Collections > Master's Papers > Department of City and Regional Planning > A Comparative Case Study of Local Option Transportation Taxes in Albuquerque, New Mexico and Charlotte, North Carolina

This paper presents the findings of a comparative case study of local option transportation taxes in the Albuquerque, New Mexico and Charlotte, North Carolina regions. A local option transportation tax (LOTT) was defined by Goldman and Wachs as "a tax that varies within a state, with revenues controlled at the local or regional level, and earmarked for transportation-related purposes" (Goldman and Wachs, 2003, pg. 21). LOTTs have become increasingly popular in recent years as the dominant source of funding for transportation project, the fuel tax, has become less productive. Among the most prominent examples of LOTTs are those used to fund light rail projects (Goldman & Wachs, 2003). One common criticism of LOTTs is that county sales taxes for transportation undermine regional bodies, such as MPOs, which were strengthened through federal legislation in the early 1990s (Wachs, 2005). While many regions, such as Charlotte, adopt a LOTT in one county to support transit, the Albuquerque region adopted a three-county gross receipts tax to support transit. The Albuquerque arrangement may mitigate some of the concerns about the potential for LOTTs to undermine the regional transportation planning process. The paper presents the factors and environment under which a regional LOTT (Albuquerque) rather than a more local LOTT (Charlotte) is adopted in a region. My findings suggest that state involvement is a critical ingredient in overcoming the political fragmentation and tension that exists in a region. Legislation in New Mexico allowed for the creation of regional transit districts and gave them the authority to collect tax revenue with voter approval. A strong champion is also important in securing a regional LOTT. New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson was an ardent supporter of regional transit in Albuquerque, while the champion of the Charlotte LOTT was the Charlotte mayor. Additionally, it is important to have strong business community support and the public must be able to visualize the projects that will be supported by the LOTT.