As of Friday afternoon, 350,899 Alameda County voters had voted in favor of ballot measure B1, which would increase the county’s transportation tax from a half cent to 1 cent for road repair, bicycle infrastructure and transit investments. One the other side of the coin, 176,504 county residents had voted against.
Under normal circumstances, a 66.53% to 33.47% vote would have been a decisive victory for the measure and we would not be reporting the vote to the second decimal place. However, in California, when the funds from a local sales tax measure are dedicated for a specific purpose, a two-thirds “supermajority” of 66.67% is required. The vote is so close that election officials are still counting absentee and other ballots. They are not expected to have a final tally until Wednesday, November 21. The best current guess is that the measure will fall short by fewer than 700 votes. A recount is possible.
The fact that at least 66% of the voters opted to voluntarily tax themselves for better transportation infrastructure, including bicycling facilities, signals the direction many communities are headed in an era of uncertain federal funding.
“Whatever the final outcome of Measure B1 here in Alameda County, it’s clear that most residents not only want more transit options, a great network of bicycle lane and trails, pedestrian safety improvements, but they are willing to pay for them by increasing our local sales tax,” says Renee Rivera, Executive Director of East Bay Bicycle Coalition. “That is a huge testament to the appetite for active transportation here in the East Bay. If we don’t gain the couple thousand votes needed to put B1 over the top in the coming days, it will be coming back to the ballot very soon, with the same or stronger investment in bike/ped improvements.” Looking forward, the East Bay Bicycle Coalition and other transportation advocates are going to work on strengthening their campaign efforts in the less dense suburban parts of the county, Rivera says.
According to Rivera, the new revenue would be divided up in approximately the following way.
- 48% public and specialized transit
- 27% local streets and roads improvements
- 11% bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure
- 9% highway efficiency and freight development
- 5% sustainable land use and transportation projects
Anything jump out at you? The share for bicycling and walking is right there next to highways! One of the things that is so exciting about this measure, Rivera points out, is that it does not add any highway capacity. The Alameda County Transportation Commission recognizes that the freeway network in Alameda County is fully built. It can be improved but the County will not invest beyond making the existing system work better with HOV conversions and interchange improvements. The investments need to be made in transit, maintenance and active transport improvements.
The League, with our partners the Alliance for Biking & Walking, is supporting campaigns like the East Bay Bicycle Coalition’s to pass Measure B1. In April, we gave the bicycle coalition a Rapid Response grant through the Advocacy Advance program to fight for the measure’s passage. We hope that when the votes are all counted the measure will be successful. One eighth of a percent is excruciatingly close.
The tight vote on measure B1 comes at a time when many transportation initiatives are being passed across the country. On November 6, two thirds of the proposed ballot measures that supported transit projects passed. Campaigns like this are great candidates for Rapid Response Grants.
League Policy Director
Flusche joined the League in April 2009 and has a B.A. in history from Syracuse University and a Masters of Public Administration with a concentration in public policy analysis from New York University.