A Path Forward: The Transportation Penny Sales Tax
Relaunched in 2022, the transportation penny sales tax aims to raise the necessary funds to reduce congestion, increase safety for all transportation users, and to offer more and better options for commuters. If passed, it could generate almost $600 million per year* dedicated to transportation projects, infrastructure, technology, and transit as well as increased safety for all transportation users.
GROWTH AND TRAFFIC
- Extraordinary population growth. Central Florida has been growing by a net of nearly 1,000 new residents every week. By the year 2030, projections have the regional population at 5.2 million.1 Orange County is also one of the world's leading tourism destinations. Prior to the pandemic, Orange County had 75 million visitors in 2019.
- Congestion continues to increase. Traffic delays also cost commuters money. For the typical Orlando metro area commuter, the average cost was $1,261 in 2019.2
- Commuting times are increasing. Prior to the pandemic, Central Florida commuters spent an average of 61 hours per year in traffic congestion.2 That’s roughly an hour a week added to the regular commute. As recovery and future growth continue, the daily commute is expected to get worse.
- Influx of workers coming into Orange County. Data from the Orlando Economic Partnership shows that tens of thousands of workers in Orange County commute from the surrounding seven counties on a daily basis.
PEDESTRIAN AND BICYCLE SAFETY CHALLENGES
- Pedestrian safety needs to be improved. The 2021 Dangerous by Design report from Smart Growth America ranks the Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford area at the top of the list of the most dangerous urban areas for pedestrians.3
- Bicycle safety needs to be improved. According to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, Orange County had 355 bicyclist crashes in 2020.
- Transportation impact on air quality. Transportation makes up 36% of Orange County's greenhouse gas emissions. According to the American Public Transportation Association increasing public transportation improves air quality, lowers vehicle emissions, and reduces noise pollution.
- Current public transit is inadequate. LYNX bus routes do not meet the current demand, and SunRail, the regional commuter rail system, does not run often enough. Currently, SunRail runs Monday through Friday and during special events.
- LYNX, the regional bus system, has approximately 300 buses and services 2,500 square miles. Compare this to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where Allegheny County services only 745 square miles with 700 buses.
- More funding for LYNX could increase the number of routes and frequency; and reduce most wait times by 50%. In addition, it could also create faster and more direct routes.
Sales tax would improve roadway and transportation infrastructure, including:
- Technology, traffic signals and street lights (timing of traffic signals and major roadway lighting).
- Roads (adding lanes and resurfacing roadways).
- Public transportation (LYNX and SunRail).
- Intersections (adding turn lanes).
- Pedestrian safety.
Paying for the transportation sales tax
- Everyone would contribute, with tourists and visitors funding more than half (51%) of the nearly $600 million raised yearly to address transportation needs in Orange County.
- The tax would only apply to the first $5,000 per single purchase of retail goods and services.
- The tax would only be on purchases of retail goods and services, basically the same items that are currently subject to a sales tax now.
No tax on essential items for all consumers
- No tax would be collected on essential food items, such as bread and milk, nor on other foods that are not taxed now.
- Prescription drugs would be exempt.
- Utilities would also be exempt.
Spending your tax dollars wisely
- If passed, your transportation tax dollars would go through a three-step oversight process, with review by a Technical Committee, as well as an appointed Citizens Oversight Board and the Board of County Commissioners.