World Transit Research
Public opinion, Highway user taxation, Public transit, Fuel taxes, User charges
Urban Studies and Planning
This report summarizes the results of a national random-digit-dial public opinion poll that asked 1,519 respondents if they would support various tax options for raising federal transportation revenues, with a special focus on understanding support for increasing revenues for public transit. Eleven specific tax options tested were variations on raising the federal gas tax rate and creating a new mileage tax, and creating a new federal sales tax. Other questions probed various perceptions related to public transit, including knowledge and opinions about federal taxes to support transit. In addition, the survey collected data on standard socio-demographic factors, travel behavior (public transit usage, annual miles driven, and vehicle fuel efficiency), and attitudinal data about how respondents viewed the quality of their local transportation system and their priorities for government spending on transportation in their state. All of this information was used to assess support levels for the tax options among different population subgroups. The survey results show that a majority of Americans would support higher taxes for transportation—under certain conditions. For example, a gas tax increase of 10¢ per gallon to improve road maintenance was supported by 58 percent of respondents, whereas support levels dropped to just 20 percent if the revenues were to be used more generally to maintain and improve the transportation system. For tax options where the revenues were to be spent for undefined transportation purposes, support levels varied considerably by what kind of tax would be imposed, with a sales tax much more popular than either a gas tax increase or a new mileage tax. With respect to public transit, the survey results from all three years show that most people want good public transit service in their state. However, the 2012 questions exploring different methods to raise new revenues found relatively low levels of support for all of them. Also, large minorities of respondents did not know that all levels of government— local, state, and federal—support transit. The federal government was the least widely recognized source of support.
Agrawal, A.W., Nixon, H., & Murthy, V. (2012). What do Americans Think About Federal Tax Options to Support Public Transit, Highways, and Local Streets and Roads? Results from Year 3 of a National Survey.