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Transit Wins Big in New California Poll!

Justin Horner

Posted July 30, 2009

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The Public Policy Institute of California has just released its 100th Statewide Survey, Californians and the Environment.  The ninth environmental survey from PPIC since 2000, the Survey series “provides policymakers, the media and the general public with objective, advocacy-free information.” 

The biggest finding for climate change advocates is this: despite the most challenging national economic crisis in generations, a state budget that has been cut by tens of billions of dollars, and an unemployment rate of more than 10%, nearly a majority of Californians (48%) still insist on tackling global warming right away. The balance of Californians suggest we wait until the economy or state budget improve.  NOBODY says do nothing.

For environmentalists with a transportation orientation, the numbers are even better.  When asked which option is the closest to their view about planning in their region for 2025:

  • 77% say “We should focus on expanding mass transit and using carpool lanes, pricing, and other strategies to more efficiently use the existing freeways and highways;” while
  • 18% say “We should focus on building more freeways and highways.”

And let’s just break that 77% down a little bit:

Central Valley 74%
San Francisco Bay Area 82%
Los Angeles 78%
Orange/San Diego 75%
Inland Empire 71%
Asians 84%
African Americans 82%
Women 81%
College Graduates 81%


Clearly, Californians are continuing to send the message that business as usual in transportation isn’t cutting it.  Whether it’s about quality of life, environmental concerns, or worries about the state’s fiscal health, more highways are not what Californians want. 

In fact, support for transit is a long-term trend, and it’s only getting stronger.  In August 2006, the support number was 70% and in August 2004 it was just 67%.  Yet despite this clear increase in support, and the growth in transit ridership statewide, Sacramento has decimated transit funding and transit agencies across the state are struggling to keep service strong.

The business community is getting on board, too.  Earlier this month, Lucy Dunn (CEO of the Orange County Business Council) and Carl Guardino (President and CEO of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group) jointly wrote in an opinion piece:

Unless policy leaders start looking for a solution to restore transit funding, everybody — rich, poor, young and old — will face worse traffic congestion and air pollution and experience greater difficulty getting to where they need to go

And Californians instinctively recognize not only the importance of transit, but the need to make our entire transportation system more efficient.  The environmental benefits of such an approach are made clear in a new publication, co-sponsored by NRDC, and released earlier this week: Moving Cooler: Transportation Policies to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions.   This first-of-its-kind study looks at nearly 50 measures and combinations thereof, assessing their potential to save fuel, reduce heat-trapping pollution and save consumers money. 

California’s policymakers would be well-advised to read Moving Cooler.  As the Kinks said, Give the People What They Want.

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