Voters Decision on the Orange County Transportation Sales Tax Referendum
Orange County Mayor Jerry L. Demings began the push for the Charter County and Regional Transportation Sales Tax in 2019 by implementing a transportation survey and hosting more than 200 community meetings to better understand the concerns and needs of residents. These efforts were put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In January 2022, Mayor Demings reignited efforts to engage the community with a new online survey and additional community meetings.
A combined total of more than 19,000 residents responded to the survey, and thousands of people attended more than 270 community meetings, which gave County officials valuable feedback on how transportation issues impact their lives.
The survey revealed that residents feel traffic congestion is the No. 1 transportation challenge they face today, and they believe building a mass transit system to include buses, trains and other modes of transportation is a top priority for this initiative. Pedestrian and bicycle safety also were top concerns.
As for LYNX service, residents want more convenient routes and stops, increased access to more places, more frequency and express routes. SunRail priorities include evening and weekend service, increased frequency and access to more places, service connecting to the airport, adding an east-west route, and longer hours of operation.
By pursuing the Charter County and Regional Transportation Sales Tax, the funds collected would have been flexible and could be used for capital as well as operations and maintenance to support transit systems, on-demand services, roads and bridges. This transportation sales tax differed from other taxes in that it was less restrictive to our transportation needs.
On November 8, 2022, County residents ultimately voted against adopting the tax, garnering 41.5% of the vote. It is estimated the referendum — a 1% sales tax increase for a period of 20 years — would have raised approximately $600 million per year. Orange County is still one of the fastest-growing counties in Florida, and with that, our transportation challenges will not go away without major resources being allocated towards easing them.
Most recently, during the June 6, 2023, Board of County Commissioners Meeting, County staff presented an Accelerated Transportation Safety Program to address much-needed transportation projects utilizing existing revenue sources. The urgent need for critical pedestrian, bicycle, motorist safety improvements and transit enhancements still exists, and Mayor Demings has stated a dedicated funding source for our regional transportation system remains a high priority, but in the interim, we must aggressively seek opportunities to address needs with currently available resources.
Accelerated Transportation Safety Program