Survey shows Americans prefer to spend more on mass transit and highway maintenance, less on new roads

Three-fourths of Americans believe that being smarter about development and improving public transportation are better long-term solutions for reducing traffic congestion than building new roads, according to a survey sponsored by the National Association of Realtors® and Smart Growth America. The 2007 Growth and Transportation Survey details what Americans think about how development affects their immediate community. Nearly three-quarters of Americans are concerned about the role growth and development play in climate change, as well as remaining concerned about traffic congestion. Half of those surveyed think improving public transit would be the best way to reduce congestion, and 26 percent believe developing communities that reduce the need to drive would be the better alternative. Only one in five said building new roads was the answer.

The Basics

75% of those polled said that improving public transportation and building communities that don’t require as much driving were better long-term solutions for reducing traffic. Only 21% said that building new roads provided the best solution.

Americans are more concerned than ever about the impact of growth and development on the changing climate. Nearly 90% believe new communities should be designed so we can walk more and drive less, and that public transportation should be improved and accessible.

At 84% against, Americans are overwhelmingly opposed to the privatization of public roads and highways.

80% prefer redeveloping our older, existing urban and suburban areas rather than building new housing and commercial development at the edges of our existing suburbs.

Reinvest and Fix-It-First

Eight in 10 respondents prefer redeveloping older urban and suburban areas rather than build new housing and commercial development on the edge of existing suburbs. More than half of those surveyed believe that businesses and homes should be built closer together to shorten commutes, limit traffic congestion and allow residents to walk to stores and shops instead of using their cars. Six in 10 also agree that new-home construction should be limited in outlying areas and encouraged in inner urban areas to shorten commutes and prevent more traffic congestion.

Tolls and Privatization

With road building costs often exceeding revenues, many states are turning to tolls as a key funding source. Americans are divided on tolls, although 55 percent approve of charging tolls on more roads if it improves roads and decreases congestion. On the other hand, six in 10 are opposed to charging tolls on freeways during rush hour to reduce congestion, and respondents are evenly split on charging tolls during rush hour, even if the money is used to provide transportation alternatives to the freeway. When it comes to spending taxpayer dollars, respondents believe Congress should spend more money to maintain and repair roads, highways, freeways, and bridges and to expand and improve public transit than build new roads.

Americans are overwhelmingly opposed to the private ownership of roads; that is, selling key roads and highways to private companies who would charge a toll and give a portion of the toll money to the state. Eighty-four percent of respondents oppose private ownership of roads; only 14 percent support the concept. Similarly, 66 percent are opposed to allowing private companies to build, own and collect tolls for new roads – even if those companies gave a portion of the toll money to the state.

Climate Change

This year the survey also asked about climate change, and more than 70 percent of respondents are concerned about how growth and development affects global warming. Americans expressed strong support for bold measures to combat climate change. Nearly nine in 10 believe that new communities should be built so people can walk more and drive less; cars, homes and buildings should be required to be more energy efficient; and public transportation should be improved and made more available. Americans strongly disapprove of increasing gasoline taxes as a way to discourage driving and reduce energy use, with 84 percent rejecting the idea.

The 2007 Growth and Transportation Survey was conducted by telephone among 1,000 adults living in the United States in October 2007. The study has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.