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This is less an issue in big cities, but when local issues get repositioned as national ones, or at least national political advocacy take on and oppose a local issue for non-local reasons, this is a big problem with political discourse, and a lesson that the Citizens United decision giving unlimited "free speech" to those with a lot more money is problematic.

(Relatedly, the Washington Post article, " Meet the little-known ‘big fish’ megadonor setting the tone for GOP primary races," on shipping supplies magnate Richard Uihlein funding anti-union very conservative candidates around the country was also disturbing. At the very least, I’m not going to be spending my monies with goods from that firm.)

This is because in a nation where the dominant land use and mobility planning paradigm is automobile-centric, people have a hard time seeing where transit can be a choice mode. Mostly they see transit as a social service for poor people who can’t afford cars.

Referenda failed multiple times in Tampa Bay and in Atlanta. I think this is because the time between putting a referendum on the ballot and the election is so short, it’s hard to build the understanding of the potential value in such a short time.

But now in Greater Atlanta there is positive movement towards transit–there at least they have a heavy rail system to build from while most communities lack rail transit of any form. They’ve had some positive referenda since the failure in 2012.

Greater Detroit is having a hard time moving transit forward with active opposition coming from County Executives in Oakland and Macomb Counties. Oftentimes advocates for low income populations will take anti-transit positions, which is odd. That happened in Atlanta’s first round, etc.

Although I wonder if Americans for Prosperity is so active with a Nashville campaign because they see there being a strong likelihood of the transit referendum winning? But why would Koch Brothers interests be so damaged by transit in Nashville?

Lately I’ve wondered about the value of rail transit outside of major metropolitan areas. When I first started blogging, I wrote positively about light rail programs in places like Charlotte, North Carolina and Norfolk, Virginia. But those systems have so few riders, I wonder if it’s worth the expense?

The reality is that it is very difficult to put the genie back in the bottle in terms of sustainable mobility versus the car, if the urban form has been reshaped in favor of the car (" Transportation and Urban Form: Stages in the Spatial Evolution of the American Metropolis," Peter Muller, textbook chapter).

On the other hand, light rail systems in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Phoenix, and Seattle, maybe Denver are having some positive impact on changing land use and mobility practice. So maybe I shouldn’t be so negative? (Dallas? I’d say given how many stations and miles of track they have, usage isn’t that high. Houston? Usage isn’t that high and definitely land use isn’t being reshaped.)

Can bus transit change the paradigm? A few weeks ago, the Wall Street Journal ran a story, "The Next Big Thing in Urban Transit: Fast-Bus Systems," suggesting that bus transit can be equally significant in changing mobility practices. I am still not so sure.

Again, it’s not just about branding and design forward buses, success comes down to land use and density and relative efficiency when it comes to taking transit instead of driving–that means relatively short distances between origin and destination, and the ability to trip chain so that you reduce the number of trips.

And I doubt it was money "Equipped with more than twice as much financial resources, the transit coalition — backed by the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce and business heavyweights — has outspent NoTax4Tracks overwhelmingly on television.

The transit coalition raised more than $383,000 between April 1 and April 21, giving them nearly $2.9 million for the entire campaign. NoTax4Tracks raised $205,000 during that same time, raising their fundraising to nearly $1.2 million overall.

That being said, plenty of places with some experience with quality transit are still resistant (e.g., proposals to add car registration fees beyond the statutory minimum in Washington State have mostly failed, even in Seattle, although more recently Seattle finally passed one).

But they’ve built a lot of "political capital" over the decades and the four rounds of the program — it’s really a TPAP thing, sometimes transit is a part of it, other times not — and people keep voting in favor. They see tangible results and definite positive contributions to quality of life.

In the plan draft I wrote, and an element of the Signature Streets concept, I laid out the case for "treating streets as elements of the county’s brand and quality of life" as a way to position a bond issue as comparable to a parks bond vote. Virtually every parks bond passes there, and in most jurisdictions (not in Cincinnati a couple years ago when it was bike and trail focused though….).

As you know, it’s hard enough here to get people to favor transit for funding, and that’s with a system that until the last 10 years, was really somewhat awesome. (At least back to how I remember it in the late 1980s when I first came here). Look at the opposition to streetcars and light rail.

Granted it didn’t require a vote, but the program Hennepin County and later Minneapolis created to rebuild the economic success of Minneapolis to protect the property tax revenue base for the county and the viability of the city. It was kind of a MAP approach, without requiring a vote. This initiative, Hennepin County Works, predated OKC MAP by about a decade.