Wednesday, February 21, 2024
Urban Planning

Handbuilt Votes 2022: Urbanism At The Ballot Box

Transit is back on the ballot in a major way across the United States! High gas prices, fatigue over the horrific congestion plaguing cities, and an increased interest in promoting walkability and livability are driving support for transit in a number of jurisdictions. According to the APTA, 88% of transit votes earlier this year did pass, and more are coming next Tuesday. They’re perhaps not everything we’d want, and they’re perhaps not revolutionary. But any paradigm shift toward transit and away from Cars And Only Cars, even if it’s small or incremental, is a good one. A transit vote is a vote for better cities!

California & Florida

California has a handful of proposals. San Francisco and Sacramento County are voting on sales tax increases that will fund transit expansion. Fresno County (pop. 1 million) will vote on a proposal that will fund mostly roads. 0.03% would go to bike and pedestrian infrastructure. Whoever is voting in favor of this, well, have fun with bankrupting your kids, I guess!

Florida, which has passed some impressive transit funding measures in recent years, has a major proposal in Orlando that would produce billions for transit funding over a twenty-year period. Orlando has managed to avoid the “worst of” lists for traffic congestion overall, but it does have some impressively congested individual routes. On the Gulf Coast, however, the rapidly growing city of Tampa has struggled to implement new changes. A literal Karen (Karen Jaroch) filed the latest lawsuit challenging the most recent ballot measure, which was supposed to be on the ballot next week. A similar version passed by a large margin in 2018 and collected funding before being struck down by the state’s Supreme Court.

Smaller measures

New Hanover County, North Carolina, population a couple hundred thousand people, is voting on a sales tax measure that would raise about $14 million per year to fund the Cape Fear Public Transportation Authority. Boulder County, Colorado (population 329,000) is voting on a proposal that would provide $1.21 million per year in funding for transit (compared to 2-3 times more spent on roads). Eagle County, Colorado is voting on a similar measure to create a regional transportation authority. Another measure in Washington State would increase the tax on aviation fuel. It’s not exactly clear what this would mean as the measure is described as nonbinding and a similar measure was already approved by the state senate, but it’s expected to raise a little over a million dollars per year.

Outside Transit

Massachusetts will vote to place a surtax on really rich people. As one of the wealthiest states, they can probably afford to do this, since they have a high standard of living and generally vote for progressive stuff. The Bay State is also considering a measure that would allow undocumented citizens to apply for driver’s licenses.

Prop 30 in California is similar to the Massachusetts surtax. We disagree with the idea of taxing the rich to fund vehicle electrification when that money could be put to use funding things like transit or transit-oriented development, zoning policy reform, or any number of things that would have a much higher impact. But it seems like a good start.

Michigan – Transit Vote

In Michigan, three suburban counties (one of which is home to Detroit, though the transit vote exempts Detroit– it’s complicated) will vote to stick with or end service with the SMART transit service. Muckraking journalist and drunk Charlie LeDuff weighed in yesterday on Twitter by asking why we should vote for the SMART millage when the buses serve Detroit but Detroit doesn’t pay into the system. This parroted a common talking point of the late L. Brooks Patterson, even though it isn’t really true.

Only a few SMART routes even go into the city of Detroit and they are vital connections to connect commuters that have to cross a municipal border to get to work or school. (Suffice it to say, Charlie doesn’t seem to believe in regional infrastructure. We eagerly await his outrage when he finds out how much money MDOT is spending to widen highways!). The SMART transit vote is extremely contentious in the age of Trumpism, and the illegal Auburn Hills council vote to remove the city from SMART, contravening a plurality of voters who supported the tax, just highlights this further.

The Motor City Freedom Riders and the Transportation Riders United support the SMART millage extension.

Oakland County Approves Universal SMART Millage For Fall Ballot

Outside of the regional transit vote? We are also voting for Proposal 3. Contrary to the wording in the increasingly jumbled messaging of Republican attack ads, it is not vague or confusing– it protects reproductive rights. Is it everything we had hoped for? Perhaps not. Is it an important move in a state that barely managed to escape the automatic criminalization of abortion following the disastrous Supreme Court decision to overturn a half-century-old precedent in Roe v. Wade? We certainly think so. It goes without saying that, no matter how much we dislike Gretchen Whitmer’s transportation and infrastructure policy, we are still voting for her– wholeheartedly, over Tudor Dixon, who doesn’t seem to have any infrastructure policy, or much in the way of other policy thoughts other than “Woke Agenda Bad.” Dixon, a former actress in B-horror films who ran her father’s steel company, has received the endorsement of the Michigan Chamber of Commerce.

And, of course, incumbent Democrat Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, we hope, will trounce loyal QAnon adherent Kristina Karamo, who says that the George Soros-Funded Global Elite Drink Aborted Baby Blood. Karamo, who once allegedly threatened to murder her whole family, didn’t even receive the endorsement of the Detroit News, which frankly seems to endorse virtually any Republican.

Are you voting for transit in your municipality? Write to us!

Check out Ballotpedia and Smart Cities Dive for more on ballot measures on transit votes and other things next week!

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