On the ballot

Looking out for public transportation measures in this election

Tim Bruns / October 30, 2020 / 3 minute read
Tim Bruns

We’re now only days away from one of the most unique general elections in recent memory. As the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is still a public health crisis, many voters have opted to cast their ballots early—in record numbers, as it turns out.

According to the U.S. Elections Project, over 83 million Americans have already cast their ballot through the early voting process. This surpasses the final count of 47.2 million pre-election votes in the 2016 general election, and also beats out the 58 million in-person votes cast that year as well. Nationally, voters have already cast 60% of the total votes cast in 2016.

While glancing at these stunning early turnout numbers, it is important to keep in mind that many folks still have yet to cast their vote. Though the presidential race may receive the most coverage in the media, several down-ballot measures—particularly those regarding public transportation—deserve attention as well. 

The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) says that 16 measures representing over $38 billion in funding for public transit will be considered by voters this election. The association says that so far, public transportation measures have already won in 32 out of 34 elections this year—including 100% of the measures considered since mid-March, when stay-at-home orders were first implemented in response to the worsening of the pandemic.

“Year after year, voters across the country have overwhelmingly voiced their support for investing in more public transportation,” APTA President and CEO Paul Skoutelas said in a statement. “The local and state initiatives on the ballot on November 3rd are vital to improve and expand public transit services, to spur economic development and job creation, and to connect communities and the people who live in them. These ballot initiatives once again underscore the importance of local, state, and federal partnerships in public transportation investment.”

APTA made note of some significant transit measures that voters will consider this election. These include Prop A in Austin, Texas, which would make critical investments in bus and rail to manage Austin’s urban growth while providing hundreds of millions of dollars for community-led anti-displacement measures; Prop 1 in Seattle, Washington, which would renew a tax that funds bus service and subsidized pass programs for students and other groups; and the Mountain Line mill levy increase in Missoula, Montana, which would, among other improvements, fund Missoula’s innovative Zero Fare program.

While keeping this year’s election in mind, I would like to draw attention to one of this month’s features, “The Road to Transportation Equity,” where Axel Santana from PolicyLink lays out the steps for transportation planners to take in order to build a transportation system that, he says, “truly works for all of us.” These steps include promoting healthy, safe, and inclusive communities by investing in affordable transportation options and climate-resilient infrastructure; ensuring fair access to quality jobs, workforce development, and contracting opportunities in the transportation industry; investing equitably and focusing on results; empowering community leaders to meaningfully shape transportation decisions that impact their lives; and reimagining safety to prioritize programs and strategies that actually keep communities safe. 

You can also find a Q&A conversation with the North Carolina DOT about an innovative signal system in the Asheville area designed to guide drivers around major incidents on I-26. These upgraded signal systems are part of a new Incident Corridor Management (ICM) System. Find out more in the feature “Incident Corridor Management System Q&A with North Carolina DOT.”

Vote safely, and happy reading!

About the Author

Bruns is associate managing editor of Traffic & Transit.

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