Americans overwhelmingly support government funding for public transportation


Key Findings:

  • 86% of Americans support government funding for public transportation
  • A majority (52%) believe helping those who cannot drive is most important benefit of public transportation
  • Almost half of Americans surveyed (49%) are interested in access to different transportation modes for door-to-door travel with a single payment for the entire trip.

Almost nine in 10 Americans, or 86%, believe government should help fund public transportation, according to the findings of a new survey.

The HNTB Corporation America THINKS national public opinion survey found while this belief is most strongly held among Americans living in urban areas (92%), others such as 85% of suburban respondents and 79% of those living in rural areas also agree.

“Americans recognize the value and benefits of public transportation, and believe government funding is essential to build and maintain a public transportation system that delivers quality service,” said Kim Slaughter, HNTB national transit/rail sector leader and senior vice president.

Kim Slaughter

“It is remarkable the extent to which people across the nation, living in every type of community setting and across all age groups agree. Transit agencies and elected officials should take particular note of the support among younger segments of the population, and recognize they are increasingly in the majority as consumers of public transportation, as well as voters and taxpayers.”

The survey polled a random nationwide sample of 1,019 Americans, ages 18 and older, Aug. 10 – 13, 2018. It was conducted by Russell Research, which used an email invitation and online survey. Quotas were set to ensure reliable representation of the entire US population ages 18 and over. The margin of error is +/- 3.1 percent. HNTB Corporation is an employee-owned infrastructure firm serving public and private owners and contractors.

MTA Chairman and CEO Thomas Prendergast joins elected officials to dedicate the new 34 St-Hudson Yards station on Sun., September 13, 2015, which extends the 7 line to the West Side. Photo: Marc A. Hermann / MTA New York City Transit

According to the survey, Public Transportation in the U.S.-2018, support for government funding of public transportation cuts across various demography including 93% of millennials, 85 % of Generation X, 80% of baby boomers and 61% of senior citizens. In addition, Americans across the nation support government funding for public transportation, including 87% in the Northeast, 85% in the South, 83% in the Mid-West and 88% in the West.

The survey defined public transportation to include ride-sharing services such as taxis, car/limousine services, car and van pools, online car services such as Uber or Lyft, bus/bus rapid transit, subways, street cars/light rail systems and commuter rail systems.

The survey also found that more than eight in 10 Americans (83%) currently have access to some form of public transportation. For these Americans, the most prevalent option is bus with bus rapid transit available to 78% of respondents, closely followed by ride sharing at 74%. Commuter rail, street cars/light rail and subways were next at 24%, 22% and 14% respectively.

Among those Americans with access to some form of public transportation, two in three have used it at some point, according to the HNTB survey. The survey found a majority of Americans (52%) believe the single most important benefit public transportation should offer is to help those who are not able to drive, with 62 percent of baby boomer respondents and 69% of seniors in agreement. Providing a safer way to travel was cited by 32% of respondents, while 31% cited more convenience access to everyday amenities.

“Americans place great importance on mobility for themselves and others,” Slaughter said. “Mobility equals freedom, and provides opportunity for greater choices where we live, more options for jobs, schools, healthcare, entertainment and amenities that are essential components to our quality of life.”

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