How Did Different Transportation Modes Fare at the Ballot Box?

Updated December 5, 2018

*This article is being updated. Check back soon for the final 2018 numbers.

Voters approved far more ballot measures to raise money primarily for roads than for any other mode, but transit and multimodal measures will raise more dollars over the next 20 years, according to Eno’s latest analysis of the 2018 transportation ballot measures.

Voters approved 79 ballot measures that will raise money primarily for roads, far more than transit, which was the second highest number of ballot measures approved by mode at 34. (Note this does not include routine local road millage renewals in Michigan and Ohio, of which there are hundreds; we consider those separately as they are not additive and because they tend to pass overwhelmingly, thus skewing the results if we were to include them.)

For the purposes of our analysis, we looked at each ballot measure based on the primary mode of transportation identified in the measure’s language–in other words, which mode would receive the most funding as a result of the measure passing, or which mode was otherwise at issue (for measures where money wasn’t being considered). Many funding measures identified other modes that would also benefit, but at a lower, and oftentimes unspecified, funding level. Importantly, measures were categorized as “multimodal” if the measure made it clear many modes would be eligible for funding or if it was impossible to tell based on the measure’s language which modes would receive how much of the money.

As a percentage, transit projects fared the best with a 87% success rate (excluding airports/aviation, maritime, marking, and rail, for which no money was considered by voters this year). Multimodal enjoyed a 83.33% success rate, while bike/pedestrian measures came in third at 81.25%. Voters approved 70.5% of the road measures considered this year, but there were far more of those than for any other mode.

While more measures were approved for road funding than for any other mode, looking at the actual dollar amounts approved tells a different story. Voters approved far more money for multimodal and transit projects than for roads–for the simple reason that the average amount of money at stake in the multimodal and transit measures was far greater than the average in road measures. Again, the “multimodal” measures will also result in more money for transit, roads, and other modes–but at the time of this analysis it was unclear how much money would go to each.

Again, these numbers do not include the Michigan and Ohio local road millages. Also, when the measure did not specify and end date for the tax increase, we assumed a 20-year time horizon to ascertain the “total” amount of money raised by the measure.

Here is how each transportation mode fared at the ballot box this year:

Airport/aviation. There was only one ballot measure relating to airports and aviation this year: voters in Leighton, MI, approved the development of a private airstrip. No money was on the line.

Bike/pedestrian. Of the 16 ballot measures where bikes and pedestrian transportation were the primary identified mode (mostly for sidewalks), 13 of them passed, an 81.25% success rate. A combined $174 million was approved for active transportation projects; the largest was in Tuscon, AZ, where voters approved the issuance of $67.1 million in bonds for bike and pedestrian safety and walkability projects.

Maritime. There was only one maritime transportation measure on the ballot this year – a hotel tax increase in Del Norte, CA, that will raise just over $5 million for harbor improvements. The measure passed. Note that Lucas County, OH approved a property tax increase renewal to raise $2.1 million for the Toledo Port Authority, but it seems that money is going to economic development programs unrelated to the port.

Multimodal. Twelve ballot measures specifically identified multimodal transportation as the primary recipient of funding; we measured these separately when it was not possible to determine the breakdown of which modes would get how much of the approved funding. Ten of them passed, amounting to nearly $24 billion in funding for multimodal transportation. The largest, by far, was Broward County’s approval of a penny increase to the sales tax to fund multimodal transportation projects (over $15 billion over 30 years). San Mateo County, CA’s Measure W was called a few weeks after Election Day, resulting in another $2.4 billion approved for multimodal.

Parking. There were two parking measures on the ballot this year, both of which passed and neither of which approved new money for parking. Voters in Barrington, IL approved establishing preferential parking spaces for residents near Metra stations; voters in Bolinas Community, CA voted to restrict overnight parking.

Rail. There was only one ballot measure related to rail and no money was at stake; Florida voters approved a constitutional amendment that, among other things unrelated to transportation, removed an archaic provision providing for high-speed rail to be developed in the state.

Roads. There were 112 ballot measures for which roads were the identified primary recipients of funds; note this number does not include the hundreds of millage renewals in Michigan and Ohio, as those tend to pass overwhelmingly and are not additive (for the most part they simply renew existing fees) and would thus skew the results of our analysis. Seventy-nine of these measures passed, for a success rate of 70.5%, lower than those of bike/pedestrian, multimodal, and transit transportation measures. Combined, these measures will provide $6.54 billion specifically for roads. That number, however, leaves out the money that will go to roads in multimodal measures. The two largest road-specific measures were a sales tax increase for road improvements in Kansas City, MO ($924 million), and some of the revenue from the marijuana excise tax approved in Michigan ($700 million).

Transit. Thirty-four of the 39 transit measures passed, a success rate of 87% – the highest of any modes with money at stake this year. (The most notable of the five rejected measures was Nashville’s transit measure this Spring.) All told, $9.3 billion was approved for transit, the vast majority of which was in Hillsborough County, FL, which approved a penny sales tax increase for transit and other transportation projects ($8.28 billion). Again, that number does not include funding that will go toward transit in the ballot measures that were identified as multimodal.

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