Research: Texans do NOT want more toll roads

Link to article here.

Texans know what they like: free, open, bike-free roads
By Dug Begley
Houston Chronicle blog
September 25, 2014

There may be no such thing as a free ride, but that doesn’t mean Texas drivers can’t dream. According to a new study from Texas A&M Transportation Institute researchers, the state’s drivers would like more investment in everything from sequenced traffic lights to public transit — even if they do not want to ride the bus themselves.

What they currently don’t want, according to a survey that researchers conduct every two years, is more toll roads, or giving bicyclists a major say in how transportation is planned.

A lot of the findings boil down to one thing: Texans find their way of doing things very important. Drivers tend to favor giving themselves the lion’s share of money and attention. Bus riders think more money needs to be spent on transit and reducing auto dependence. One would imagine the unicycle lobby is very into one-wheel modes of travel.

Some of the figures are rather enlightening, especially as voters are asked to approve $1.7 billion in transportation spending from the state’s rainy day fund. Here’s a few highlights, though the whole report is worth a glance.

Asked what groups should have the most influence on transportation policy, the top spot goes to drivers, which is unsurprising given that 90 percent of people surveyed use a car as their primary mode of travel. Here’s what researchers had to say, with their italics kept in place:

The data also suggest that those who primarily use autos, roughly 90 percent of Texans, may have a challenge seeing themselves as merely one of many user groups for whom the system was designed. Rather, they see themselves as the user group for whom the system was designed. Furthermore, they may view the primary role of state departments of transportation—but also to a lesser extent municipal and county government—as facilitating their system needs.

Bicyclists came out last, with private corporations barely beating them in terms of preferred transportation sway. Transit riders, meanwhile, get a little more support than the people actually elected to make the decisions. Ouch.

transpo prioritiesMaybe politicians lose support because many of them favor toll roads, and drivers very clearly do not. In ranking how people want money spent or solutions offered to ease congestion, better timing of traffic lights and clearing accidents win, and toll roads lose. Big time. Public transit investment does better than some may suspect, and beats out carpooling.

transpo fixes


Lawmakers lately have heard from some vocal toll opponents, but at the same time more pay-lanes are planned across Texas, mostly because they are the only way some communities are adding freeway capacity. That reality sort of pans out with another factoid from the survey: While nearly two-thirds of Texans say more investment is needed, they oppose paying for it themselves in the form of higher taxes or fees.

More concerning might be this little nugget from researchers, in light of the staunch tax opposition.

“Less than 1 percent of respondents know the correct amount they pay in fuel tax for every gallon of gasoline purchased, or how that tax is assessed.”

That’s a troubling reality, researchers said.

“From dozens of focus groups over several years, we have seen that Texans, in general, have very little understanding of how we pay for the highways we use,” said Ginger Goodin, Director of TTI’s Transportation Policy Research Center. “What we know now that we didn’t know before is that that lack of understanding is widespread, and it’s common among all demographic groups.”