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Americans desire more transit options

Americans desire more transit options

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In a country where the car rules, what do people think about public transit?

The United States is the land of the car. It spent billions to bailout big auto companies. It builds cities with wide streets and highways running through downtowns. It builds suburbs where the only way to get anywhere is by automobile.

But does that mean Americans aren't interested in alternative transportation options?

The Natural Resources Defense Council has an interesting new survey with some unexpected results for a country that's stuck in drive.

In general, Americans have a fondness for transit. Here are some of the findings:

Thoughts on transit

  • 58 percent would like to use public transportation more often, but it is not convenient or available from their home or work
  • 64 percent say their community would benefit from an expanded and improved public transportation system, such as rail and buses
  • 68 percent support more local investment in improvements to public transportation (including 63 percent of those who do not use transit), with 39 percent supporting it “strongly”

Thoughts on driving

  • 55 percent prefer to drive less, but 74 percent say they have no choice
  • 56 percent cite a preference to driving as the reason for not taking public transit, 43 percent say that it's because transit stops are too far from home

Thoughts on U.S. transportation infrastructure

  • 59 percent feel the transportation system is “outdated, unreliable and inefficient”
  • 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)
  • 67 percent favor setting new standards for local planning that guide new development into existing cities and/or near public transportation

And when it comes to the best strategies for reducing transit, it's not just people from big cities who think public transit is the best option:

Another fascinating statistic the survey brought to light is the misinformation about how much their state spends on public transit. The average estimate was about 16 percent of the total transportation budget. In reality, the average amount allocated for public transit in state and federal transportation budgets over the past three years was around 6.5 percent. Those surveyed think spending for public transit should be around 28 percent.

The bipartisan poll was conducted by Public Opinion Strategies (which traditionally conducts Republican polling) and Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates (which typically focuses on polling for Democratics) and surveyed 800 people.

(h/t Streetsblog)

Photo: Flickr/Visualist Images

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Tyler Falk

Contributing Editor

Tyler Falk is a freelance journalist based in Washington, D.C. Previously, he was with Smart Growth America and Grist. He holds a degree from Goshen College. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure