Thursday, June 26, 2008

"One alternative that doesn’t get support, toll roads."

Poll Shows Results of High Gas

Related: Read the full report.


KLBJ News Radio
Copyright 2008

A new poll from the non-profit Texas Lyceum Group shows a surprising amount of support for public transportation and a surprising lack of support for building a bunch of new roads, including toll roads.

University of Texas at Austin Professor Daron Shaw was on of the pollsters. He says you might not see this kind of support for mass transit options if gas weren’t at $4.00 a gallon. "Do gas prices and the hit people take in the wallet influence their priorities and willingness to explore alternatives, absolutely, no question."

Shaw says the poll shows strong support for new public transportation alternatives. "Mass transit, light rail, regional rail, all of these things have some appreciable level of public support." There is also support for more bus routes as long as these are clean busses.

One alternative that doesn’t get support, toll roads. Shaw says "What we find there is not much appetite for are toll roads, either tolling existing roads where there is tons of opposition, or building new tolls where there is significant opposition, not quite as much but still significant opposition."

© 2008 Emmis Austin Radio Broadcasting Company:

Survey reveals Texans' transportation concerns


By Brandi Grissom / Austin Bureau
El Paso Times
Copyright 2008

AUSTIN - If you've been eyeing a Prius, thinking about sticking close to home this summer and maybe even talking about a neighborhood carpool, you're far from alone in Texas.

As gas prices in El Paso continued inching toward $4 a gallon Wednesday, a newly released statewide poll showed more than half of Texans are rethinking their summer vacation plans. The wide-ranging poll conducted this month by the Texas Lyceum, a nonprofit, nonpartisan leadership group, also asked Texans their thoughts on paying for transportation and on the ever-controversial topic of cell-phone use in cars.

"The pinch of rising gas prices, increased congestion, and the costs of transportation projects are changing how people feel about transportation in Texas," said Daron Shaw, a University of Texas at Austin government professor and Lyceum pollster.

Suzanne Lozano, who lives in the Upper Valley, said her family cut their recent two-week vacation to California a day short to save money. Fill-ups for their Suburban totaled about $600.

In town, Lozano said, she tries to run all her errands in one trip and drives the family's smaller car whenever she can. "The kids don't like it, but we cram (into) the Volkswagen," Lozano said.

And, Lozano said, she's talking about starting a carpool with other families to take their children to and from school this fall.

According to the Lyceum Poll, which surveyed 1,000 Texans and had a 3-percentage-point margin of error, more than two-thirds of Texans would strongly consider buying a hybrid car, such as a Prius, or a more fuel-efficient vehicle because of gas prices.

Almost two-thirds said they would strongly consider carpooling, and more than half would strongly consider using public transportation to commute to work and school.

Eastsider Bill Lewis, an 86-year-old World War II veteran, bought a tiny Smart car in April. He said he's filled the Mercedes-Benz-made car's eight-gallon gas tank twice in two months. One tank, Lewis said, will last about 350 miles.

Plus, he gets plenty of approving looks in his zippy little silver-and-black car.

"Everyone that sees it is thrilled with it," Lewis said, "women and men both."

The poll may also provide some insight on the political bind facing lawmakers looking for ways to pay for new roads in Texas.

While a majority said they wanted more spending to reduce traffic congestion, few were willing to pay for those projects with tolls or with increased gas taxes.

"It captures the difficulties (lawmakers) have been having," said Jim Henson, director of the Texas Politics Project at UT Austin, who helped with the poll.

Lawmakers and transportation officials have said the state lacks funds to keep up with growing highway needs in Texas. But proposals to increase gas taxes or build toll roads to address those needs have caused public outcry.

When it comes to cell phones in cars, 60 percent of those polled said they would support a ban on talking and driving. At the same time, though, more than a third admitted to using their phones while behind the wheel.

Rosario Rivera, who lives in Central El Paso, said she would definitely support a ban on cell phone use while driving.

"Even if we want to be very careful, it is trouble-making," she said.

Lozano, of the Upper Valley, laughed as she admitted to using the phone in her car. She said she knows it's a distraction, and she would support a ban, especially now that her daughter is approaching driving age.

"We just need to get away from it," Lozano said. "It's more of a ball-and-chain than I realize."

Brandi Grissom may be reached at;


Poll findings

Texas Lyceum Poll results:

# 51 percent are strongly considering not taking a summer vacation.

# 66 percent would strongly consider buying a hybrid car or fuel-efficient


# 63 percent would strongly consider carpooling.

# 53 percent would strongly consider using public transportation to get to work or school.

# 49 percent said traffic congestion is a "very important" issue facing Texas; 35 percent said it was "somewhat important."

# 66 percent oppose tolls on new roads.

# 69 percent oppose tolls on existing roads.

# 60 percent strongly oppose increasing the gas tax; 12 percent somewhat oppose it.

# 44 percent said they use a cell phone while driving.

# 60 percent strongly or somewhat support a ban on cell-phone use while driving.

© 2008 El Paso Times:

New poll shows Texans want better roads, don't want to pay for them

June 25, 2008

The Dallas Morning News
Copyright 2008

AUSTIN – Texans think congestion is a serious problem and want road improvements, but a solid majority is adamantly against paying at the toll booth or gas pump for bigger and better highways, a poll released today shows.

For state policy makers, “it shows the difficulty they’ve been having,” said James Henson, director of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin.

Of the 1,000 Texans polled, 60 percent said they strongly oppose a hike in the state’s gas tax, while 46 percent strongly oppose tolls on new highways. Meanwhile, 53 percent said they strongly oppose tolls on existing highways.

The poll by the Texas Lyceum, a nonpartisan public policy group, showed that most Texans want to improve existing roadways as opposed to building new ones. They also would like to see a strong commitment to mass transit systems, such as light rail. There was also strong support for high-speed rail to connect cities such as Dallas, Austin and San Antonio.

In addition, 44 percent of Texans copped to talking on cell phones while driving, while 60 percent said they would favor a ban on such behavior.

Texans were also asked what they strongly would consider doing in the face of high gas prices. The number one answer – 66 percent – was buying a hybrid or more fuel efficient auto. The next was carpooling and a little over half said they are thinking about taking public transportation.

Only 37 percent said they would consider moving closer to work or school so that the commute would not be so far.

© 2008, The Dallas Morning News, Inc.:

Poll: Build roads and rail without taxes, tolls

Mansion fire could hurt chance of ending DPS 'diversion'

June 30, 2008

Ben Wear
Austin American-Statesman
Copyright 2008

What's a legislator to do?

Texans, in a poll on transportation released last week, said they want money for nothing and their toll roads for free. Or words to that effect.

The grandly named Texas Lyceum, a Dallas-based nonprofit leadership group, asked 1,000 Texans about 30 questions on getting around. Should state and local governments spend more on highways, airports, passenger rail (including high-speed connections between metro areas), bus service and (even) ports, Texas Lyceum asked in different questions?

Oh, yes, Texans said, by healthy margins. Give us more of all of that, particularly because, according to 84 percent of those polled, "reducing traffic congestion" is either very important or somewhat important.

OK. Money's a bit tight these days. Should we raise the state's 20-cents-a-gallon gas tax to pay for those things?

Heck no, a thumping 72 percent said.

Well, how about toll roads then? Nope. Even for completely new roads, like Texas 130, 66 percent said they weren't interested. For existing highways, 69 percent said no.

So, to sum up, build us more transportation stuff, all kinds of it (including things like bus service and rail lines that operate at huge losses), but don't charge us for it. This will no doubt be a dose of courage when the Texas Legislature gets together in January and begins to toss around options.

The one thing lawmakers likely will do is fill in the dots on Proposition 12, allowing TxDOT to borrow $5 billion. Under a constitutional amendment voters OK'd in November, the state can issue $5 billion in bonds and repay it with general state revenue.

The state, according to the comptroller, does have several billion dollars of excess revenue to spend. The talk during the interim has been about ending the diversion from TxDOT of about $1.5 billion of gas tax revenue during the state's two-year budget cycle. The idea was that with the overall surplus, that money (or a large chunk of it) could go back to TxDOT and the Legislature could then replace it with general revenue. To borrow that $5 billion (with a 20-year payback) would require about $800 million every two years for debt payments.

So ending the $1.5 billion diversion would allow a $5 billion quick fix, with about $350 million a year left over for other stuff. With federal transportation funding plunging and costs going way up, this would only make a dent. But, hey, its something. And with no new taxes or Spanish-run toll roads.

One problem, though: Most of that $1.5 billion — $1.2 billion, to be precise — goes to operate the Department of Public Safety. You might have heard about a fire in an old state building recently that DPS failed to prevent, at least to some degree, because of short staffing, poor training and broken equipment. DPS will have its own claim for spending.

If you did a poll on that, Texans would no doubt support giving DPS more dough. Just don't tax us to get it.

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