The year 2021 has been a huge year for public transit, though not necessarily at the ballot box. Transit systems across the country have lobbied for federal assistance, determined the best use for American Rescue Plan funds, worked to recover from COVID ridership dips, and waged a public relations battle over the future of infrastructure and mobility. With the infrastructure and reconciliation bills slowly making their way through Congress, transit advocates have been busy lobbying and making their case at the federal level.

From CFTE’s perspective, however, this has meant we’ve seen less activity than usual for transit at the ballot box.

That said, a number of communities all over the country have still forged ahead to better fund their local transit systems through ballot initiatives. So far this year, five communities (Durango, CO, Flint, MI, Grand Haven Township, MI, Holland, MI, and Alger County, MI) have passed ballot measures in support of public transportation (a 100% success rate so far this year). And from Election Day tomorrow through the rest of November, we are tracking an additional six measures that would fund public transit.

These measures include:

  • A measure in Lucas County, OH that would add Lucas County to the TARTA Board of Trustees, expand the TARTA service area to include the entire county, and change the current local property tax funding TARTA to a much more sustainable half-cent sales tax.

  • A $100 mil transportation bond measure in Maine including $15 mil for public transit improvements.

  • The renewal of Kalamazoo County, MI’s property tax to fund paratransit services.

  • A $515 mil transportation bond measure in Gilbert, AZ including $49 mil for public transportation improvements.

  • A $38.7 mil bond measure in Arlington, VA to finance the cost of various capital projects for the Washington Area Metropolitan Transit Authority and other transit, pedestrian, road, or transportation projects
  • The renewal of the property tax funding the Capital Area Transportation System in Baton Rouge, LA.

Elections for all measures will be held tomorrow, November 2nd, with the exception of the Baton Rouge election, which will follow on November 13th. CFTE will provide updates as results come in. For as-they-happen updates, follow us on Twitter at @CFTE_News.

Though this has been a smaller year at the ballot box, the measures we have seen this year are strong measures supported by effective transit agencies and we expect to see a high level of success.

Additionally, communities are gearing up for a big 2022, where advocates will leverage high turnout from the 2022 midterm elections to propel measures to fund innovative, record-breaking measures in support of public transit. We’re excited to tell you more about those measures in the new year.

As always, if you or your community are considering a measure, please do not hesitate to reach out.

Josh Cohen
Executive Director
APTA’s Center for Transportation Excellence