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The Mayoral candidates and public transportation

It’s a start.

HoustonMetro

When it comes to traffic, Houstonians and their mayoral candidates agree: The city is gridlocked and only getting worse.

Judging by the candidates’ fledgling campaign platforms, many of which mention traffic as a top concern, road improvements are the answer.

Houston-area residents, however, beg to differ.

So says the Kinder Institute’s recent Houston Area Survey, which found that 43 percent of those surveyed in Harris County said “making improvements in public transportation, such as trains, buses and light rail” is the best-long term solution to the city’s congestion. Just 26 percent of survey respondents said the fix is “building bigger and better roads and highways.”

That perspective is not new – those polled have said they prefer a public transportation solution to Houston-area traffic problems for a few years running – but recent surveys show declining support for road improvements.

“You cannot solve the traffic problem by simply building more roads, and the public understands that,” said sociologist Stephen Klineberg, who conducts the annual poll.

Some say the discrepancy exists in part because people envision public transportation as a way to get others off the roads, even as they show little interest in riding the train or bus to work themselves. The survey also incorporates those who live outside the city.

Rice University political science professor Bob Stein framed the seeming disconnect in terms of voter turnout.

“We wonder why we don’t get mass transit,” Stein said. “It’s because the people that vote, they drive cars, and their vote has more influence on the policy decisions than the people’s who don’t vote,”

The full Kinder survey is here. I’m sure that low turnout has something to do with it, mostly in the sense that the issue of public transportation rarely gets much discussion during election season, but until the Kinder folks start doing a likely voter screen we can only guess how much of an effect it is.

The story also reports on what the Mayoral candidates have to say about public transportation, which at this point isn’t much; only Sylvester Turner, in his announcement video, mentions public transportation on his website. I know, I know, it’s still early in the cycle, but it’s not that early any more, especially now that the field is set. Since I’ve been incessantly complaining about the way that various issues affect the 2015 Mayor’s race have been ignored in the Chron’s reporting on these issues, I should be glad to see a story like this, and indeed I am. I’d like more – much more – but for now I’ll take what I can get.

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2 Comments

  1. Tory says:

    I would love to see the Kinder survey modified to ask public preference for
    1) More roads
    2) More transit
    3) Invest in whatever projects that move the most people per taxpayer dollar

    I think the answer breakdown would shift dramatically…

  2. […] case that a non-transit-oriented Mayor could do a lot of damage. That’s why I’ve been so obsessed with where the Mayoral candidates stand on mobility and transit and other issues. We need to know […]