James Willamor / Flickr
James Willamor / Flickr

Eric Jaffe | The Atlantic Citylab

The 2014 midterm elections are officially over, and the D.C.-based blog Greater Greater Washington summarized the results as a “bad night for Democrats and transit.” The first half of that headline is unequivocally true: Republicans made gains across the political spectrum, at both the national and state levels. But it’s far less clear that November 4, 2014, was a bad night for public transportation; in many respects it was just the opposite.

At the broadest level, it’s fair to say that urban mobility didn’t have the most encouraging day. In recent years, conservative transportation policy has been much more inclined to favor highways serving rural and outer suburban regions than alternative modes that boost balanced city networks, and the ascension of Republican governors in several states (namely Illinois, Massachusetts, and Maryland) could shift local priorities likewise. Meanwhile, high-speed rail opponents Scott Walker of Wisconsin and Rick Scott of Florida also held their governor’s seats, punctuating any last Obama hopes of a federal fast-train program.

But at the city and county level, where most transit initiatives occur, the midterms yielded a number of big victories, in keeping with the general success of transit ballot measures in recent years. The Center for Transportation Excellence, which tracks the fates of transit-friendly referenda,registered 17 wins to 9 losses—for a 65 percent success rate. (Five votes went uncounted.) And many of these positive outcomes occurred in states where Republicans made gains at the state or national level. Read more