Poll: 3 out of 4 say regional transportation measure should be focused on safer roads

(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

By spring of next year Metro Council is expected to decide whether or not they should send a major transportation investment measure to the ballot. Dubbed T2020, efforts to shape where and how new revenues would be spent are heating up.

This week Metro is hosting community forums in all three counties. Washington and Clackamas county have already had theirs and the Multnomah County event will happen tomorrow (Thursday, 10/24). Also this week a new poll has come out (first reported by Willamette Week) that sheds light on how some people think the money should be invested.

The poll (PDF) of 700 people was conducted by FM3 Research in the first week of October both online and via phone. Among the findings is that 55% of respondents said they’d be willing to spend $300 a year in taxes to raise money for transportation investments. That number went up to 61% at $200 a year. 57% of respondents said yes after they were asked if they’d be willing to pay higher taxes “for projects that reduce traffic and improve transit.”

Combined with the fact that 89% of respondents said traffic in our region “is reaching a crisis point” should give Metro confidence that the timing is right for this measure.

But the big question is: What type of investments should be prioritized and how can the measure be framed most effectively to guarantee it passes by a safe margin?

When it came to questions that were more specific about how the money should be spent, the results showed an unsurprisingly driving-centric bias that was exacerbated by the survey questions themselves.


86% of the poll respondents said they mostly drive alone. When asked if “balancing investments between bus, light rail and roadway improvements that keep cars from idling in gridlock”, 72% of them said that was the right approach. When asked if new revenue should only be focused on transit, biking, and walking and, “shouldn’t support any transportation investments that include road-widening or freeway improvements,” just 15% agreed.

The Willamette Week said this shows “Most Portlanders aren’t ready to stop widening roads”, climate change be damned. That’s not the only way to read this poll.

It’s important to know who was polled. Less than half of the respondents were Portlanders and 50% of people polled live outside Multnomah County. 81% identified as homeowners (to just 14% who rent) and 77% where white.

The results also show a strong majority of support to improve transit. Despite just 41% of respondents saying they use transit regularly, 67% of survey respondents said better transit would improve commutes, 67% said they believe we can reduce traffic if we make it, “easier for some people to get around without a car” and 61% percent said they agree that, “Better transit service would mean less traffic.”

When given seven “focus issues” for the potential ballot measure – growth, equity, traffic, economy, safety, and climate — the one that came out with the most support was safety. A measure that would, “rebuild and strengthen roads, bridges, and transit lines to be earthquake-safe,” and “would address dangerous intersections and roadways while building and improving sidewalks, bike lanes, and safe routes to school to ensure the safety of people walking, biking, and driving,” was supported by 76% of respondents. A measure that would, “focus on redesigning and improving streets and traffic signals to improve traffic flow,” received 68% support.

This poll will likely come up at tomorrow’s community forum. Hopefully it’s seen as just one piece of the feedback puzzle as volunteers and electeds weigh the best path forward.

Multnomah County T2020 Community Forum
Thursday, Oct. 24, 6 to 8 p.m.
The Orchards of 82nd
8118 SE Division St., Portland
Sponsored by PGE and NW Natural

John Horvick, director of political research at DHM Research, will moderate a panel that includes
– Walter Robinson II, Getting There Together Coalition
– Ashton Simpson, Rosewood Initiative
– Emerald Bogue, Port of Portland
– Nolan Rinehart, ZGF Archictects

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and
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