OLYMPIA – Ninety percent of Washington residents surveyed think maintaining an effective transportation system for today and into the future is urgent and a strong majority is willing to consider raising some transportation taxes and fees to ensure that happens. What is not so clear is the preferred method to pay for it.
The Washington State Transportation Commission conducted a survey of Washington residents asking them how they feel about the transportation system, what their priorities are, and how they think we should pay for growing needs. The survey’s findings were presented today to the Governor’s Connecting Washington Task Force. The task force has been charged with making recommendations for a 10-year transportation investment plan that includes identifying investment priorities and possible revenue sources to fund them. Their work is expected to wrap up by the end of this year.
Some of the key statewide findings:
· When asked if they would support or oppose “raising some transportation taxes and fees,” 59 percent of residents say they would support it. The level of support grows to 62 percent when informed of some of the benefits that would result from additional transportation investments.
· Residents believe investments should go first to maintaining and repairing the existing transportation system, followed by increasing capacity and expanding travel options, although all three are closely ranked.
· While residents support the concept of new transportation revenue, most potential funding sources received limited support: only three of the nine funding sources tested receive majority support as “good ways to fund increased investment in our transportation system.” Sixty-one percent support a vehicle emissions fee; 60 percent support a special license fee for electric vehicles; and 52 percent support tolls. About half (46 percent) support an increase in the state gas tax.
· Six out of ten residents (59 percent) support tolling as a way to pay for major transportation projects. The level of support grows to 66 percent after respondents learn that less money is required from the rest of the state when toll revenues pay for a large portion of a project’s costs.
· Variable tolling, where tolls change by time of day, receives 62 percent support and Express Toll Lanes or HOT lanes, where single occupant vehicles can buy into the HOV lanes (as on SR 167), receives 63 percent support.
· Fifty-one percent of residents say they think toll money should be available to fund transportation improvements within a travel corridor – that is, on the roads and bridges that connect to where the toll is collected, rather than just for the facility where the toll is collected.
· More than six-in-ten (63 percent) support more state funding for public transit and passenger rail.
· A majority (57 percent) support using state funds to pay for the maintenance and operations of the state ferry system. Support grows to 64 percent when facts were shared on the number of ferry riders per year and that riders pay about 70 percent of ferry’s operations.
The commission invited 100,000 adult Washington residents to participate in the online transportation survey. The sample was structured based on the state’s 14 Regional Transportation Planning Organizations (RTPOs) so that statistically valid data would be available for purposes of regional comparisons. The goal was to collect a minimum of 5,000 demographically representative responses from across the state. A total of 5,518 responses were collected, exceeding the goal.
The commission opened up the on-line survey to the broader public who did not get an invite, to ensure all of those who were interested, could share their views. To date, 4,060 people have completed the open survey, bringing the total of survey responses to nearly 10,000 people. The broader public survey will remain open until the end of the year and can be taken at: www.voiceofwashingtonsurvey.org.
For more information about the commission and a complete meeting agenda, visit: www.wstc.wa.gov