Poll: Voters like tax hike for public transportation

March 26, 2010 6:36:46 PM PDT
A new poll commissioned by the Triangle's Regional Transportation Alliance says - even in this down economy - a majority of voters in the Durham, Orange and Wake County area would support a sales tax hike to pay for more public transportation - even though most say they wouldn't use it.

Fallon Research spoke with more than 900 registered voters in the Triangle to get its results. Click here for the full study (.pdf)

When asked if they'd vote for a 1/2 cent sales tax increase, 58 percent said yes. When asked if they'd use more buses, only 31 percent said yes, while 43 percent said they'd use trains.

Supporters of expanded public transportation say more buses and a light rail system would lead more people to give up their cars and ease congestion on the area's roads and highways.

But researchers at the John Locke Foundation - a conservative think tank in Raleigh - say in most cities only about 1 percent of the commuting public uses rail service.

"What we find is that it's almost all cost with little to no benefit to reducing congestion," explained analyst Michael Sanera.

And, easing congestion was the top benefit voters who took the Regional Transportation Alliance's survey said they saw in expanding it:

But the Regional Transportation Alliance says what's important is having more choices.

"In some ways, it's not so critical that it actually relieves the congestion. It may do some of that. It may not be that much, but what it will do is provide an alternative for people to use, another form of transportation," explained Joe Milrazzo II with RTA.

Critics like Sanera say improving roads is a cheaper alternative that would ease congestion - things like synchronized lights, additional travel lanes, and extra turning lanes on existing roads.

"Light rail is a distraction to the real solutions," he said.

In the end, voters will decide. A sales tax increase could show up on ballots as soon as next year.

And despite the survey, many who spoke with ABC11 this week said they would use an expanded public transportation system.

"I think I would. I think it would be worth it," said Wake County resident Becky Thurber.

"I probably would, yeah. I think I would," said Nicholas Pondiscio - also of Wake.

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