Taxes for Transportation Were Well Received

Voters eager for better public transit approved 15 of 18 ballot-measure tax increases on Nov. 3, 2020.

Updated April 13, 2021 by Stewart Mader

Published in The Wall Street Journal – November 12, 2020

Counter to Grover Norquist’s “Voters (Mostly) Reject Tax Hikes” (op-ed, Nov. 9), voters eager for better public transit approved 15 of 18 ballot-measure transportation tax increases on Nov. 3. Adding these to the 32 measures approved earlier this year brings the success rate of transit ballot initiatives in 2020 to a high of 92%.

In Austin, Texas, voters approved investing $7.1 billion in three new rail lines, a downtown transit tunnel and bus-service expansion, including an all-electric fleet.

The San Francisco-San Jose rail line, Caltrain, gained dedicated funding estimated at $108 million annually for the next 30 years thanks to voter approval of a 1/8-cent sales tax in the three counties that the line serves.

Seattle voters renewed a sales tax to fund transit projects for an additional six years and increased the tax from 0.1% to 0.15%. In Missoula, Mont., voters approved a mill levy request that will raise $3 million annually to increase bus frequency on popular routes, expand weekend service, and move closer to an all-electric bus fleet.

These election results weren’t even squeakers; support ranged from 59% in Missoula to 67% in Austin, 70% in the Bay Area and 81% in Seattle.

Stewart Mader

Hoboken, N.J.

Stewart Mader works with transit providers, public officials, and policymakers to build better transit that supports economic, health, and climate resilience. He previously served as the first Chief Customer Experience Officer for NJ Transit‘s 270 million annual passenger trips, and guided customer experience for the Port Authority of NY & NJ‘s 80 million annual transit riders as Chair of PATH Riders Council. His insights appear in Mass Transit magazine, the Philadelphia Inquirer, and the Wall Street Journal.

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