New poll shows strong regional support for light rail and other Sound Transit services

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A new poll released by Sound Transit today shows the public continues to support light rail as a part of the region's transportation system. Sixty-six percent of those polled said light rail should be one of the solutions to our region's transportation problems. A vast majority (69 percent) also believes that a regional light rail system will be an effective or very effective way to help solve traffic problems in our region.

"Support for light rail as a part of our regional transportation system continues to be very strong," said Joni Earl, Sound Transit Executive Director. "We have to deliver on the promise of light rail made to voters, we have to do it wisely and we have to get started soon."

Faced with an increase in the light rail project budget and a longer timeline for completion, the Sound Transit Board has been considering a smaller initial segment. A majority of those polled (52 percent) said "we should decide what we can build with the currently available funds and start building light rail immediately," while only 28% said, "if light rail cannot be built according to the original plan, we should scrap light rail altogether and not build it, and use the funds for other transportation services."

"It's clear voters don't want any more light rail studies, and are ready for construction to begin," said Don McDonough, the researcher who designed the survey. "This research, in conjunction with Sound Transit's public forum on June 20, should help the Board assess the public's desire to move forward with light rail."

That public forum, which is scheduled for 4:00 to 8:00 p.m. Wednesday will be at Town Hall, 1119 8th Avenue, in Seattle.

The public forum is expected to confirm a finding in the poll that voters believe transportation is the top issue in the region. Fifty-six percent of those polled said transportation is the most important problem facing the Puget Sound region today, far outstripping all other issues, including education (seven percent), energy (five percent), and crime/drugs (four percent).

The survey also showed despite heightened media scrutiny, 44 percent of respondents say they have not "heard, read or seen" about Sound Transit recently. When rating Sound Transit and its various services, 22 to 40 percent said they "don't know." Sound Transit has a relatively low approval rating, 41 percent favorable, with "the job that Sound Transit is doing at planning light rail" the leading concern.

However, when given more information about the other services already offered by the agency, Sound Transit's favorable rating jumps dramatically from 41 to 73 percent saying they have a favorable opinion.

"Obviously we have a lot of work to do in spreading the word that Sound Transit is more than just light rail," Earl said. "We are delivering express bus and commuter rail services and ridership is growing."

Two thirds or more (69 to 75 percent) say that transportation solutions already offered by Sound Transit will be effective or very effective. These modes of transportation include expanded express bus service (75 percent effective), expanding commuter train service (75 percent), and a regional mass transit light rail system (69 percent).

Light rail has the most intense support with nearly 38 percent saying that solution will be "very effective" (a total of 69 percent said it would be either "effective" or "very effective"). Light rail is thought of as being more effective than road building alternatives like adding lanes to Interstate 405 (66 percent), widening I-5 (61 percent), building more HOV lanes (51 percent), and toll roads and bridges (39 percent).

There is also strong support for Sound Transit's efforts to expand both Sounder commuter rail and ST Express regional bus service. Seventy-nine percent support the expansion of Sounder and 81 percent support expanding ST Express regional bus service.

The poll of 800 registered voters in the Sound Transit district, conducted by The Evans McDonough Company June 7-10, has a margin of error of + 3.5 percent. Of those polled, 28 percent say either they or someone in their household uses public transit on a regular basis.

Click here to view poll results
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Sound Transit plans, builds and operates regional transit systems and services to improve mobility for Central Puget Sound.