Election Day this upcoming Tuesday will be a crucial one for the future of public transportation in this country.
This election sets records for the most transit measures ever in a single year (77), the highest number of states with measures on either state or local ballots (25), and the most money at stake on transit investments (nearly $200 billion).
“A solid majority of the measures on ballots [should] pass. There’s good cause for optimism next week,” predicted Jason Jordan of the Center for Transportation Excellence at a press conference on Wednesday.
While most of this funding is directed at strengthening transit infrastructure, it will all make transportation demand management a much easier sell as a tactic in getting people to understand and embrace transportation options.
Some of the interesting TDM elements have been at least minimally reported in the mainstream media. Here are some highlights from around the country:
Measure M in Los Angeles is truly one to watch on Election Day, as it would direct nearly $100 billion over 40 years to improving and expanding the region’s transit. Part of that would be used for expanding employer-based TDM programs, as well as other strategies that would incentivize transportation options like carsharing or carpooling. Joe Linton of Streetsblog California explains:
The Los Angeles County Shared Mobility Action Plan outlines a future for L.A. County … that could lead to 2 percent less driving, meaning roughly 100,000 fewer private cars on L.A. streets in five years. The plan lays out a series of recommendations, emphasizing expansion of shared mobility.
The vision is a compelling one: significant increases in transit ridership (34,000 new riders), bikeshare (10,000 new bikeshare bikes), carshare (8,400 new carshare vehicles) and carpooling/ride-splitting (16,800 new riders.) In order to achieve these increases, the plan prescribes relatively modestly increased funding for government agency programs: $16 million for carshare, $33-38 million for bikeshare, $4-6 million for augmenting ride-hail, and $6-10 million for mobility hubs.
Atlanta residents have been reeling in literal gridlock after a failed regional transportation-tax proposal for years ago. But this year, the city will vote on funds for MARTA that could go towards infill transit stations and bus improvements, and another initiative could fund own improvements to roads, rails, sidewalks, and bike trails. From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
Atlanta residents will be asked to raise the city’s sales tax by a half-penny to add more buses, light rail, and infill stations for MARTA. Atlanta’s sales tax is currently 8 percent.
In the days leading up to the vote, boosters plan a $750,000- to $1 million-media blitz to get the word out, higher than the more typical expenditure of around $500,000 for pat referendums. The effort will include commercials, online advertising, direct mail, and radio and TV appearances.
Supporters, which include bicycling advocates, the city’s business community, and groups such as the Council for Quality Growth have aided the mayor, MARTA, and others in speaking to NPUs, civic associations, and other interested parties.
A measure in Indianapolis will ask voters to raise their personal income tax in order to fund transportation improvements that would include a bus-system upgrade. An advocacy group called Transit Drives Indy has been out in full force to educate voters – a TDM tactic crucial to truly getting people to take advantage of the benefits of transportation options. And while Transit Drives Indy is a wide coalition of businesses and community organizations, the Indianapolis Star notes that the mayor, despite his pro-transit leanings in the past, has refused to step in and play an advocacy role. Without vocal leaders participating and raising awareness, educating the public about transportation options faces an even rougher uphill battle.
There are plenty of efforts going into this election in which groups are attempting to educate the drive-alone-commuting public about major transit-infrastructure funding. This follows the common, but often-less-publicized, education part of TDM efforts. There’s Transit Drives Indy, and there are groups like Moving Wake County Forward in North Carolina and Move Broward Forward in Florida. As Move Broward Forward attempts to inform the public about the importance and benefits of a Complete Streets plan, among other initiatives up for vote, it seems there has been little news coverage of the group’s work.
Pro-ballot-measure campaigns like these raise the visibility of the outreach and communications aspect that is an essential piece of transportation demand management programs: before anyone can support (or use) transit improvements, they must first understand what it means for their community.
When plenty of these initiatives kick in on November 9, there will be no better time to start doing a better job at educating people on ways they can start spreading out some of their car trips to transit, bicycling, walking, carsharing, and teleworking.
Image: Riders on LA Metro’s Gold Line light rail, which could benefit from Measure M (Omar Barcena, Flickr, Creative Commons).