NC Budget and Tax Center

Local businesses help lead successful transit campaigns, study finds

Local employers across the US have a demonstrated track record of supporting existing and new transit investments, according to a new report from Good Jobs First. In fact, local businesses’ support for transit extends beyond merely offering their employees monthly transit fare cards and commuter van pools. The report finds that many local businesses, unlike their national counterparts, take on a leadership role in pro-transit campaigns.

North Carolinians shouldn’t find the business community’s involvement in pro-transit campaigns to be all that surprising. In 2011, the Durham Chamber played an indispensable role during the ballot initiative to expand transit service via a half-cent sales tax increase in Durham County. Similar to the experiences noted in the Good Jobs First report, the Durham Chamber helped convince voters to approve the referendum through a multi-pronged approach that included direct mailings, community forums, advertising, and door-to-door visits.

The initiative passed overwhelmingly in Durham County, with Orange County following in their footsteps one-year later.

Local businesses co-lead or participate in pro-transit advocacy efforts for a number of compelling economic reasons, including transit’s role as a market accelerator. Public-transit investments not only enhance connectivity across communities but enable a thriving market economy as well. Quality transit infrastructure could attract new employers to the region, spur development around transit stations, and revitalize the local economy.

Indeed, mobility is a significant part of North Carolina’s ability to remain competitive. Unfortunately, the Senate leadership’s vision of mobility fails to prioritize public transportation, despite the increasing share of the state’s population depending on transit to access employment and education networks.

As noted in this Budget and Tax Center report, the Senate budget would prevent public transit from competing for all funding in the new data-driven process known as the Strategic Mobility Formula. Public transit would only be able to compete with road projects for 30 percent of total spending. The budget would also cut public transportation by 2 percent in each year of the biennium—and these cuts come on top of several years of previous cuts.

Businesses and the broader community recognize the value of public transit, specifically transit’s ability to free up the congested roads and highways businesses rely on to move their goods to market. Let’s hope the House budget writers will recognize this support and enable adequate transit investments in the state.

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