Poll: Californians Don’t Like Gas Prices, Want Better Transit

7_30_09_gov.jpgThe Governor may not think transit is a priority, but his constituents do. Photo: San Diego Transit

A new survey released yesterday by the Public Policy Institute of
has been getting a lot of play in the press because of the
strong support Californians are showing for Greenhouse Gas reduction
programs, even in the midst of the current recession and budget crisis.

Often times when politicians talk about climate change, they tend to leave transportation reform out of the conversation; choosing to look at hybrid and other low- and zero-emission cars as the solution. However, the PPIC asked Californians what they thought about transit expansion and gas prices.

The results? Californians are tired of paying such a high price for gas and want more alternatives. From the PPIC’s press release:

Californians (69%) are less likely than last year (76%) to report that gas prices are a financial hardship. But large majorities of some groups do, particularly Latinos (85%) and residents with annual household incomes under $40,000 (83%). And although the percentage of Californians who drive to work alone has declined 12 points since 2002, commuting patterns among employed Californians (63% drive alone, 16% carpool, 9% take public transit) are similar to last year…

…Three in four residents (77%) say the state should focus transportation planning dollars on expanding public transit and using the existing network more efficiently, up 10 points since August 2004 (67%). Just 18 percent say the state should focus on building freeways and highways.

Over at The Switchboard, the Natural Resources Defense Council’s official blog, they break down those numbers for transit support by region, and what might be a surprise to some, but shouldn’t be after the support for Measure R, Los Angeles is actually slightly above average when it comes to transit support.

Central Valley


San Francisco Bay Area


Los Angeles


Orange/San Diego


Inland Empire


The Switchboard goes on to state the obvious…with Californians crying out for more and better transit options; Governor Schwarzenegger and Caltrans continue to push for massive highway projects while fighting desperately in court for the right to rob funds dedicated by taxpayers to transit projects.

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.

Since I appreciate a good Kinks reference as much as the next person, I’ll leave it at that.

  • DJB

    From the survey: “[t]hree in four Californians say the state should expand public transit and use existing transportation networks more efficiently—only 18 percent say the state should build more freeways.”

    This is good news.

    I’m a bit more pessimistic that a similar percentage currently supports transit supporting land-use patterns though. I really wish they had asked about that. I wonder if large numbers of people grasp that key connection.

    I also wonder about the extent to which these numbers get translated into action, either political, or personal (i.e. do people vote this way in practice, and do they ride the transit they say they support?). We can cite Measure R, but we can also cite Orange County’s Measure M which breaks down as follows: 43% for freeways, 25% for transit, 32% for surface roads.

    Whatever the answers, widespread public support for transit is a good starting point for action.

  • I think its the Robert Moses syndrome. They don’t drive, but are driven by a chauffeur, so they don’t take public transit and don’t experience what’s it like behind the wheel. As well, they “know” what is good for the rest of us and won’t hear a word we of what we have to say.

  • DJB

    I should add that Measure M passed in 1990, but it’s going to come up for re-authorization in 2010 or 2011. So, that’s going to be a really important fight that will do a lot to reveal how strong the transit spirit is in the OC. All the transit advocates in the region should fight hard to make it significantly better than it is now or kill it off.

  • Spokker

    “They don’t drive, but are driven by a chauffeur, so they don’t take public transit and don’t experience what’s it like behind the wheel.”

    *rolls eyes*

  • DJB

    Okay, that’s embarrassing. I was wrong. They already renewed Measure M. Sorry for all the posts.

  • Spokker

    You watch too much Real Housewives of Orange County. Whether it’s a white South OC neighborhood or Hispanic North OC neighborhood, most people drive themselves, and I doubt the so-called richie rich are really holding up transit.

    My dad is the typical Orange County resident, who worked two jobs and drove a light truck every day, not what you see on TV.

  • Spokker

    After the 2010 census I think we’re going to see some interesting things come out of North Orange County. As of the 2000 census Anaheim was 47% Hispanic. I think you’re going to see those figures go up, and non-white populations will go up in a lot of North OC cities. It’s definitely cementing itself with a strong middle class Hispanic population.

    And you know what? These people are pretty conservative. Look at the prop 8 results for Orange County. It got more support in the less white North portion of the county than in the whiter so-called conservative part of the county. http://projects.latimes.com/elections/orange-county-prop-8-results-by-city/ You can’t judge a county by its stereotypes.

    It isn’t rich white people holding OC back. It’s everyone.

  • The next time I hear some dumb ass politician complain about a request to remove car capacity hurting him politically, I am going to slap this report on his desk and tell him to pick another excuse. The next transportation engineer who even brings a pro-car pseudo “will of the people” argument up is just going to get slapped.

  • Spokker

    You do mean a figurative slap in the face right? Just checking…

  • ubrayj02

    I’m, going to Midnight Ridazz air guitar to two snaps up and a circle donkey punch ’em. In other words, yes, it was of course figurative speech.

  • Measure M was reauthorized overwhelmingly by the voters in 2006, with the current highways/streets/transit balance. There were more people asking to zero out transit than wanting to put more transit in. And, to be honest, Metrolink to Midnight from Fullerton to Laguna Niguel is wasteful, especially since the vast majority of Orange County doesn’t have a single bus coming within a mile of their house at midnight right now.

  • It’s crazy, calwatch, because a ton of people ride the bus in OC. They just aren’t getting involved.


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