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How cities voted for transportation funding, coast to coast

Over $200 billion was at play through local and state ballot measures

Above-ground train in Atlanta, Georgia
Atlanta’s MARTA got a $2.8 billion boost
Photo by Jonathan Phillips for Curbed Atlanta

Thanks to a record-breaking number of transit-focused ballot measures this election, cities across the country will funnel billions of dollars worth of transportation improvements into systems that desperately need it. Of the 45 measures exclusively focused on transportation, it appears that 33 passed this week.

The wins were bittersweet, however, as the national election results made the future of federal funding uncertain, even though Donald Trump has made big promises when it comes to infrastructure. Only time will tell if President Trump and his Republican Congress can deliver on his promise to make America’s transportation great again. But in the meantime, many of these cities are well on their way.

Atlanta

The city passed two major measures totaling $2.8 billion: a half-cent sales tax increase to fund improvements and expansion for its public transit system, MARTA, and a .4-percent special-purchase local-option tax to pay for bike lanes, sidewalks, and purchasing the rest of the right-of-way for the city’s Beltline.

Chicago

Illinois voters overwhelmingly passed a constitutional amendment requiring all funds from the state’s gas tax go directly to transportation projects. Called a “lockbox,” it ensures that gas tax money is not used for other state needs, a move blamed for the deferred maintenance that caused the Hoboken train crash last month.

Detroit

Voters did not approve a $4.7 billion regional transit plan, which would have cost the average homeowner about $7.92/month. It failed by about 18,000 votes. Advocates say Detroit will try again in two years.

Honolulu

Voters in Hawaii approved a charter amendment that places Honolulu’s $6 billion light rail project into the hands of the mayor, rather than Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation (HART). The light rail plan is part of a transportation renaissance for the city and putting it under mayoral control could help it happen faster.

Los Angeles

Los Angeles approved the largest and most ambitious ballot measure in the country. Seventy percent of voters approved Measure M, a permanent half-cent sales tax increase that would bring at least $120 billion to the city’s rapidly expanding public transportation system.

Sacramento

A half-cent sales tax increase did not fare well in Sacramento County, where voters rejected a $3.6 billion expansion of light rail and bus rapid transit. Critics said too much of the funding would be allocated to freeways.

San Francisco

Bay Area voters decided on several transit measures. Two intertwined measures, J and K, which included both transit improvements and housing services, ultimately failed. However, Measure RR, which passed, will allow BART, the region’s rail system, to authorize $3.5 billion in bonds. Contra Costa and Alameda Counties also passed measures bringing more transit options to the area.

Meanwhile, in Santa Clara County, which includes Silicon Valley, a 30-year half-cent sales tax increase was approved, which will raise $6.5 billion to extend BART south and improve the regional commuter line, Caltrain.

Seattle

Voters approved a $54 billion proposal that would add 62 new miles to the region’s light rail system. The average adult will end up paying $169 in new taxes beginning next year for the expansion.

Washington DC

Both Arlington and Fairfax Counties in Virginia approved general obligation bonds that will help with much-needed repairs for the region’s WMATA transit authority. Earlier this year, the entire DC Metro was shut down for several days to fix a slew of safety problems and continues to close entire lines for deferred maintenance issues.