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Transit referendum advice from Center for Transportation Excellence

03/13/2015 04:56 EDT | Updated 05/13/2015 05:59 EDT
The Center for Transportation Excellence, which supports Yes campaigns in transportation referendums in the U.S., has some advice for Metro Vancouverites leading the campaign for the new transit tax.

The industry-funded group has analyzed almost 15 years of transit referendum data and found a few common attributes of successful campaigns.

"If those pieces are in the mix, we have found that even in tax-phobic regions of our country that voters are consistently willing to tax themselves for move those projects forward," said executive director Jason Jordan.

Based on the data, Jordan's advice to Metro Vancouver's Yes campaign is:

- Get the message out about exactly what people will get

- Clearly state what value the projects will bring to the community

- Explain how the plan fits into the long-term vision for the community and the region

- Speak directly to credibility issues by demonstrating how safeguards like accountability and transparency will be in place

Jordan says communities are increasingly choosing to let citizens vote on transportation investment, especially if it involves an increase in taxes.

"I think this has been driven by increasing uncertainty at the federal and state level regarding transportation investment." says Jordan. "It's also an indication of the growth in demand for these kinds of projects."

Most transportation referendums successful

The data also revealed that transportation referendums have passed 71 per cent of the time — twice the rate of other referendums.

"There is something compelling to many voters about these sort of transit and other transportation investments when they're on the ballot," said Jordan.

He says although there are some drawbacks to this type of governance, the upshot is it provides citizens with the opportunity to weigh in directly on whether or not they support the projects.

"Our experience in the United States has certainly been that this can be very positive for the local officials and local residents who support the investment," says Jordan.

Jordan says there's "no question" that trust in the local transit authority is important — voters need to feel assured that their money will be used wisely.

But he's seen some communities with an unpopular transit authority pass transportation referendums all the same.

To listen to the full interview, click on the audio labelled: Tips from the U.S. for Metro Vancouver's Yes campaign

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