Minneapolis/Saint Paul/Plymouth, MN — Results from a statewide poll of Minnesota voters show broad support for expanded and improved public transit.
For the second year in a row, the poll shows strong support for state investment in the Southwest Light Rail line that would extend from Minneapolis to Eden Prairie.
Respondents also strongly back a 0.5% increase in the metro area sales tax to fund transit improvements, with nearly two-thirds of voters statewide supporting the proposal.
Minnesota’s three largest local Chambers of Commerce – the Minneapolis Regional Chamber of Commerce, Saint Paul Area Chamber of Commerce, and TwinWest Chamber of Commerce – hired a bipartisan team of nationally known pollsters Public Opinion Strategies and Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates to conduct the poll of 700 Minnesota voters. The poll was taken January 6-8, 2013. A similar poll was conducted for the chambers in January 2012.
Support for transit improvements is broad
The poll shows very strong overall support for improved transit. Eight out of ten (79%) agreed with the statement that Minnesota “would benefit from having an expanded and improved public transit system, such as rail and buses.” Two-thirds of voters statewide (66%) said they would like to use public transit, but that it’s not convenient or accessible to them. These data are remarkably stable from the January 2012 survey.
Voters of all parties support transit investment. Fully 93 percent of Democrats, 78 percent of Independents and 62 percent of Republicans believe the state benefits from an expanded and improved public transit system. In the metro region, 83 percent of Democrats, 77 percent of Independents, and 70 percent of Republicans agree that public transit investments will positively affect jobs.
In addition, Minnesota voters believe building more roads alone will not solve traffic congestion. Seventy-one percent (71%) of voters statewide and 71% of voters in the metro region do not believe focusing on roads and highways alone will solve the Twin Cities’ traffic congestion problems.
Southwest LRT support now even stronger
The 2013 also poll shows that 70 percent of voters statewide now back using state bonding funds to move forward with Southwest LRT. This compares to 61 percent of Minnesotans polled in 2012. The three chambers, along with the Eden Prairie Chamber of Commerce and Edina Chamber of
Commerce, worked aggressively during the past year to help officials understand that breadth of support.
In the metro area, support is even higher: 75 percent now support continued state bonding for Southwest LRT, with 23 percent opposing it.
Voters support 0.5% metro area sales tax increase for transit
Overall, 65 percent of Minnesota voters say they find a 0.5% increase in the metro area sales tax is an acceptable way to fund improving light rail, buses and other transit choices. In the metro area, the level of support is 57 percent, while outside the 7-county region support for a metro area sales tax is 74 percent.
Governor Dayton’s Transportation Finance Advisory Committee recently recommended passage of a 0.5% sales tax increase, in addition to the existing 0.25% sales tax dedicated to transit in the metro area (5 counties have enacted the sales tax). An increase of 0.5% in the five counties is estimated to generate $200 million annually for transit.
Poll respondents said that they agree Minnesota needs a long-term solution to funding transit needs. Sixty-two percent found the following statement convincing: “Minnesota needs to plan ahead and be proactive in finding solutions to reduce traffic and provide transportation choices. Using the metro area sales tax as a long-term funding source will ensure that annual political fights in the legislature do not sidetrack improvements to the region’s transit system.”
Business leaders vow to continue making the case for enhanced transit
“Minnesotans understand that planning for economic growth and improving our region’s transportation system is just common sense,” said Minneapolis Regional Chamber President Todd Klingel. “This survey shows there is strong support for combatting traffic congestion and fueling job growth by providing funding for Southwest LRT and funding long-term investments in a comprehensive, integrated transportation system.”
Southwest LRT would connect with the Central Corridor Light Rail, Hiawatha Light Rail and Northstar Commuter Rail at a station next to Target Field. The line would run 15 miles between Minneapolis and Eden Prairie.
The total remaining state contribution for the Southwest LRT project is $118 million. The state’s overall share would be matched 9-to-1 by contributions from federal and county funds that must be spent on transit, including a federal share of $625 million. The Metropolitan Council projects the Southwest LRT corridor will add 60,000 private sector jobs by 2030.
“We know that our region is competing with others for jobs – and increasingly companies are looking to locate in places with robust transit options,” said Saint Paul Area Chamber President Matt Kramer. “It’s time to move forward with an approach that will help us attract and build a strong future workforce in the Twin Cities.”