In one way or another, the transportation system in Texas serves practically all of the more than 27 million people who live in the state, every day. Any time you’re planning, financing, building, and managing something that big, it can be really worthwhile to understand what’s on the minds of those who use it.
That’s why we conducted the Texas Transportation Poll about this time two years ago. It was an important exercise, because the results produced, for the first time, a comprehensive look at what Texans think about their transportation system, roadway funding, and their daily transportation experience.
Knowing Texans’ views on this subject can be helpful to the people who make transportation policy. And because a lot has happened since 2014, it will be equally helpful, we believe, to understand how public opinion may have changed.
And that’s why we’re repeating the Poll right now. As you’re reading this, we’re wrapping up our task of gathering responses from more than 4,500 registered Texas voters aged 18 or older throughout the state. We’ll publish our new findings by October, but in the meantime, we’re sharing a few highlights from the first round in 2014. What we learned then in some cases reinforced what we already felt that we knew, and in other cases we got a few surprises.
- Texans really do like their cars. 9 out of 10 respondents said they own or lease their own vehicle. Not much surprise there. Lots of people moving to Texas every day, and it seems that they’re all bringing a car or truck with them.
- Nearly everyone is feeling the gridlock pain. Three-fourths of people say they experience traffic congestion when traveling in their region. Again, nothing shocking about that. Traffic gridlock is relative; it’s not exclusively a big city problem anymore.
- People want more roads, but they don’t want to pay for them out of their own pockets. Nearly two-thirds of respondents said more money should be put toward meeting transportation needs statewide. But it’s difficult to find any support for raising that money through increases in the customary sources – vehicle registration fees and the gas tax.
- When it comes to transportation funding, there’s a lot of misunderstanding out there. Fewer than one percent of Texans know how much they pay in gas tax. That’s not a typo … Fewer than one percent know that the state gas tax is 20 cents a gallon. And barely half of the survey respondents understand that the tax is flat. Most everyone else thinks it’s a percentage sales tax that changes along with the price of gas or diesel. Not so.
- Building more traffic lanes isn’t the only answer. Of all the options that we presented to people in our survey, the two most popular ideas were: 1) timing traffic signals more effectively, and (2) clearing wrecks and stalled vehicles more quickly.
There’s more, of course. A lot more. You can find everything from the 2014 poll here. We’ll be sharing our new findings in October.
Ginger Goodin is the Director of TTI’s Transportation Policy Research Center.
Tina Geiselbrecht leads the Policy Center’s Public Engagement research area.