New Poll Shows Americans Support Increased Funding for Public Transit

by Cosabeth Bullock on March 31, 2010

As a key Senate committee ramps up efforts to draft a new long-term transportation bill, Transportation for America today released poll results demonstrating overwhelming American support for increased access to public transportation and safe walking and biking. Central to the poll’s findings was strong support for increased transportation options, and accountability for future spending, across both geographic areas and political lines. More than four-in-five voters (82 percent) say that “the United States would benefit from an expanded and improved transportation system,” that includes rail and buses. This view is held by an overwhelming majority of voters in every part of the country.

Even in rural America, 79 percent of voters agreed with the statement, despite much lower use of public transportation compared to urban Americans. While saying they would like to able to use other options, 73 percent of those surveyed indicated that they have “no choice but to drive as much as [they] do,” even as a substantial majority say they would like to spend less time in the car.

“In small towns and big cities alike, Americans are saying loudly and clearly that their lives would be better, and their nation stronger, if we had world-class public transportation and more options for walking and bicycling,” said Geoff Anderson, co-chair of the Transportation for America campaign and President and CEO of Smart Growth America.

“If Americans themselves were crafting the transportation bill,” Anderson said, “we would see a doubling of the share for public transportation; an ironclad system of accountability for restoring existing roads and bridges before simply building more of them; and a strong commitment to making all our streets safe enough for kids to bicycle to school or so seniors can walk to nearby restaurants or the drug store.”

A strong majority of voters indicated that current funding levels for public transportation are insufficient, with 58 percent saying more should be allocated toward bus, rail and other services. The desire to increase the amount of funding allocated to options beyond roads and highways was shared across demographic, geographic and political lines, including:

67% of residents in the Northeast, 58% in the West, 57% in the Midwest, and 52% in the South;

62% of urban areas, 59% of suburbanites, 60% in small towns and 50% in rural areas;

66% of Democrats, 59% of Independents, and 49% of Republicans

The survey also found that Americans of every political affiliation and income level are convinced that an expanded system of reliable public transportation is needed to ensure that everyone – regardless of age or income – has access to jobs and necessities.

“In these tough times, Americans also are especially sensitive to the plight of low-wage workers, seniors and the disabled, who need reliable and affordable ways to get where they need to go,” said John Robert Smith, former mayor of Meridian, MS and co-chair of Transportation for America and President of Reconnecting America. “We urge Congress to keep the hopes and desires revealed in this survey in mind as they take up a new transportation law that just about everyone agrees must be a transformative departure from the status quo,” Smith said.

The survey was conducted by Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz and Associates, a Democratic firm, and Public Opinion Strategies, a Republican firm, and has a margin of sampling error of plus or percentage points.

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