Although most Americans drive their cars to work each day, a sizable amount of policy debate centers on public transportation, especially as cities embark on urban planning. A recent Reason-Rupe poll of 1,200 adults on landline and mobile phones finds that 12 percent of Americans take public transportation at least a few times a week and 63 percent say they never take public transit.
Correspondingly, 62 percent of Americans prioritize transportation funding for roads and highways over funding for public transit. Nevertheless, 30 percent—substantially more than those who frequently use public transportation—would prioritize funding for public transit. However, it is unclear whether those who do not take public transit but want to prioritize its spending would personally use public transit if expanded or if they would just want others to use it to reduce traffic congestion.
When getting specific, a third of Americans say public transit funding should be commensurate with the percentage using it; in other words, government should spend the same amount of money per person who takes public transit as those who take roads. Another third believe government should spend more dollars per person using public transit than individuals using roads. In comparison, 15 percent would spend disproportionally more per person using roads. Among those who frequently use public transit to get to work, nearly half believe that more dollars per person should be spent on those using public transportation than those using roads. In contrast, 33 percent of those who primarily commute on roads and highways would rather government spend more dollars per person using roads.
Americans overwhelmingly believe tax dollars spent on transportation are spent ineffectively (65 percent), whereas only 23 percent believe the money is spent well. Interestingly, there are substantial differences between those who take public transit and roads and perceptions of government wastefulness. Sixty six percent of those who commute on roads believe government spends transportation dollars ineffectively, while only 21 percent disagree. In contrast, 41 percent of public transit users believe government does spend effectively.
Find full Reason-Rupe Q4 2011 poll results, question wording, and methodology here.
The Reason-Rupe Q4 2011 poll collected a nationally representative sample of 1,200 respondents, aged 18 and older from all 50 states and the District of Columbia using live telephone interviews from December 1-13. Interviews were conducted on both landline and mobile phones. The margin of sampling error for this poll is +/- 3 percent.
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