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Survey Shows SoCal Voters Want Investments in Transit, not Roads

Amanda Eaken

Posted November 2, 2011

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Southern Californians also prefer walkable, mixed-use communities over conventional residential neighborhoods where they have to drive

When the board members of the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) convene tomorrow morning at 10:30 to consider a plan for their region’s future, they would do well to note the results of a new voter survey. Some top line results:

  • Voters think expanding public transportation is the most effective way to reduce traffic congestion and air pollution (64%). Widening roads was the least popular choice (32%).
  • Voters understand that smart land use planning – putting more homes closer to jobs and public transportation – is in itself a transportation strategy that is more effective than widening roads at reducing congestion.
  • Four of five voters support investing in public transportation.


To me, these are enormously gratifying results.  What this means is that if Southern California voters were in charge of our transportation plans, the region would look very different. Voters understand what so many studies have told us: widening roads will not solve traffic congestion. Instead, designing communities that provide us real choices for getting around, and make it easier for us to make shorter trips — helping us to get out of our cars — is what will ultimately solve the problem.

And voters don’t just want better planned communities to reduce congestion; they also want to live there. By a two to one ratio, survey respondents want to live in communities where they can walk to jobs and services (64 percent), rather than in conventional residential communities that require driving for every need (34 percent).

But maybe the most interesting result was the way voters themselves would spend the money. Given $100 to balance across 5 different categories, voters would spend 14% of the funds on bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, indicating a strong latent demand for these modes of transportation. SCAG’s last adopted plan put less than 1% toward these most sustainable modes of transportation.


The voters’ will is clear: they want more communities with a mix of jobs, housing and services connected by public transportation and made safe and accessible to those who wish to walk and bike. Let’s see if SCAG can take a large step towards this vision with the adoption of its 2012 Regional Transportation Plan and its first Sustainable Communities Strategy under SB375.

Cosponsored by Move LA, the American Lung Association, and NRDC, the survey was designed to assess SoCal residents’ priorities for reducing regional traffic congestion and air pollution. 

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Not too fastNov 2 2011 05:22 PM

Thanks Amanda for following up and showing that SoCa residents want more public transit and widening the highways is a terrible mistake. SANDAG is not on our side with this unfortunately.

Jason JosephNov 3 2011 01:59 PM

"From October 24-27, 2011, FM3 completed 758 telephone interviews with registered voters living
within the Southern California Association of Governments’ boundaries, including oversamples in Riverside and
San Bernardino Counties. The margin of error for the full sample is +/- 5.7%; margins of error for subgroups within
the sample are higher. Due to rounding, not all percentages sum to 100%"

Im 100% behind everything you are talking about here but I am just curious if there might be any selection bias in terms of the people who responded to the survey. At ~800 people its still a pretty small sample but I guess the results may still be significant.

Its already very clear voters want this from their support of Measure R so this definitely makes sense but I'm just curious. Thanks for the great post!

Amanda EakenNov 4 2011 05:44 PM

Thanks for your questions. Three points in response:

1) It's actually a fairly robust sample for a region this size, and very typical;
2)The samples were stratified to be representative of the region in terms of demoraphics like age, gender, party, and geography, to ensure that the sample reflects the whole electorate; and,
3) The pollsters don't tell the respondents at the beginning of the interview what the poll is about, so the self-selection bias is unlikely.


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