Poll shows continued widespread support for light rail

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Light rail continues to enjoy strong support in the central Puget Sound region among registered voters, according to a public opinion survey conducted last week by the Evans/McDonough Co. polling firm and commissioned by Sound Transit.

The poll found that that 72 percent of those surveyed said that a light rail system "should be one of the solutions to our region's transportation problems." Nearly 8 out of ten of those polled agreed that "it is essential that we get started on a light rail system now" in light of projected regional population growth.

Evans/McDonough interviewed 500 registered voters by telephone between December 4 and 6 within the Sound Transit district, which includes the urbanized areas of Pierce, King and Snohomish counties. The survey has a margin of error of plus/minus 4.4 percent.

The poll also found that 72 percent of voters support light rail "even if it will cost more, as long as the project can be completed without raising new taxes." Seventy-six percent agree that a "light rail system is the most efficient and reliable way to move large numbers of people north and south of Seattle."

"This is a clear sign that the public supports light rail for our region, even if it costs more or takes longer to complete," said Dave Earling, chair of the Sound Transit Board, said. The survey also reports that:

  • People want action on light rail. Seventy-five percent of those surveyed agreed that "local government officials have been talking for too long about light rail" and that it is "time to start building the system." Seventy-nine percent agreed that "it is essential that we get started on a light rail system now" in light of projected population growth.
  • Officials should make every effort to obtain federal funding for the project. Eighty-two percent agreed that local officials "should make every effort" to obtain a $500 million federal grant that is currently pending.
  • Seattle traffic is a regional problem. Ninety-two percent of survey respondents agreed that "traffic congestion in Seattle is a regional problem because it affects all of us that live, work and travel in the Puget Sound" area.

Additionally, the poll found that if the light rail project were abandoned, people would favor more commuter train service and expanded bus service as the top alternatives. It also found that free bus service would be relatively ineffective in attracting new riders.

Sound Transit commissioned the survey as part of a board-directed review process following the suspension of Capitol Hill tunnel negotiations last month.

"We have some tough decisions to make in the coming weeks and we wanted some insight into where voters are at this moment in time," Earling said.

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Sound Transit plans, builds and operates regional transit systems and services to improve mobility for Central Puget Sound.