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Poll: Most Texans Don't See Public Transit as a Congestion Cure

A poll of Texans found that 91 percent rely on a personal automobile as their primary mode of transportation while 6 percent rely on public transportation.

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*Correction appended

Only six out of every 100 Texans rely on public transportation as their primary means of transportation, and less than half of Texans believe it reduces congestion, according to a new poll released Thursday.

The survey of more than 5,000 Texans was conducted by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute in May to study how Texans get around and their views on transportation funding. 

Ninety-one percent of Texans use a personal automobile as their primary means of transportation, followed by 6 percent who rely on public transportation, according to the poll. Ninety percent of respondents said they own or lease a personal vehicle. Minorities and those with an annual household income of less than $25,000 rely most heavily on public transportation, researchers found.

Respondents were surveyed via telephone, online and mail. The poll has a margin of error of +/- 1.5 percentage points. The survey will be conducted every two years to track changes in Texans’ perceptions on transportation issues, researchers announced. 

Asked about traveling when not in a personal vehicle, a third of respondents said they had made at least one “nonrecreational” trip via walking in the last 30 days. A quarter of respondents said they had used public transportation, while 11 percent had biked somewhere.

The poll found that most Texans view congestion as a byproduct of the state’s strong economy and growing population. When asked about efforts to reduce congestion, efforts like timing traffic signals and adding more lanes to state-maintained roads drew the strongest support.

“Building more toll roads was, by far, the least supported strategy,” the report states. “The lack of support held true in both metropolitan areas and rural areas, as well as areas with and without toll roads.”

While just over half of respondents expressed support for increasing funding for public transportation, Texans appear conflicted on the issue. Only 38 percent of respondents agreed with the statement “Public transportation reduces congestion.”

“These findings suggest that Texas’ public transportation users believe that increased funding of public transportation will help manage congestion, but Texans that primarily use autos believe that increased investment in strategies, such as traffic signal timing and incident clearance, may be more effective in resolving transportation issues,” the report concludes.

When pollsters explored Texans’ views on transportation funding, they found many were misinformed. Less than 1 percent of respondents knew the correct amount they pay in fuel tax on a gallon of gasoline (38.4 cents). Half incorrectly thought the fuel tax was a sales tax that adjusts with the price of gas, rather than a flat tax.

When respondents were asked to rank a variety of proposals to increase transportation funding, the most broadly supported was dedicating the sales tax already collected on vehicle sales to transportation funding, a measure that several key lawmakers have said they hope to pass in next year’s legislative session. Texans were less supportive of any increases in the gas tax or vehicle registration fees, according to the poll.

Disclosure: Texas A&M University is a corporate sponsor of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story, using information provided by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute, said the poll's margin of error was +/- 3 percentage points. The poll's margin of error is +/- 1.5 percentage points.

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