Last November, just as they have in previous local and state elections stretching back to the mid-1990s, voters in 13 states considered 32 transit-related ballot measures and approved 70 percent of them, according to the Center for Transportation Excellence, a research group based in Washington, D.C. Spending on those projects will total $40 billion—bringing both immediate stimulus and long-term economic development tools to local economies.
Well, the beat goes on. Last month voters in the Grand Rapids region approved a property tax increase to enhance and expand that region’s first-rate bus system. It’s the third time since 2000 that Grand Rapids, the most conservative major metropolitan region in Michigan, approved tax increases for transit.
The Center for Transportation Excellence reports that Aspen, Colorado residents approved building a combination highway and bus rapid transit system, and Winter Park, Florida approved building a new commuter rail station. Of the five binding transit ballot measures this year in four states, only Kitsap County, Washington defeated a sales tax increase to provide new ferry service to Seattle. A fifth measure to establish new tax funding for transit has yet to be voted on in Washington’s Puget Sound region.
With such consistently strong non-ideological votes in favor of new transit service, and with gas prices climbing inexorably, you wonder when presidential candidates of either party will pick up the issue. Is it possible for the 2008 presidential campaign to be only about health care and the war? Doubtful given the global transition underway and the need to talk about much more than that.