Originally published by the Public Policy Institute of CA.
By Mark Baldassare, Dean Bonner, David Kordus, and Lunna Lopes.
Californians view traffic congestion as a big problem in most regions.
In PPIC’s March 2016 Statewide Survey, a majority of the state’s residents (58%) said traffic congestion on freeways and major roads was a big problem in their region. More than 6 in 10 residents across all regions except for the Central Valley (36%) said traffic congestion was a big problem. When asked which transportation projects should be given top priority for additional state funding, Californians said either public bus and transit (34%) or freeways and highways (33%). Fewer said local streets and roads (24%) or carpool lanes (6%). According to PPIC surveys, most working Californians say they usually commute by driving alone.
Most Californians say spending more on roads, highways, and bridges is very important.
In his 2017–18 budget, Governor Brown has proposed about $43 billion of additional spending for state and local transportation projects over the next 10 years, with a focus on repairing and maintaining roads, highways, bridges, and public transit. In PPIC’s January 2017 Statewide Survey, majorities of Californians across parties and regions say that spending more money on California’s roads, highways, and bridges is very important for the future quality of life and economic vitality of the state. Among all adults, 61% say this is very important, compared to 62% in March 2016 and 53% in March 2015. However, only 41% of adults and 43% of likely voters support the governor’s budget proposal for transportation infrastructure after hearing a description of his plan, which includes a new $65 vehicle fee and an increase in the state’s gasoline and diesel excise taxes.
Importance of surface transportation funding for California’s future
Support for Governor Brown’s 2017–18 transportation infrastructure budget proposal
Sixty-five percent of adults and 60% of likely voters say they would vote for a bond measure on the state ballot to pay for surface transportation projects. While majorities of Democrats and independents would vote yes, 54% of Republicans would vote no. Regionally, support for a state bond measure to fund surface transportation projects is highest in Los Angeles County (70%) and the San Francisco Bay Area (69%), followed by Orange/San Diego Counties (64%), the Inland Empire (62%), and the Central Valley (61%).
…but there is less support for increasing local sales taxes to pay for transportation projects.
About half of adults and likely voters say they would vote for an increase in their local sales tax to fund local transportation projects, far short of the two-thirds majority required to pass. Support in each region falls below the two-thirds needed. There are notable partisan differences on this issue, with 63% of Democrats and 52% of independents saying they would vote for a local sales tax to fund surface transportation projects, while only 33% of Republicans say the same.
Support for surface transportation funding measures
Only 47% of Californians and slightly fewer likely voters (41%) say they would vote for a measure on the state ballot to replace the two-thirds vote requirement with a 55% majority to pass local sales taxes for roads and surface transportation projects. Support for such a measure falls short of 50% across all regions except for the Inland Empire (50%). Across parties, a majority of Democrats say they would vote yes on a measure lowering the vote requirement, while a majority of independents and Republicans would vote no. Latinos (58%) are the most likely to favor replacing the two-thirds vote requirement with a 55% majority for passing local taxes, followed by Asian Americans (52%), African Americans (47%), and whites (37%).
Support for lowering vote requirement toa 55% majority for local sales taxes for transportation
When asked what is needed to significantly improve the state’s roads, only 7% say increasing the amount of state funding alone is needed. Half of adults say that wise use of existing funds is needed, while 40% say that both more funding and better use of existing funds are needed to significantly improve the state’s surface transportation. A strong majority of Republicans (72%) say only better use of existing funds is needed, compared to 56% of independents and fewer Democrats (41%).
Funding preferences to significantly improve the quality of California’s surface transportation
Source: PPIC Statewide Survey, January 2017 and March 2016. Margin of error for all adults for each survey is ±3.3 to ±3.6. The margins of error for subgroups are larger.