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What do Americans think about federal tax options to support public transit, highways, and local streets and roads? Results from year four of a national survey.
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  • Publication/ Report Number:
    CA-MTI-12-1228 ; MTI Report 12-07 ;
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  • Abstract:
    This report summarizes the results of year four of a national random-digit-dial public opinion poll asking 1,501 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, 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 sociodemographic factors, travel behavior (public transit usage, annual miles driven, and vehicle fuel efficiency),

    and attitudinal data about how respondents view the quality of their local transportation system and their priorities for

    government spending on transportation in their state. All of this information is 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 67 percent of respondents,

    whereas support levels dropped to just 23 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 show that most people want good public transit service in their state. In

    addition, two-thirds of respondents support spending gas tax revenues on transit. However, questions exploring different

    methods to raise new revenues found relatively low levels of support for raising gas tax or transit fare rates. Also, not all

    respondents were well informed about how transit is funded, with only about half knowing that fares do not cover the full

    cost of transit.

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