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Transit Vote 2016: Indianapolis’s Chance to Get a Real Transit System


The Indy Connect plan would dramatically expand frequent transit routes (in red). Maps: Indy Connect. Click to enlarge.

The presidency and Congress aren’t the only things at stake when voters go to the polls next month. In several cities, people will also be deciding the future of their transit and transportation systems. With the odds of increasing federal transit funding looking remote in gridlocked Washington, these local ballot measures take on even more importance. Before the election, Streetsblog will be looking at what’s at stake in some of the big transit ballot initiatives, starting with Indianapolis.

Indianapolis is a growing city, but the region’s bare-bones transit system is not keeping up. Bus routes that provide service at least every 15 minutes are almost non-existent. Only about 2 percent of the city’s commuters take transit to work, compared to 8 percent in Cincinnati and 18 percent in Pittsburgh.

Voters will have a chance to change that in November when they decide on a major expansion of the region’s transit system, funded by a .25 percent income tax hike. If it passes, the Indy region will dramatically expand frequent bus routes, extend service hours, and build three bus rapid transit lines.

Kevin Kastner, who writes at Urban Indy, says right now the bus system does not provide service that people want to use.

“Every 30 minutes is the best you can do,” he said. “The bus I rode this morning, I don’t want to say it was falling apart, but it was in about as bad a shape as a bus can be.”

Read more…

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Two StreetsPAC-Backed Candidates Win Primaries for Open Seats in Albany

There were a few surprises in yesterday’s State Senate and Assembly primary races, with some incumbents losing their seats. Candidates who got the nod from StreetsPAC and pledged to support MoveNY toll reform and street safety legislation won two of the five open seats in which the organization made an endorsement.

Yuh-Line Niou won a six-way contest to succeed convicted felon Sheldon Silver in Lower Manhattan’s Assembly District 65. Niou bested Alice Cancel, the Silver-backed incumbent who won a special election earlier this year to serve out Silver’s term, as well as StreetsPAC pick Paul Newell.

Niou has worked as chief of staff for Ron Kim, who represents Flushing in the Assembly. Her web site mentions making streets “safe and accessible for seniors and families,” but transportation issues are otherwise not addressed.

In other Assembly action, StreetsPAC-endorsed Robert Carroll won the Democratic primary in Brooklyn’s District 44. The district is currently represented by James Brennan, who is retiring.

Carmen De La Rosa, the StreetsPAC favorite in Inwood’s District 72, easily beat incumbent Guillermo Linares. De La Rosa, former chief of staff for City Council transportation chair Ydanis Rodriguez, will have no opposition in November.

In another upset, attorney Brian Barnwell ousted longtime incumbent Margaret Markey in Assembly District 30, which covers Maspeth and Woodside. StreetsPAC made no endorsement in that race.

Marisol Alcantara, backed by the faction of Democrats who caucus with Republicans in the State Senate, won a tight race to succeed State Senator Adriano Espaillat, who is headed to Congress, in Upper Manhattan’s District 31. StreetsPAC-endorsed Micah Lasher finished second by a few hundred votes.

Incumbent James Sanders Jr. fended off a challenge from StreetsPAC pick Adrienne Adams in southern Queens’s Senate District 10.

Two other Assembly candidates endorsed by StreetsPAC, Brooklyn’s Felix Ortiz and Jo Anne Simon, had no primary opposition.

Complete election results are posted on the state Board of Elections site.


Primary Day Open Thread

It’s a big day at the ballot box, with competitive races for State Senate and Assembly seats happening across the boroughs.

As Streetsblog readers know, state lawmakers wield tremendous influence over transit, traffic, and street safety. Several candidates have pledged to support toll reform and automated traffic enforcement — to name just two issues that will have a lasting impact on how safely and efficiently New Yorkers get around.

Since Democrats dominate most districts, many of today’s primary winners will have no opposition in November, and will go on to represent NYC in Albany.

Polls are open until 9 p.m. Check this WNYC page to see who’s on your ballot, and tell us about your voting experience in the comments.


StreetsPAC Endorses Candidates in State Senate and Assembly Primaries

Tuesday September 13 is primary day, and today StreetsPAC released its endorsements for New York State Senate and Assembly races. In heavily Democratic NYC, the primary winners will almost certainly go on to win the general election in November, if they face a challenger at all.

“For most state legislative races, incumbents are virtually guaranteed re-election, so our focus was on the handful of races for open seats, as well as those few contests in which there were legitimate, well organized and well funded challengers,” said StreetsPAC Executive Director Eric McClure in a statement.

All seven StreetPAC endorsees have pledged to support the Move NY toll reform/transit funding plan, the expansion of the city’s automated speed enforcement program, and more Select Bus Service routes. Here’s who got the nod.

In Queens Senate District 10, which covers Springfield Gardens, Rosedale, and parts of Ozone Park, Jamaica, and Far Rockaway, StreetsPAC prefers Adrienne Adams over incumbent James Sanders Jr. Adams sees speeding in the district “as a particularly vexing problem,” according to StreetsPAC, and wants to increase transit funding and improve bus service. There is no Republican candidate in this race, so the primary winner will take the seat.

Senate District 31 in Upper Manhattan is an open seat, with incumbent Adriano Espaillat headed to Congress. StreetsPAC likes Micah Lasher, former staffer for Michael Bloomberg and Eric Schneiderman, to succeed him. Says StreetsPAC: “While his main opponents, especially labor organizer Marisol Alcantara, are compelling candidates, we believe Lasher has the greatest potential to help navigate critical issues like Move New York, and increased deployment of speed cameras, through the murky waters of the State Senate.” Other Dems vying for the seat: former City Council member Robert Jackson and tenant’s rights activist Luis Tejada.

Read more…

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Transit vs. Highways: Which Came Out on Top in Local Elections?

Ed Murray's Move Seattle plan got a $900 million nod from voters yesterday. Photo: Seattle Bike Blog

Ed Murray’s Move Seattle plan got a $900 million nod from voters yesterday. Photo: Seattle Bike Blog

There were several local ballot measures with big implications for streets and transportation yesterday, and results were all over the map. Here’s how three of the most notable votes turned out.

Seattle’s property tax increase to fund walking, biking, and transit

This map shows all the projects planned as part of Ed Murray's 10-year Move Seattle Plan. Image: Seattle. Click to enlarge

This map shows all the projects planned as part of Ed Murray’s 10-year Move Seattle Plan. Image: Seattle. Click to enlarge

Voters have spoken and they decided to enact Move Seattle, the $900 million property tax levy for transportation.

The funding will support Mayor Ed Murray’s 10-year transportation vision [PDF], which lays out an agenda to reduce traffic deaths and greenhouse gas emissions, and generally make it safer and more convenient to walk, bike, or ride the bus.

Among the projects that will receive funding: seven rapid bus routes with dedicated lanes, a creative plan to fill gaps in the sidewalk network, and a network of 50 miles of protected bike lanes.

One of the longer-term goals of the plan is to put 75 percent of Seattle households within a 10-minute walk of frequent bus routes, running at least every 15 minutes.

The constitutional mandate to subsidize highways in Texas

In Texas, voters overwhelming passed Prop 7, a sales tax measure that will generate revenue for free highways. The measure mandates spending $2.5 billion in sales tax revenue annually on highways without tolls. As expected, Prop 7 won in a landslide, with about 83 percent of voters supporting the measure, according to the Austin Statesman.

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Streetsblog USA
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Raleigh’s Election Night Transit Sweep Likely to Clear the Way for Light Rail

Since 1995, leaders in the Raleigh-Durham region of North Carolina have dreamed about connecting its major centers via light rail. The results of Tuesday night’s election might finally make it happen.

The Research Triangle's 20-year dream of linking its major cities via light rail got a shot in the arm Tuesday. Image: Triangle Transit

The 20-year dream of linking the three major cities in North Carolina’s Research Triangle via light rail got a shot in the arm Tuesday. Image: Triangle Transit

The light rail plan calls for links between the three downtowns of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill. Getting three separate areas, and three separate legislative bodies, to commit to light rail has been somewhat tricky, but there’s also been major progress. Voters in Durham and Chapel Hill passed half-cent sales tax increases to support light rail and increase bus service in 2011 and 2012.

But for the last few years there’s been little to no progress in Raleigh — the third leg of the “Research Triangle” and the largest population center in the region. Wake County commissioners have refused to discuss regional transit plans, much less introduce a ballot measure that would put the issue before voters.

Tuesday’s election results, however, sent a clear signal that Raleigh is ready to get moving on transit. Democratic candidates, who campaigned on moving ahead with rail, swept all four available seats on the Wake County Commission, and the party now controls all seven votes. One winner Tuesday night, Sig Hutchinson, was formerly a board member and chair of the regional transit agency, Triangle Transit, which is leading the light rail plans.

Transit expansion was a top-tier issue for the four Democratic candidates. “For three years, GOP voted to prevent even a discussion of transportation options,” the team wrote on its campaign website, which asserted that the growing region would end up “like Atlanta” without decisive action to expand transportation options.

“We built a campaign of making smart investments in our future, particularly education and public transportation, and the voters told us tonight that they’re ready to move forward,” winning candidate Matt Calabria told the Raleigh News and Observer.

Streetsblog USA
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What the Results of 8 Governors’ Races Mean for Cities and Transit

Yesterday’s elections returned some of the nation’s most anti-urban, anti-transit governors to power in races where they were supposed to be vulnerable. Pro-transit candidates were unexpectedly routed in some states, though a few did manage to hang on.

For more background on these races, check out yesterday’s election preview. Here’s what to expect going forward.

Republican Larry Hogan could be bad news for rail transit in Maryland. Photo: Wikimedia

Republican Larry Hogan could be bad news for rail transit in Maryland. Photo: Wikimedia


The biggest upset by far was in Maryland, where Democratic Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown was defeated by suburban real estate magnate Larry Hogan. Just a few weeks prior, Brown had been leading by double digits.

This stunning reversal has ominous consequences for transit in Maryland. Hogan opposes two major rail projects — the Purple Line Metro extension in suburban DC and Baltimore’s Red Line.

Transit advocates have their work cut out to convince Hogan to save both projects. But David Alpert, writing about the Purple Line in Greater Greater Washington, says the new governor has some incentive to let it proceed:

Now, it’s very close to actual construction, and the federal government supports the line. If Hogan kills the project, he’ll be turning down likely federal dollars that won’t go to other Maryland priorities, and he’ll be disappointing many voters in a much more visceral way than under [former Republican Gov. Bob] Ehrlich.


Governor Scott Walker’s reelection by a six-point margin is certain keep the state mired in a 1950s-era, highways-only approach to transportation. Under Walker’s watch, Wisconsin has plowed billions of dollars into the country’s most pointless highway-building bonanza, while shortchanging transit so much that federal courts recently intervened. Perhaps the best symbol of his “leadership” on transportation is a proposed doubledecker highway, a useless boondoggle for any city, let alone slow-growing Milwaukee.

His challenger, Mary Burke, a former executive for Trek Bicycles, likely would have pursued a more balanced approach.

Read more…

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GOP Will Control the Senate in 2015 — What Does It Mean for Transportation?

The forecasting models were right: As the polls closed last night it quickly became apparent that Republicans will gain control of the Senate, with at least 52 seats now held by the GOP. The implications for transportation are immense. To understand what they are, first let’s look at what last night means for the prospects for a new transportation bill next year. Then we’ll get inside the committees for a nitty-gritty look at the leadership shakeup.

The Bill

Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) will take the reins of the powerful EPW committee -- and he just can't wait to eliminate all federal bike/ped funding. Photo: ## Sen. Inhofe##

Climate denying Senator Jim Inhofe (R-OK) will take the reins of the powerful EPW committee — and he just can’t wait to eliminate all federal bike/ped funding. Photo: Office of Sen. Inhofe

First and foremost, both chambers of Congress will be in GOP hands when the current transportation bill, MAP-21, comes due for renegotiation next spring.

Bicameral Republican control strongly suggests that the door to increased revenues is closed. (It was hardly open under a Democratic Senate, either.)

GOP control could make it challenging to extend the current law as well. Senators had to scrounge for ways to pay for MAP-21, settling for a grab-bag of gimmicks. There isn’t more loose change to be found under the cushions. And no one in Congress, on either side of the aisle, has the appetite for deficit spending.

Other scenarios don’t look much better. Republicans and Democrats could use the lame duck period between now and January to hammer out a revenue deal, for instance. That would benefit the Republicans by raising taxes on the Democrats’ watch (but after the elections, when they don’t have to worry about the Republican base slamming them for not fighting hard enough). With the funds in hand for a multi-year bill, the details of how to spend it would then get hammered out after the GOP takes control of the Senate.

This is unlikely, however. There’s enough that already has to be done during the lame duck, first of all. Second, the reluctance on both sides to raise revenues isn’t all show: Most members of Congress are truly unwilling to increase what they see as a middle-class burden, no matter who’s watching. Besides, House Speaker John Boehner doesn’t have the cohesion within his party to do something so strategic, and the Democrats might not even go along with it.

The other possibility, of course, is that instead of raising revenues to match desired expenditure levels, Congress can limit spending to match gas tax receipts. Former House Transportation Chair John Mica tried that a few years ago and it didn’t go anywhere. Many people think that idea has been tried and discarded, but others think it could easily return, given how few options remain.

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Local Ballot Results: The Good, the Bad, and the Highway Money Grabs

While last night’s election is looking like decisively bad news for transit in the Senate and in several statehouses, the results from local ballot initiatives are a little brighter. Here are the highlights that have Streetsblog Network members buzzing, as well as results from other referendums around the country.

Seattle transit will get a much-needed boost. Photo: Oran Viriyincy via Flickr

Seattle transit will get a much-needed boost. Photo: Oran Viriyincy via Flickr


Seattle voters approved a ballot measure to shore up and expand transit service. After a regional vote earlier this year rejected new revenue measures to prevent massive service cuts, a new proposal was put to voters just in the city itself. The 0.1 percent sales tax hike and $60 car registration fee passed handily with 59 percent support, according to the Seattle Times. As many as 49 routes will see expanded services thanks to the $45 million infusion, the Times reports.

Seattle Transit Blog called it a victory for both the local political establishment and transit riders.

Clayton County, Georgia

The Atlanta region’s transit agency, MARTA, will see its first major expansion in 40 years after voters in Clayton County approved a new sales tax. The Atlanta Journal Constitution reports that the 1 percent sales tax sailed to an easy victory. Clayton County, a lower-income suburban county, had been totally without transit service since a 2010 budget crisis. The ballot measure is expected to restore bus service as well as provide for commuter rail, which would be the first major expansion of MARTA’s rail system in a very long time.

Darin at ATL Urbanist says he expects the whole region to benefit:

Read more…

Streetsblog USA
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The Stakes Are High for Smart Transpo Policy in These 6 Races for Governor

Today, voters go to the polls to exercise their constitutional right to self-government — if their state hasn’t disenfranchised them with onerous voter ID laws, that is, and if they can get motivated to turn out for a mid-term election. In 27 states, voters are choosing a governor. These elections are perhaps the most important in the country when it comes to transportation policy, because governors set the agenda for major infrastructure decisions and control the state DOTs that spend the lion’s share of U.S. transportation funding.

Here’s a look at six close contests that will have major implications for transportation and development.


Maryland Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, left, and Republican challenger Larry Hogan, right.

Maryland Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, left, and Republican challenger Larry Hogan, right.

Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown has served as number two in Governor Martin O’Malley’s pro-rail, smart-growth-minded administration for eight years. Republican challenger Larry Hogan runs a land brokerage and development firm that specializes in suburban greenfield strip malls and subdivisions. While Brown would continue O’Malley’s emphasis on transit expansion, including the planned 16-mile Purple Line linking key Maryland suburbs and the downtown Baltimore Red Line light rail, Hogan argues that the state should focus on its backlog of road projects instead of bothering with transit.

The state has allocated the money for the line, but according to Ben Ross of Maryland’s Action Committee for Transit, “there’s nothing to stop them from changing their mind.” Advocates worry that Hogan’s car-centric transportation priorities would redirect all that money toward highways.

“The governor of Maryland has virtually absolute power over the budget,” Ross said in an email. “All the legislature can do is cut. So if Hogan takes the Purple Line out of the budget, no one else can put it in.”

Brown started off the campaign with a commanding lead over Hogan, but that lead has dwindled to almost nothing. The race is now a nail-biting toss-up.

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