklenburg County voted to allow the Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS) to continue collecting the half-cent tax, which generated $70 million last year, and will continue with its expansive 2030 transit program.
Tuesday's elections continue the growing trend of securing additional transportation funding at the ballot box and the strong voter support for these measures. With this year's results, voters have approved more than $115 billion for transportation since 2000.
Once again in 2007 voters in states and communities across the nation approved new investments in vital transportation projects. Overall this year approximately 67 percent of transportation measures were approved. The track record for transportation measures suggests that people are, contrary to conventional wisdom, very willing to increase local taxes to improve transportation when the benefits are clear. People want change and choices in transportation and the ballot box results prove it.
"Particularly notable is the Charlotte transit measure, a ballot questions that was watched closely around the country" Stated the CFTE Director Jason Jordan. "Despite a vocal group advocating the repeal of the transit tax, voters in Charlotte looked to the future and overwhelmingly reaffirmed the measure by an even larger percentage than when it was originally approved in 1998."
Charlotte, North Carolina was not the only place that voters showed continued support for transit investment. In Toledo, Ohio voters continued approval of a 1.5-mill operating levy for the Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority (TARTA) bus system. Voters in Kalamazoo and Saginaw, Michigan voted to renew millage for transit.
In Seattle, Washington, voters rejected a Roads and Transit package. Many opposed the measure believing that a higher share of funding should have been directed to increase public transit.
In 2006, CFTE released a report examining transportation-related ballot measures over a five year period from 2000 to 2005. The report, "Transportation Finance at the Ballot Box: Voters Support Increased Investment," outlined the striking rise in the use of voter-approved ballot measures to generate funding for transportation choices. According to the report, voters in 33 different states have approved 70 percent of all proposed transportation measures generating funding conservatively estimated in the excess of $70 billion. Transportation measures have passed at twice the rate of all ballot measures. More than 80 percent of all transportation ballot measures between 2000 and 2005 have specifically authorized financing and 2006 continued this trend with record levels of funding on the ballot.
To view all election results in 2007
St. Charles Avenue Streetcar Line Back in Service
STREETCARS RETURN TO NEW ORLEANS
After more than two years out of service, the St. Charles Avenue Streetcar line in New Orleans has reopened. Hurricane Katrina destroyed many of the streetcars, electrical lines and transit poles needed to operate the extensive system. In December 2006, streetcars borrowed from various lines first reappeared on a hybrid of the old Riverfront and Canal lines. But it was the reopening of the world-famous St. Charles Avenue line, with its 1920’s-era Perley Thomas streetcars, that has been most anticipated. Half of the 6.5 mile line (from the Central Business District to Napoleon Ave) opened on November 11, and the rest is expected to open in early 2008.
Operated by New Orleans Regional Transit Authority (RTA), the St. Charles Avenue line began operating in 1835. With the exception of its hurricane-induced timeout, it is one of the oldest continually operating streetcar systems in the world. The Perley Thomas streetcars were built in 1923-24, and were refurbished during the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. Although these streetcars are what give the St. Charles line its distinction, their antiquity has caused some problems for RTA. After Katrina, less than half the maintenance specialists with the knowledge to repair the antique streetcars returned to New Orleans.
For more transportation news.
FY 2008 Appropriations Update
DEMOCRATS STRATEGIZE ABOUT AN OMNIBUS PACKAGE
Congress will return to Capitol Hill this week to start wrapping things up for the year. First priority on the agenda is reaching a deal with the White House on FY 2008 appropriations. Senate Democrats are working on an omnibus appropriations bill to deliver to the White House around the middle of December that would split the difference between the president's budget and congressional spending bills. The omnibus package would combine 11 spending bills that have yet to clear Congress. It would provide $482.2 billion, or $10.6 billion less then Democrats originally wanted, excluding defense funding. The Defense bill (HR 3222) is the only spending measure that has been signed into law.
President Bush has vowed to veto spending bills, or an omnibus package that would exceed his overall request. On November 13, he vetoed the Labor-HHS-Education bill (HR 3043) because it would have provided $150.7 billion in spending, or $9.8 billion more than he requested. Over the weekend, President Bush told reporters that "Congressional leaders are now talking about piling all these bills into one monstrous piece of legislation, which they will load up with billions of dollars in earmarks and pork-barrel spending," Bush said. "This is not what congressional leaders promised when they took control of the Congress at the start of the year."
If the Democrats cannot reach a deal with the White House in coming weeks, they will have to find a way to fund the government beyond December 14, possibly through another short term continuing resolution or one that could last the entire year.
For more transportation news.
2008 Expected to be a Big Year for Transportation Ballot Measures
2 CITIES GEAR UP FOR TRANSPORTATION CAMPAIGNS
2008 looks like its going to be another big year for transportation ballot measures. The Center for Transportation Excellence is currently monitoring twenty-nine regions across the country that are considering putting transportation related measures on the ballot next year. The first two measures could be on the ballots as soon as February 2008 in St.Louis and Kansas City.
Earlier this month the St. Louis County Council approved putting Proposition M on the February 5, 2008 ballot. The referendum asks voters to approve a half-cent increase in the transit sales tax to support mass transit. The tax increase would be applied in two parts; the first quarter-cent for maintenance of the existing transit system, and the second quarter-cent for expansion of the MetroLink system.
The tax is currently set at a quarter-cent, and if the increase is approved, it would raise $80 million a year for the next twenty years. A boon for those in favor of the expansion is the closure of a five mile section of Highway 40, which is beginning next month and expected to last at least a year. The highway repair will to leave tens of thousands of drivers looking for a new route to work. After a month of heavy congestion voters may be more willing to raise their taxes at the promise of increased transit options.
In a November 2006 election, voters approved a plan to implement a light-rail system in Kansas City. A year later, city council members have voted to overturn the election results due to financial and feasibility concerns created by the original plan.
The controversy over the plan became evident last summer when businessman James B. Nutter began a petition to repeal the voter-approved plan. But the city council is now faced with a lawsuit filed by a Kansas City resident who was unhappy with their decision to repeal the election results on their own. In an effort to prove their commitment to bringing light-rail to Kansas City, the council followed up their decision with a self-imposed mandate to put another light-rail referendum before voters by November 2008. The “Nutter Initiative” may appear on the February 5, 2008 ballot as well as a question asking voters their preference on whether a plan for the implementation of light rail should continue to be developed. Either way, Kansas City voters should expect light-rail to appear on the ballot again sometime in 2008.
For a complete list of potential 2008 Transportation Ballot Initiatives