Finding solutions to funding transportation is a hot topic – look no further than the 2016 local elections. According to UCLA’s Institute of Transportation Studies, more than 300 transportation-related local ballot measures were voted on across the country and resulted in 70 percent approval and $250 billion in funds raised. As the Center for Transportation Excellence found in its election tracking, 2016 saw the most number of transit measures ever on ballots across the United States – 78 measures across 26 states. Those transit-specific measures saw a 71 percent success rate, with 55 out of the 78 measures being approved by constituents raising approximately $170 billion. Of note, Los Angeles County’s Measure M and Seattle’s Sound Transit measure account for a little under $130 billion of that $170 billion for transit. Additionally, California, Michigan and Ohio saw the largest number of measures proposed each with 25 or more measures.
Transportation funding is derived from a mix of federal, state and local sources. In recent years, the federal share of transportation funding has been less reliable as the Highway Trust Fund approaches insolvency and long-term funding is not available for large and prolonged construction projects. The numerous ballot measures and referenda in 2016 were directed at raising funds primarily through sales or property tax increases, however several were directed at income or fuel tax increases and bond sales. The use of tax-based revenue sources is typical in transportation as the revenue is generally reliable, are relatively easy to implement and tend to be both horizontally and vertically equitable (except for sales and fuel taxes). The many state, county and city initiatives prove that constituents are ready to invest in their transportation systems and are willing to work toward solutions to avert the impact of diminishing funds from Washington, D.C.
With long-term funding sources newly available and local transportation agencies thinking about the future of their multi-modal transportation systems, it provides opportunities for projects to incorporate smart mobility features. For example, many of the proposed projects are aimed at updating and expanding connectivity for historically underachieving transit systems. To ensure improved transit connectivity for constituents, smart mobility such as automated vehicle locators, intelligent bus stops or improved traveler information and trip planner applications should also be included in cities’ transportation programs. Below are some highlights of city and county initiatives that either directly outline or may be accommodating to smart mobility features:
- Las Vegas and Clark County, NV: $3 billion over 10 years through temporary $0.10 and inflation-indexed fuel tax increase. Almost 200 roadway projects focused on improving safety, increasing connectivity and reducing congestion will be funded through this 10-year county-wide gas tax increase.
- Austin, TX: $720 million bond. The 2016 Mobility Bond generates funds to be used on local, corridor and regional transportation improvements, which include multi-modal enhancements such as bikeways, sidewalks, utilities, Safe Routes to School and urban trail initiatives.
- San Jose and Santa Clara County, CA: $6.5 billion over 30 years through 0.5% sales tax increase. Nearly half of the funds raised by Santa Clara County’s transportation measure go toward highway projects and another $1.2 billion is dedicated to local street improvements. Additionally, $1.5 billion is set aside for BART Phase II construction and another $250 million with go toward a bicycle/pedestrian program.
- Indianapolis and Marion County, IN: $56 million per year through 0.25% sales tax increase. Proposal 145 establishes a permanent funding source to assist IndyGo, Marion County’s transit agency, to increase frequency, extent hours and create 3 bus rapid transit (BRT) lines.
- Charleston, SC: $2.1 billion through .5% sales tax increase. The $2.1 billion raised over 25 years (or until that amount is reached) will go toward road improvement, expanded public transit, and purchasing additional green spaces. The Charleston Area Regional Transportation Authority will receive approximately $600 million of the funds to enhance its bus fleet to deploy the area’s first bus rapid transit system.
- Atlanta, GA: $379 million over 5 years through 0.4% sales tax increase for 5 years. The measure will provide funding for right-of-way acquisition and completion of the 22-mile Atlanta Beltline, improved streetscapes and sidewalks with 15 complete streets projects, bike share enhancements, and synchronized traffic signals.
- Portland, OR: $64 million over 4 years through temporary $0.10 gas tax increase. As Portland’s first local funding source dedicated to fixing streets, proposed projects are primarily directed toward building more sidewalks, bike lanes, traffic signals, and Safe Routes to School.