BayRail general meeting

Local Transportation Funding Sources

In 1986 voters passed Proposition 62, which sought to close a “loophole” in Proposition 13 that enabled transportation sales taxes to be passed by a simple majority of the voters. Proposition 62 required that these measures be approved by a supermajority of two-thirds of those voting, but proponents of the transportation sales taxes challenged the measure in court, and its impact was not fully felt until the early 1990s, after the measure was upheld by a state appellate court. Voters in Santa Clara County had approved by a simple majority a new sales tax to succeed the expiring tax originally passed in 1984.

The measure had not, however, achieved the two-thirds supermajority required by Proposition 62, and for several years the issue was left unresolved by suits and appeals. Finally, the appellate court’s Guardino decision made it clear that two-thirds majorities are required, and the adoption of such taxes slowed in the 1990s as proponents feared that the attainment of a supermajority was virtually impossible.


Local Transportation Sales Taxes

Permanent Taxes


AB 1107 Permanent 1/2¢ Sales Tax

AB 1107 was authorized under the 1977 legislation to make permanent a temporary half-cent sales tax imposed for BART in 1970 and launched a trend toward local self-sufficiency in the transportation finance arena.  AB 1107 funds transit in Alameda, Contra Costa, and San Francisco counties.  It supports BART, Muni, and AC Transit, and separate taxes in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties

Santa Clara County Permanent 1/2¢ Sales Tax for Transit

Santa Clara County passed a permanent 1/2-cent sales tax for transit in 1976. This tax has no expiration date, and provided more than enough money to cover pure operating costs for service at peak year 2000 levels (before VTA cut a bunch of service) even if no fares were collected Santa Clara County Measure A.

In 1984, voters in Santa Clara County approved Measure A with a 56% approval. The first temporary county-level half-cent sales tax, Measure A financed a package of major highway improvements in the county over 10 years. Since then, 16 other counties in the state -- commonly referred to as "self-help" counties -- have approved similar measures.

1984 Santa Clara County Measure “A”

Sponsors- Tech. Employers; Developers

Planning Style- Single countywide vision promoted by high-technology business group.

Time to Approval- 7 months

In 1992 Santa Clara County attempted to pass a new sales tax to commence when the 1984 tax expired. Bonds issued against the revenues of this tax were to benefit specified projects of the Santa Clara County Local Transportation Authority. It received 54.1 % of the vote -- less than the supermajority threshold required by Prop. 62. This formed the basis of a new lawsuit to overturn Prop. 62. The appellate court’s ‘‘Guardino decision’’ on September 28, 1995 definitively established that two-thirds majorities are required, and so the 1992 Santa Clara County measure failed.

Santa Clara County's 1/2% sales tax extension, Measure A, passed November 7th 2000 with a super majority of 71.5%. This was quite a remarkable victory for transit supporters and environmentalists. The measure was actively opposed by three of the County's five Supervisors, including the two having the most responsibility for setting transportation policy in the county.

Measure A is 100% for transit and will raise an estimated $6 Billion over its 30-year life. It will fund BART from Fremont to San Jose and Santa Clara; build the San Jose Airport people mover, which will connect the new terminal to the BART/Caltrain Santa Clara station; help bring about the electrified Caltrain "mini Bullet" that will travel from San Jose to San Francisco in 47 minutes; fund an already planned light rail line and at least two additional major lines; help bring about the Dumbarton Bridge rail service; and improve our arterial bus lines. In short, it is an environmentalist's dream.

San Mateo County Permanent 1/2¢ Sales Tax for Transit

Close on the heels of AB 1107, Santa Clara and San Mateo counties each passed permanent half-cent sales taxes for public transit. The bulk of these revenues go to transit operations and maintenance, but the money can be used for capital improvements.


Alameda County Measure B (expires 2002)

First Measure B passed 1986, expired 2002.

First renewal attempt failed 1998.

Current Measure B passed 2000, expires 2022


Sponsors- Developers

Planning Style- Back-room negotiations with nod to public process; avoidance of controversy; horse-trading at end.

 Time to Approval- 12 months

Alameda“B” 2000

Sponsors- Developers; Business; Labor; Transit Riders; Disability Groups; Environmentalists

Planning Style- 1998: High-profile public consensus-building process. Emphasis on technical evaluation, geographic equity, and polls.

  2000: Closed door negotiations with former opponents.

 Time to Approval- 52 months

In 1986, Alameda County voters passed, with a 57% approval, a half-cent sales tax (Measure B) to finance various transportation improvements. The 1986 sales tax measure, which expired in 2002 and was replaced by a new 20-year half-cent measure approved by the voters in 2000, still funds several remaining projects under the auspices of the Alameda County Transportation Authority (ACTA). In the November 2000 elections, 81.5% of Alameda County, California, voters supported the measure to extend the one-half cent sales tax dedicated to both transit and highway improvements for twenty years.

Measure B had a large base of support from a broad assortment of public interest groups, ranging from homeless advocates, regional Gray Panther and other senior groups, the Sierra Club and other environmentalists, to the League of Women Voters; and an unusual alliance of construction interests, led by the California Alliance for Jobs, and environmental and transit advocacy organizations, led by the Sierra Club. The Bay Area Transportation and Land Use Coalition (TALC) brought together many of these organizations to create a common platform and to work together.

It had the support of just about everyone, including the Sierra Club and other environmental groups. This was due to the perception that the road portion would be beneficial to the environment. 

TV ads promoting Measure B showed BART and other transit. Not one picture or mention of the fact that 41% was for roads, including freeway widening. The environmental groups misleadingly claimed that "only 18%" went for highways by excluding "arterial roads" in the count. In fact, 41% went for roads. They also avoided the use of the word "freeway" when in fact freeways 680, 580 and 238 will get added lanes. There was a deliberate toning down, even hiding, of the freeway projects to make Measure B palatable to people who consider themselves environmentalist.

November 2000 election was the last chance for voters to approve an extension of the tax, rather than having to vote to reinstate the tax. An earlier measure - presented in 1998 to extend the one-half cent transportation sales tax for 15 years - received support from 58% of voters, but did not pass because the California Supreme Court ruled in 1995 that a two-thirds supermajority was needed for special purposes, including transportation taxes. The 1998 measure failed to garner the necessary support because environmental concerns and concerns from other geographic groups actively opposing the measure.

Some of these organizations were dissatisfied with their lack of involvement in the decision-making process and not were not in favor of the funding allocations; they wanted less money allocated to highway construction and more money allocated for transit operations. Due to the lack of environmental groups’ support, some local politicians opposed the 1998 measure.

Measure B needed a two-thirds supermajority countywide to pass on the November 2000 ballot. The previous attempt in 1998 failed due to environmental opposition even though the measure received 58 percent of the votes. Improvements in the 2000 Measure led to unanimous and active support for the expenditure plan from the coalition groups. No organized opposition existed in the 2000 campaign based on the coordinated efforts with key stakeholder groups.

Contra Costa County Measure C (expires 2008) 1/2¢ Sales Tax

First Measure C passed 1988, expires 2009.

Contra Costa“C”1988

Sponsors- Developers; Slow-Growth Advocates

Planning Style- 1986: Technically-driven, with emphasis on geographic equity and polls.

1988: Consensus-building and outreach to former opponents; addition of growth management plan.

Time to Approval- 44 months

In 1988, Contra Costa voters with a 58% approval passed Measure C, a half-percent transportation sales tax that distributed approximately $740 million for transportation over the 20-year life of the measure. The vast majority of the funds went towards building and maintaining highways and roads plus extending BART from Concord to Pittsburg/Baypoint.

The first Measure C passed at the ballot box largely because of the addition of an innovative “Growth Management Program” (GMP). Though proponents claimed the measure’s transportation projects would “right past wrongs” while the GMP would ensure that future development would pay its own way, the GMP turned out to be largely ineffective at reining in sprawl.

Measure J is on November 2004 ballot

The revenues derived from the half-cent sales tax expended for the transportation projects and programs set forth in the Contra Costa Transportation Authority's adopted transportation expenditure plan ("TEP"). The Contra Costa Transportation Authority has adopted a new TEP (included in the voter information handbook) to supplement the original 1988 TEP. The new TEP sets forth transportation projects and programs, including extending and improving the BART system, adding a fourth bore to the Caldecott Tunnel and improving Highway 24, widening and improving Interstates 80 and 680 and Highway 4, maintaining and improving local streets and roads, and improving transit for seniors and disabled persons.

San Francisco City/County Proposition B (expires 2009) 1/2¢ Sales Tax

First Proposition B passed in 1989.

Collection of a one-half percent sales tax for a period of 20 years.
Formation of the SFCTA with a spending limit of $160 million per year.
Issuance of up to $742 million in bonds exempted from the general obligation bond ceiling of the City and County of San Francisco.
Allocation of the funds (estimated at approximately $45,000,000 per year) would be 60% to transit, 30% to street and traffic safety, 8% to paratransit, and 2% to transportation system management.

Current Proposition K passed 2003, expires 2034

A proposal to continue the current ½% sales tax, and replace the current transportation spending plan with a new 30-year plan. The new plan would provide funding for maintenance of local streets, transportation for the elderly and disabled, construction of a Central Subway, bus system upgrades, a Caltrain extension to a new Transbay Terminal, projects to improve pedestrian and bicycle safety, support for regional transportation systems (BART, Caltrain, and ferries), and replacing the roadway to Golden Gate Bridge. The proposal would allow the San Francisco Transportation Authority to spend up to $485.175 million per year and issue up to $1.88 billion in bonds, to be repaid from sales tax revenue.

San Mateo County Measure A (expires 2008) 1/2¢ Sales Tax

Measure A, a 20-year countywide half-cent sales tax which established the San Mateo County Transportation Authority, was approved by voters in June 1988. County voters in 2004 reauthorized the TA and its publicly developed expenditure plan for an additional 25 years. The TA will continue to fund vital transportation improvements through 2033.

First Measure A passed 1988, expires 2009.

Measure A is on November 2004 ballot

Santa Clara County Measure B (expires 2006) 1/2¢ Sales Tax

1996: Santa Clara County, seeking to circumvent the 2/3rds requirement of Prop 62, devises a 2-measure strategy. The first measure on the ballot, Measure A, was an advisory measure that asked voters whether any funds raised from a half-cent sales tax increase should be spent on transportation projects.  The second, Measure B, was the actual 1/2-cent sales tax measure. Measure B did not specify what the money would be used for, so it required only a 50% approval to pass. On November 5, Measure A the advisory proposition, is approved by 78 percent of the vote. The 1996 Measure B half-cent sales tax on the same ballot wins 52 percent of the vote.

Current Measure A+B passed 1996, expires 2006.

Renewal Measure A passed 2000; it begins when Measure

A+B ends (2006) and will expire in 2036

In 2000 voters approved a 30 year extension of the 1996 sales tax to fund an extension of Bart to Santa Clara which was strongly advocated by San Jose mayor Ron Gonzalez 2000 Measure A also includes funding for light rail extensions, bus service expansion, and a people mover to San Jose International Airport. The measure was placed on the ballot by the VTA and does not include funding specifically for highway projects. It was criticized by residents in the western and southern portions of the county, who stated that not enough benefit was being provided to those areas. Nevertheless, due to growing congestion during the dot-com boom, the measure passed with 70% of the vote. Revenues from the sales tax would not begin being collected until April 2006.  <>


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Livable Contra Costa: How the new Measure C could expand

transportation choices and foster smart growth.” [Online] 12 June 2007. <<>>.

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