Transportation at the Ballot Box 2018

***NOTE: We are currently updating our ballot measure listing with results from Election Day. Access the listing (last updated Nov. 5) here, and stay tuned for updates soon. Email publicaffairs@enotrans.org with any questions.

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The midterm elections in November 2018 held major political ramifications for the United States given the high-profile Congressional, gubernatorial, statehouse, and mayoral choices American voters considered. But Election Day also plays a critical role in shaping communities from coast-to-coast in the form of investments and decisions about transportation.

There were at least 314 transportation measures on the ballot this November to go along with the 197 that already appeared before voters earlier this year. Eno released a comprehensive listing of the 2018 transportation ballot measures prior to Election Day and is currently analyzing the results.

Click here to access the 2018 transportation ballot measure listing.

It is important to note that, in terms of the overall count, over two-thirds of transportation-related measures were in just two places: Michigan and Ohio. These states require certain tax questions to go before voters, therefore routine property tax measures to generate revenue for local street maintenance are numerous in Michigan in August and in Ohio in November. Both states also had measures for other modes such as public transit, but for this analysis the local road questions in those states are kept separate. Click here to view a database of the Michigan and Ohio road millage measures.

While this database currently includes the vast majority of transportation measures on the ballot this year, small, local, and routine measures can be difficult to uncover and challenging to determine their details such as length and amount raised. Therefore, this database will be continually updated. To contribute measures not included, please email publicaffairs@enotrans.org.

To provide more flavor for key ballot measures, Eno also launched a podcast series of interviews with experts. Each episode features an in-depth discussion about a single measure including its background, potential outcomes, and implications nationally.

The Eno Center for Transportation does not endorse or oppose any of the measures in this document. The information is provided for research purposes only.

Key Takeaways (Last updated 11/5/18)

As the results come in on Election Day in November, Eno will conduct deeper analyses of these measures including their outcomes. What matters now is how prominent they are across the country, in large cities and small communities, for mega projects and routine maintenance, demonstrating—in part—the demand and attention to transportation today. Some themes have emerged already:

Success so far. Overall, voters considered $13 billion in transportation funding so far in 2018 and approved a little over half of that total, although only three measures failed. The primary reason is Davidson County’s sound rejection of an ambitious $5.3 billion measure for public transit in and around Nashville last May. An average of $184 million per measure was approved so far this year including several major multi-year packages such as a $4.5 billion traffic relief measure in the San Francisco Bay Area and nearly $1 billion for a range of transportation projects in Kansas City.

Region. Exactly two-thirds of the states (33) have had some form of a transportation measure, the vast majority of which are on the local and county level but there have also been 13 statewide measures and five regional ones. They are most prevalent in the West and Midwest, with a smaller share in the South and only a handful in the Northeast.

Identifier. Ballot measures raise revenue for transportation measures in a wide variety of ways. The most popular are property taxes (49), sales taxes (51), and bonds (51). Transportation-specific user fees like tolls and vehicle registration fees are surprisingly scarce, with only one measure for each of those sources. There is one major question before voters in Missouri to raise the state’s gasoline tax, and one in California to repeal a recent fuel tax increase. Voters in DuPage County, Illinois will decide whether they want to oppose the state’s decision to create a Vehicle Mileage Travelled (VMT) charge. In 2018, voters will also consider other mechanisms for transportation revenue like a hotel tax in Sausalito, California, a carbon tax in Washington State, and an excise tax on recreational marijuana in Michigan.

Mode. A vast number of transportation ballot measures are for local roads. However, removing the peculiarities of the routine approvals in Michigan and Ohio, the modal splits are much more even. Understanding the precise mode for each measure is not always straightforward. Some, such as San Mateo County’s $2.4 billion Measure W, are clearly multimodal as the funding is allocated across a range of rail, transit, road, and pedestrian projects. Others are predominantly for road projects but also include bike/pedestrian elements to a much smaller degree. Ten measures include non-motorized transportation as “secondary” modes.

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