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If Not for Trump, Last Night Would Have Been Great for Transit

Last night had the makings of a historic election for transit. Voters in cities as varied as Raleigh, Indianapolis, and Los Angeles turned out to support ballot measures to dramatically expand bus and rail service. But the election of Donald Trump and the retention of GOP majorities in both houses of Congress cast a pall of uncertainty over transit agencies everywhere, with continued federal support for transit suddenly in doubt.

Transit backers had a stellar night in local elections, but the Trump win brings funding uncertainty. Photo: Seattle Chamber

In local elections, transit ballot measures performed well, but the Trump win brings broader uncertainty. Photo: Seattle Chamber

In the regions with major transit ballot initiatives, the returns look good. (You can track the results at The Transport Politic.)

Indianapolis area voters approved a comprehensive transit expansion package that will significantly upgrade bus service throughout Marion County.

Raleigh and the rest of Wake County voted for a similar package of additional bus service and BRT routes, as well as a commuter rail connection to Durham.

Atlanta handily passed a half-cent sales tax that will expand MARTA’s rail and bus networks, as well as a separate measure to fund local complete streets projects.

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Transit Vote 2016: What’s at Stake on Local Ballots and How to Track Results

Presidential theatrics aside, $200 billion in local transit funding is at stake in this election. Map: CTFE

$200 billion in local transit funding is at stake in these elections. Map: CTFE

With federal transportation policy stuck in DC gridlock, more cities and regions are taking it upon themselves to shape the future of their transit systems. Today there are 78 local ballot measures that will affect funding for transportation in some way, with $200 billion in transit investment at stake, according to the Center for Transportation Excellence.

Since 2000, 71 percent of local transportation ballot measures have succeeded, according to CFTE, and the rate tends to be higher in presidential election years. Today’s ballot measures could provide millions of Americans with better transit — and that means easier access to jobs, more affordable household transportation costs, and greater freedom to get around without a car.

Here’s a quick review of the big measures we’ve written up on Streetsblog. You can get a summary of more ballot measures from Yonah Freemark at the Transport Politic and track the results as they come in tonight with CFTE.

Read more…

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Election Day Open Thread

voting line

We’re a 501(c)3 and can’t endorse candidates for office. What we can do is remind people to vote. Judging by the lines this morning, New Yorkers are plenty motivated.

At PS 152 in Brooklyn, the mechanics of the polling place seemed to be working fine, but it still took nearly an hour to cast a ballot. New York needs to get with the program and implement early voting.

This thread is open for all election-related conversation.

Streetsblog USA
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Transit Vote 2016: Raleigh’s Chance to Grow Smarter

Map: Wakeup Wake County

Wake County’s transit package would build 20 miles of BRT and bring frequent bus service to 83 additional miles of streets — vastly expanding the extent of bus routes that run at least every 15 minutes. Map: Wakeup Wake County

We continue our overview of what’s at stake in the big transit ballot initiatives this November with a look at Wake County, North Carolina. Previous installments in this series examined Indianapolis, Seattle, Detroit, and Atlanta.

Ask Wake County Commissioner Sig Hutchinson how Raleigh’s transit system is currently functioning, and he doesn’t sugarcoat it.

“I just really don’t think we’ve got a functional transit system now,” says Hutchinson. “It’s definitely not something you can rely on for people to get to work.”

The booming Raleigh area has only 17 miles of bus routes where buses run at least every 15 minutes. There’s no high-capacity service like rail or BRT. And if you need to take the bus somewhere on a Sunday, good luck.

Voters have a chance to change that next Tuesday. On the ballot in Wake County is a measure to raise $2.3 billion over 10 years to improve and expand the transit system, via a half-cent sales tax and a $10 increase in vehicle registration fees. The package would enable the region to quadruple the extent of frequent local bus service, build 20 additional miles of frequent-running BRT routes with dedicated bus lanes and off-board fare collection, and construct a 37-mile commuter rail connection to Durham.

Read more…

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Transit Vote 2016: Atlanta May Finally Expand MARTA and Beef Up Bus Service

Atlanta's MARTA rail (left) hasn't been expanded since the 1970s. On the right, D.C.'s Metrorail, which has undergone continual expansions.

Atlanta’s MARTA rail (left) hasn’t been expanded since the 1970s. On the right, D.C.’s Metrorail, which has undergone continual expansions.

We continue our overview of what’s at stake in the big transit ballot initiatives this November with a look at Atlanta. Previous installments in this series examined Indianapolis, Seattle, and Detroit.

Back in the 1970s, both Atlanta and Washington, D.C., received federal grants to build rail networks. After finishing the first wave of Metro construction, D.C. continued to invest, creating one of the country’s best high-capacity urban transit networks. But in Atlanta, MARTA’s rail lines pretty much cover the same ground as in the 1980s.

Unreliable bus service is a huge problem too. The FX show “Atlanta,” as Grist pointed out this week, depicts the struggles facing Atlantans who rely on transit, especially in suburban areas where trains don’t reach.

Proposed rail transit expansions for Atlanta. Map: MARTA

Proposed rail expansions and infill stations for Atlanta. Map: MARTA

The Atlanta region has had some opportunities to improve transit recently, but the political stars never aligned. That could change next month, when city voters weigh in on two issues:

  • A MARTA expansion, funded by a half-cent sales tax increase that will raise $2.5 billion over 40 years.
  • A “TSPLOST” measure that would raise the sales tax by .4 percent for five years, generating $300 million for complete streets and the “Beltline” — the rail-plus-trail project that encircles the city’s central neighborhoods.

The MARTA measure would pay for major bus service upgrades and up to 30 miles of light rail expansion. The City Council has selected a menu of transit improvements that will be eligible for funds, but the tax revenue won’t be able to pay for all of them.

One improvement that will certainly receive funding involves double service frequency on major bus routes from every 30 minutes to every 15.

Also eligible for funds: building light rail along the Beltline; seven miles of bus rapid transit with exclusive lanes, level boarding, and off-board fare collection; five enhanced bus routes with 10-minute headways and limited stops; and up to 17 infill rail stations.

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

indyconnect

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.

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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.

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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.

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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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