By Keith Laing
Sixty-six percent of Americans want Congress to spend more money on public transportation, according a poll commissioned by a prominent environmental group.
The New York-based Natural Resources Defense Council said on Wednesday that its survey of 800 U.S. residents showed more Americans support increased public transportation construction than building more roads and highways.
“Americans hate traffic and love transit,” said Peter Lehner, NRDC’s executive director. “Investing in public transportation eases congestion, but for too long most federal funding has limited people’s choices, leaving them sitting in traffic.”
The poll found 58 percent said they would like to use public transportation more, but said it was not convenient to their work schedules or home locations.
The survey also found that a majority of Americans think that states spend about 16 percent of their transportation budget on public transit, compared to an average the NRDC said was closer to 6.5 percent.
Public transportation advocates like the Amalgamated Transit Union for transit workers said Wednesday that the NRDC poll validates their support for increased funding for railways and bus systems.
“Transit ridership in the U.S. is at an all-time high in decades and even more people would use it if they could," ATU President Larry Hanley said in a statement. "Many believe Americans are in love with their cars, but most are frustrated with the lack of options for adequate, reliable public transit service."
Hanley said the NRDC poll "clearly shows that taxpayers are willing to put their money where their mouth is — backing increased spending to make better public transportation a reality.
"Legislators should take note that public transit is not only a wise investment in our economy, but also a winning political position for people regardless of their party affiliation,” he said.
Lawmakers in the House briefly tried to eliminate a dedicated funding source for public transit systems in the recently approved $105 billion transportation measure. Supporters argued that the bill included more one-time funding for public transit than a traditional 80-20 percent split in federal gas tax revenue has provided.
But public transit advocates countered that removing the dedicated funding source would leave funding for railways and bus systems at the whims of future lawmakers, and the provision was removed from the final version of the transportation bill.
The full NRDC transportation poll can be read here.