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[Photo: L. Henry]


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American Public Says:
Let's Have More Rail!

Light Rail Now Project Team · June 2006

Americans would like to see a larger share of of both passenger and freight movement go by rail in the future, according to a recent Harris poll.

In the poll, "commuter" trains (apparently referring to both local and regional rail transit), chosen by 44% of respondents, and long-distance trains, chosen by 35%, topped the list of nine modes of transportation that adults would like to see "have an increasing share of passenger transportation."

Also receiving high ratings were "Local bus service", selected by 23% of respondents, and airlines, selected by a similar 23%. The nationwide Harris Poll of 1,961 U.S. adults was conducted online by Harris interactive between 8 and 14 December 2005.

Highest-Rated Passenger Modes


Among mechanized transportation modes, those selected the least by respondents were "Long-distance bus service" (i.e., intercity motor coach), with 6%, "Long-distance travel by car (10%)", and "Local travel by car" (11%).

Lowest-Rated Passenger Modes


With respect to freight, railroads – selected by 63% of respondents – top the list of six modes of transportation that adults would like to see "have an increasing share of all goods and commodities movements in the United States."

Highest-Rated Freight Modes


This survey also included questions on who should be "mainly responsible for maintaining and improving the transportation system", both "in your community", and "in the nation as a whole". Overwhelmingly, the public seem to think that these are government responsibilities rather than something the private sector should be mainly responsible for.

However, the level of government seen as having this responsibility varies greatly for local and national transportation. Specifically: State government (36%) and local government (27%) are seen by the largest numbers of adults as having the main responsibility for "maintaining and improving the transportation in your community." Fewer think that the federal government (16%) or private companies (10%) should have this responsibility.

When it comes to the transportation system "in the nation as a whole", two-thirds (68%) of adults believe this should be a responsibility of the federal government. Relatively few see this as the responsibility of state government (13%), local government (2%) or private companies (8%).

These results suggest that, for most adults, transportation is a "public good" for which government is seen to have the primary responsibility. However, as analysts of the poll have pointed out, that doesn't appear to mean that the public are opposed to the private sector providing much of the actual transportation; only that they believe that government, not the private sector, should make transportation policy.

HBLRT Dallas Area Rapid Transit's light rail transit system has proven effective in attracting new ridership, revitalizing the Dallas transit system as a whole. Here a train boards passengers at the West End station serving the downtown restaurant district.
[Photo: L. Henry]

Light Rail Now! website
Updated 2006/06/07

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