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Voters deliver mixed results for passenger rail


Voters on Tuesday approved 13 out of 15 ballot measures that called for an increase in public financial support of transit, including passenger-rail service.

The measures considered represented over $38 billion in new funding for transit, according to the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) Center for Transportation Excellence.

Among those referendums that passed:

  • Proposition A in Austin, Texas, a $7.2 billion measure that will provide local funding for transit expansion in the region, including for Austin's first light-rail system; and
  • Measure RR in the San Francisco Bay Area, which would provide the first dedicated funding for the Caltrain passenger-rail service.

"Even during this pandemic and economic downturn, voters have spoken and pledged their vote where they know it's needed — public transportation investment," said APTA President and Chief Executive Officer Paul Skoutelas in a press release. "These ballots ... underscore the importance of local, state and federal partnerships in transportation investment."

Results in three transit-related measures — including a referendum on whether to expand Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) light-rail and bus service to Gwinnett County, Georgia — had not been determined as of yesterday afternoon, according to APTA.

Among the failed ballot measures was a referendum in Portland, Oregon, which asked voters whether proceeds from a new payroll tax should fund 150 transportation improvement projects. The "Get Moving 2020" plan included the Tri-County Metropolitan Transportation District of Oregon (TriMet) Southwest Corridor light-rail project, a proposed 11-mile light-rail line between downtown Portland and Tualatin, Oregon.

In a prepared statement, TriMet officials said they are disappointed in the results, but "we understand that this measure was a substantial risk during a time of significant uncertainty and the unprecedented impacts of COVID-19."

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 11/5/2020