Poll: N.C. residents want mass transit, not expense

Posted March 17, 2008
Updated April 30, 2008

— Public transportation ranked behind only gas prices among the most pressing transportation issue in North Carolina, according to an Elon University survey of 473 state residents last week.

The poll also found that people have a favorable impression of the state Department of Transportation, which has been criticized in recent months by a state audit and a private consultant.

The poll has a margin of error of 4.5 percentage points.

Seventeen percent of respondents listed public transportation as the most important, compared with 31 percent for gas prices, 13 percent for road conditions and 10 percent for traffic congestion.

Almost 72 percent said they support commuter rail systems in urban areas, and about 70 percent said they would like high-speed rail service between major cities. Two-thirds of those surveyed said they would be willing to pay extra fees – some would go as high as $100 or more a year – for such services.

But when it came to figuring out how to pay for transit or more road construction and maintenance, residents didn't like most of the funding ideas, according to the poll.

Fifty-eight percent rejected raising car registration fees, 68 percent opposed fees based on miles driven per year, 63 percent said they wouldn't like to pay more for driver's licenses, 63 percent also rejected making some highways toll roads, 81 percent opposed using local property taxes – or a state-levied property tax – for transportation, and 70 percent didn't like the gas tax.

The transportation funding ideas that garnered the most support in the poll were a $2 billion statewide bond referendum for road construction and maintenance (65 percent), imposing impact fees on developers (59 percent), charging trucking firms according to the weight of their rigs (59 percent) and giving voters the option of approving a half-cent local sales tax for transit and road projects (58 percent).

A majority of those surveyed said they would consider using transportation alternatives like carpools, vanpools, buses and trains, but most said they don't do so now because the services aren't available where they live.

The survey also gauged the public perception of the DOT, which has come under fire in recent months. A state audit said poor planning led to expensive delays in highway construction projects, and a private consultant found a lack of accountability and low morale in the department.

Yet, three-fifths of those polled said they were satisfied with the DOT's performance. Most of those who reported interacting with the department in the past year said DOT employees were courteous and helpful.

The highest negatives for the DOT were 45 percent who said they weren't satisfied with road maintenance, 42 percent who weren't satisfied with DOT's provisions for public transportation and 40 percent who weren't satisfied with road construction.


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  • Travised Mar 18, 2008

    There is a region of people (geographic, disabled, and economic) that tend to be dependent on the public transit system. For others it's a cheap convenient means to get around without causing wear on the car.

    You need to try to balance the books as close to level as you can for the funding alloted, the small amount of income from riders, with the operating cost. Is there that much demand in the outer sections that are not served? And will ridership hold on those routes? Only way to know is to run a trial run (6-9 month max time) to see. If ridership doesn't hold, cut the new route.

    Metro shortened a route I had used to get to the north side. We then had to foot it over a mile or two reaching the same pickup spot for our ride to the house.

    Usually long runs were Peak AM and PM times (rush hours) out to the burbs. You had to pay extra on those, but it was the only time that service was available in most cases to reach those areas.

  • iamforjustice Mar 18, 2008

    you people need to get jobs near where you live. Quit buying house 40 miles away from your office so you jam up the roads with your wasteful commutes. You work in the Park - buy a house in the park...foetine

    Do you honestly believe everyone can live where they work. My job is moving and the homes are in the 240's and my house is no where near that and my kids go to a good school that I like in our area. That was not a very intelligent statement that you made. Not everyone can live near where they work.

  • emtp2k Mar 17, 2008

    Mass transit is the only way you are going to see some easing of the overcrowding on our local highways. The more and more people that move here the more cars we have and the longer commute times will get. Mass transit wouldn't be feasible for a totally private venture because it would be almost impossible for them to secure the land to build the rail system. A public/private partnership might work. If we rely on the existing rail tracks to run our commuter rail we will end up in the same boat as Amtrak. An under funded often behind schedule rail system. Can you imagine trying to ride a commuter train and having to wait for a frieght train to lumber along in front of the train you are on? the problem with toll roads is they want to put toll roads on the southern part of 540 only. We built the northern part for the rich and now they don't want to help build the southern part. If the politicians would keep their hands out of the transportation fund we might be ok.

  • djofraleigh Mar 17, 2008

    We don't need mass transit so people can live in one town and work in another.

  • BULLDOZER Mar 17, 2008

    Take a look next time at our buses. Mostly empty and costing us millions to run. Take a look at most school buses, mostly empty and costing us millions to run. See a pattern.

  • bomanicous Mar 17, 2008

    The "train" people are taking a page from the public school system's book.
    "Nevermind what the public wants, they don't know any better. Afterall it's the govt's money now so we can waste as much as we want, we can always get more!!!"

  • lizard Mar 17, 2008

    If mass transit is so popular and people will use it why hasn't a private entrepreneur built the silly thing and making a mint. Don't make decisions based on these polls, please.

  • colliedave Mar 17, 2008

    you people need to get jobs near where you live. Quit buying house 40 miles away from your office so you jam up the roads with your wasteful commutes

    One reason people bought homes far from their work location was the "limited growth" srategy drove up the cost of homes near work. Now with the high gas prices they want to move us into high rises. But these high rises cannot have garbage disposals and won't allow people to compost their waste. The only solution is to dispose of liberal politicans.

  • YipesStripes Mar 17, 2008

    Wow, foetine - sounds like you have everything figured out. Perhaps if you could convince the company I work for to allow telecommuting (they are firmly anti-telecommuting) or ask them to pay me enough to where I could actually afford to live closer to work, then I guess your theory might actually be a logical one.

    I do, however, agree with your comment about schools. No doubt that children should attend the schools closest to their homes. They'd be attending schools with the kids in their neighborhoods and churches, thus creating an environment where people actually know each other, again.

  • whatelseisnew Mar 17, 2008


    We all of us have already paid for ALL of 540 and then some. Unfortunately the robbers downtown stole the money we paid and spent it on other things. Don't support any tolls. I don't. Tell them idiots down there to finish the road. If need be they can donate their per diem and their yearly salaries to pay for it. By the way I not only do not want to pay for mass transit, I never asked for it, nor do I want it. Guess they did not poll me.