The poll is in: Americans want more transit, not less!

NRDC released a national poll yesterday on Americans perceptions of transit. In short; “Americans hate traffic and want more transit,” Stated said Peter Lehner, NRDC Executive Director.

The news is very good.

Americans want more transit, not less. They also believe that more roads are not the solution to our traffic woes, and more transit is.

Here is the meat of the poll’s findings:

Americans broadly agree that the current transportation system is in need of major change:

  • 59 percent feel the transportation system is “outdated, unreliable and inefficient”
  • 55 percent prefer to drive less, but 74 percent say they have no choice
  • 58 percent would like to use public transportation more often, but it is not convenient or available from their home or work

This establishes the baseline fact that the vast majority of Americans would use transit more often if they could access it and feel like America’s transportation system is falling behind.

Most Americans want more transportation options – and rank improved public transportation and better planning as some of the best ways to get them.

  • 59 percent would like more transportation options so they have the freedom to travel other than by driving
  • 63 percent (more than three in five Americans) would rather address traffic by improving public transportation (42 percent) or developing communities where people do not have to drive as much (21 percent) – as opposed to building new roads, an approach preferred by only one in five Americans (20 percent)
  • 64 percent say their community would benefit from an expanded and improved public transportation system, such as rail and buses
  • 67 percent favor setting new standards for local planning that guide new development into existing cities and or near public transportation

64 Percent of voters want expanded and improved transit systems and even more support planning that focuses development near transit! And only 20 percent think we can build new roads to address traffic.When it comes to want America wants, transit wins, it is as simple as that. Yet Congress continues spend 80% of their transportation budget on roads.

Streetsblog DC rightly points out that this poll also breaks down the rural/urban and partisan divides over transit. Rural, urban, Republican, Democrat, it doesn’t matter, they all think transit is the best solution to reducing traffic.

From Streetsblog:

“Despite a very polarized environment on Capitol Hill when it comes to transit, there’s no pronounced partisan divide in the real world. (See chart above.) Sure, liberal Democrats are nearly five times more likely to want transit than new roads, and conservative Republicans are only 70 percent more likely to want transit – but in the end, they all tend to think transit is the way to go.

The same goes for the urban/rural split. Yes, more big city residents want public transit (50 percent) than new roads (15 percent). But even in rural areas, 36 percent say transit versus 24 percent who want roads.”

Last but not least, the poll tested questions centered around how to pay for improved or expanded transit.

Americans understand that an improved transportation system will cost money – and are willing to pay for it.

  • Americans over-estimate what their state spends on public transportation, estimating that it is an average of 16 percent of their state’s transportation budget – and still they would like that amount nearly doubled, calling for their state to spend an average of 28 percent on public transportation (note: The average percentage of transportation money – state plus federal – spent on transit over the past three years was 6.55 precent per state)
  • 68 percent support more local investment in improvements to public transportation (including 63 percent of those who do not use transit), with 39% supporting it “strongly”

These numbers don’t surprise anyone who’s worked on or tracked transit ballot measures across the country. In places stretching from rural Weston, WI to urban Seattle, to medium sized cities like Baton Rouge, again and again voters are stepping up and agreeing to pay more money to save, expand, and improve their transit.

This poll, and the ongoing poll of successful ballot measures across the country, is an “indictment of Congress of being completely out of step with the beliefs and needs of American People,” Stated Larry Hanley, ATU International President on the poll roll-out call. “Over the past years there has been a dramatic increase of fares and steep service cuts, at a time when Americans are clamoring for more service, not less.”

At Americans for Transit, we’ll continue to organize transit riders and advocates across the county to fight for exactly that; more transit, not less.


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