Monday, November 17, 2008

Tampa's Transportation Odyssey: 2010

CFTE has been tracking the efforts to improve transportation choices in Hillsborough County, Florida for a few years now. It finally looks like light rail will be brought to Tampa, but not before 2010. Mayor Pam Iorio and local rail supporters have been lobbying extensively for a 1-cent sales tax to appear on the 2010 ballot. Two years ago Mayor Iorio went as far as releasing a "white paper" to explain the potential benefits of light rail to hundreds of regional lawmakers and business leaders.

Before any tax referendum can be placed on the ballot, it must be approved by the Hillsborough County Commission, which in the past, has been less than supportive of raising taxes for transportation. Recently, perhaps after the success of new systems like Lynx in Charlotte, several commissioners have changed their opinion of mass transit and at least one new supporter has been elected. It appears that the votes are are now there to get a sales tax measure on the ballot in 2010. Tampa may be the next big region to improve its transportation choices, but at the very least it looks like Hillsborough County voters will finally get a voice in the matter.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

One Small Step by Voters, One Giant Leap for Transportation

Yesterday, a British publication described the election of the first African-American president as another "small step for man, giant leap for mankind". Americans also took a giant leap in the direction of improving transportation choices. Voters across the country signaled their support for transportation-related investment by approving more than $75 billion in new funding for transit. In 16 states, from Rhode Island to Hawaii, voters approved more than 70% of transportation measures. The continued success of transportation ballot measures is especially noteworthy this year considering the on-going economic challenges facing the nation.

There were 32 such measures on the ballot and 23 of them were decided in favor of public transportation,with one measure still undecided. The three largest measures, $40 billion for transportation projects in Los Angeles, $17.8 billion for commuter rail and buses in Seattle and a $9.9 billion bond to begin a high-speed rail line from San Francisco to Los Angeles were all approved by voters. This year has been among the most successful election cycles ever in terms of overall investment and percentage of approved measures.

A complete list of 2008 ballot initiatives is available at http://www.cfte.org.