Revisiting Factors Associated with the Success of Ballot Initiatives with a Substantial Rail Transit Component

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Revisiting Factors Associated with the Success of Ballot Initiatives with a Substantial Rail Transit Component


This report presents the replication of an MTI study conducted in 2001 by Peter Haas and Richard Werbel. That research, itself a continuation of an earlier project completed in 2000, included an analysis of transportation tax elections in 11 urban areas across the nation and culminated in the identification of 17 community-level factors with potential impact on the success of ballot measures for sales tax increases to fund transportation packages with substantial rail components.

Trends observed in these more recent case studies were generally highly consistent with the following findings from the 2001 study. Thus this analysis reaffirms the importance for community consensus amongst the business, elected and environmental communities, and accompanying depth of financial support. Once again, the difficulty of passing an initiative without well-funded, effective use of multimedia was validated, as was the importance of utilizing experienced campaign consultants.

Some factors seemed less important in the current study than in 2001, including the effectiveness of presenting a multimodal package, the perception of benefits of a package being distributed throughout the voting district, the experience gained in recent transit elections, and the credibility of the transit agency.

Finally, this compilation includes an exploration of “rebound” elections – those instances in which a failed measure is quickly followed by a successful one – and the factors that seem linked to achieving success in such instances.



Peter J. Haas is a Professor in the Department of Political Science at San José State University and also serves as Education Director for the Mineta Transportation Institute. The author or numerous scholarly and professional articles, he earned a PhD in Political Science (concentration in Public Policy and Public Administration) from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1985. A former director of the SJSU Master of Public Administration program, he also has consulted at every level of government and for various nonprofit agencies. Dr. Haas has authored and co-authored numerous reports and other publications covering transportation and is co-author of the text Applied Policy Research: Concepts and Cases. In 2003, he received a Senior Specialist grant from the Fulbright Foundation to teach and study in Latvia.


Katherine Estrada recently earned her Master of Public Administration degree from San José State University. She previously served as a research assistant while earning her undergraduate degree in Political Science from the University of California, Los Angeles. Currently employed by the City of San José, her research interests include transportation and land use planning.

June 2011
Line extensions (Rail transit)
Local transit
Sales tax
Light rail transit



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