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One Year Since St. Louis County Voters Approved Proposition A

April 8, 2011 Public Transit, St. Louis County, STL Region, Taxes 6 Comments

A year ago St. Louis County voters approved a small sales tax increase to fund transit, Proposition A. Wednesday I attended a panel discussion on why this measure  passed where previous attempts had failed.  Professors Todd Swanstrom & David Kimball introduced their new study:  From Checkbook Campaigns to Civic Coalitions: Lessons from the Passage of Prop A (PDF).  From the introduction:

On April 6, 2010 the voters of St. Louis County approved a tax increase for transit with a surprising 63 percent majority. The 1⁄2 cent sales tax now raises about $75 million a year to maintain the bus system and expand light rail. Seventeen months earlier a similar initiative had lost with 48 percent of the vote. With the economy in a recession in 2010, unemployment high, and the anti- tax Tea Party movement rising around the nation, the huge majority for Prop A was startling. In this paper we try to explain the success of Prop A and tease out the lessons for future tax initiative campaigns and civic coalitions.

Compared to the defeat of Prop M in 2008 two characteristics of the 2010 Prop A election make the victory especially surprising and help to frame our analysis: 1) Prop A succeeded in an off-year election when the composition of the electorate is less inclined to support tax increases and public transit; 2) Prop A, at least initially, did not enjoy unified business support – usually the kiss of death for transit tax initiatives.

The report details how the campaign differed from prior campaigns.  One difference was the campaign targeted some voters, as outlined by the dark line below.

ABOVE: the dark area had increased support of more than 18%, the grey 10-18%

Basically efforts were concentrated on West & North County and ignoring far SW and South parts of the County.  Voters who had voted in the prior 12 elections were targeted rather than all registered voters.  Citizens for Modern Transit (CMT) funded an educational component that never mentioned Prop A.  The pro-transit slogan was: Some of us ride it. All of us need it. Here is the TV spot that ran in the months leading up to the vote:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4aR9rzybjuU

Notice Metro isn’t mentioned at all, the focus is on transit.

At the panel an audience member asked about a more regional approach and including St. Charles County. All agreed that more of the region should be served by transit but it was noted those areas need to step up with a funding source. In Illinois both Madison & St. Clair Counties fund transit.    While the 2010 passage of Prop A was important, we still have more work to do.

– Steve Patterson

 

Currently there are "6 comments" on this Article:

  1. Stlplanr says:

    Based on the vote, it’s clear Metro South LRT and I-44/Eureka CR should be the least of Metro’s system expansion priorities.

    Within the County, corridor studies should focus on two short MetroLink extensions:
    1) North Hanley to I-270/Florissant; and
    2) Clayton to I-270/Westport

    Meanwhile, since the City produces far less tax revenue for Metro but also has many more riders, the focus there should be on cheaper projects that can be built sooner:
    1) BRT on Grand; and
    2) Conversion of the Northside-Southside MOS (Natural Bridge/Union to Jefferson/Chippewa/Broaday) to MODERN STREETCAR!

     
  2. Stlplanr says:

    Based on the vote, it’s clear Metro South LRT and I-44/Eureka CR should be the least of Metro’s system expansion priorities.

    Within the County, corridor studies should focus on two short MetroLink extensions:
    1) North Hanley to I-270/Florissant; and
    2) Clayton to I-270/Westport

    Meanwhile, since the City produces far less tax revenue for Metro but also has many more riders, the focus there should be on cheaper projects that can be built sooner:
    1) BRT on Grand; and
    2) Conversion of the Northside-Southside MOS (Natural Bridge/Union to Jefferson/Chippewa/Broaday) to MODERN STREETCAR!

     
    • JZ71 says:

      I disagree. It’s the classic chicken-or-egg scenario. If an area receives little or no service, why should they vote to tax themselves to support that service, there or elswhere? Sure, part of St. Charles County’s resistance is pure racism / hate of the city, but part of it is pure pragmatism – even if they decided to fund Metro today, it would be 20 years, at least, before they saw light rail crossing the Missouri River. It’s not all that different than people in parts of the city being PO’ed that they’re paying for recycling with the new trash fee, but the Alderman thinks “they’re too stupid to use it” and not providing it!

      As you note, the city receives significantly more service than it pays for. While building a modern streetcar might make a lot of sense from an urban design standpoint, it still costs more than a plain old bus route. The most effective way to increase ridership along existing corridors is to simply provide more service – run buses more frequently and later at night. If you only have to wait 5 minutes for the next bus, not 30, it becomes a viable option. If you know you can go out to party and know that the bus will still be running at 2 am, then it becomes a viable option. Plus, if you have to transfer, the anxiety that goes with potentially “just” missing the connection goes down, significantly.

      I continue to be amazed that people around here remain focused on building discrete transportation elements instead of pushing Metro to do a better job of providing an integrated transportation SYSTEM! While anyone likes the convenience of single-seat service from origin to destination, the reality is that most trips require changing modes (rail, bus, walk, bike, drive). The casual rider thinks only Metrolink. The regular rider struggles with ever-changing schedules and routings. The mode is secondary – the goal should be identifying the best mode/tool for each trip segment, then integrating their schedules and transfer points to move people as efficiently and as quickly as possible.

       
  3. Anonymous says:

    I disagree. It’s the classic chicken-or-egg scenario. If an area receives little or no service, why should they vote to tax themselves to support that service, there or elswhere? Sure, part of St. Charles County’s resistance is pure racism / hate of the city, but part of it is pure pragmatism – even if they decided to fund Metro today, it would be 20 years, at least, before they saw light rail crossing the Missouri River. It’s not all that different than people in parts of the city being PO’ed that they’re paying for recycling with the new trash fee, but the Alderman thinks “they’re too stupid to use it” and not providing it!

    As you note, the city receives significantly more service than it pays for. While building a modern streetcar might make a lot of sense from an urban design standpoint, it still costs more than a plain old bus route. The most effective way to increase ridership along existing corridors is to simply provide more service – run buses more frequently and later at night. If you only have to wait 5 minutes for the next bus, not 30, it becomes a viable option. If you know you can go out to party and know that the bus will still be running at 2 am, then it becomes a viable option. Plus, if you have to transfer, the anxiety that goes with potentially “just” missing the connection goes down, significantly.

    I continue to be amazed that people around here remain focused on building discrete transportation elements instead of pushing Metro to do a better job of providing an integrated transportation SYSTEM! While anyone likes the convenience of single-seat service from origin to destination, the reality is that most trips require changing modes (rail, bus, walk, bike, drive). The casual rider thinks only Metrolink. The regular rider struggles with ever-changing schedules and routings. The mode is secondary – the goal should be identifying the best mode/tool for each trip segment, then integrating their schedules and transfer points to move people as efficiently and as quickly as possible.

     
  4. Herbie says:

    Madison County has funds only for their small independent bus system. They defeated a 1/2¢ sales tax in 1997 that would have funded an extension of MetroLink similar to St. Clair County. Not sure what they’re waiting for.

    If MetroLink ever expands with a third or fourth line to West County or Florissant, having a Madison County line would definitely help balance the loads.

     
  5. Madison County has funds only for their small independent bus system. They defeated a 1/2¢ sales tax in 1997 that would have funded an extension of MetroLink similar to St. Clair County. Not sure what they’re waiting for.

    If MetroLink ever expands with a third or fourth line to West County or Florissant, having a Madison County line would definitely help balance the loads.

     

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