Paul  Weyrich

Voters were busy approving in the November 4 elections various transit projects. Twenty-three ballot initiatives, or more than 70% of those up for a vote, were approved. These initiatives will add $75 billion to America's transportation systems, according to the Center for Transportation Excellence.

In California voters appear to have approved a ballot measure to build a high-speed rail line between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Hundreds of thousands of absentee ballots remain to be counted. So far the trend is in favor of high-speed rail although the project still could be defeated. Meanwhile we await the results from a separate vote in San Francisco to see if voters approved an extension of the Bay Area Rapid Transit trains from San Francisco to San Jose. Right now the margin is razor thin. It requires a two-thirds majority to win.

In Seattle voters approved the construction between now and 2020 of many new light-rail lines. It will be a multi-billion dollar project. Two years ago voters rejected light rail when it was tied to highway expansion. Transit officials killed the highway projects and to everyone's surprise voters overwhelming approved light rail.

In Los Angeles County voters agreed to tax themselves to reconstruct the Pacific Electric Interurban network. In its heyday Pacific Electric boasted more than 1,000 miles of track all over Southern California. Little by little the system was abandoned, beginning in the 1930s. What remained was revived temporarily during World War II, but by 1961 the last line to Long Beach was abandoned. Later it was the first line to be rebuilt at the cost of about $1 billion. In 1961 the line carried about 10,000 passengers per day. Today the Long Beach line carries over 70,000. Now additional lines will be reconstructed. Libertarians tell us that voters won't tax themselves to build and operate mass transit. Tell that to the voters in Seattle or L.A. Twice before voters turned down a multi-billion dollar system of elevated rail. This time voters across the country, including those of New Mexico, supported it in large numbers. Governor Bill Richardson (D-NM) started a commuter rail system a few years back. Voters imposed a tax on themselves in order to expand it.

Paul Weyrich

Paul M. Weyrich is the late Chairman and CEO of the Free Congress Research and Education Foundation.
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