Poll: Traffic in the United States

Taxes, Tolls and HOVs

People may see tolls as ineffective because they don't want to pay them. Eighty-eight percent say they'd oppose a $5 toll to drive into city centers (a type of approach that's said to have been successful in London); opposition is equally high whether people drive into big cities or don't.

A substantial if less overwhelming majority, 68 percent, opposes adjustable tolls to try to spread the flow of traffic more evenly across the day; even in bad-traffic areas, it's equally unpopular.

Support for Policies
Automatic cameras66
Single-driver hybrids in HOV lanes54
HOV lanes (if none now)51
Single-driver tolls in HOV lanes36
Higher gasoline tax32
Adjustable tolls29
City-center tolls11

The cost sensitivity expressed in anti-toll sentiment may reflect the price of gasoline, now averaging $1.91 for a gallon of regular unleaded. In any case, it extends to gasoline taxes: Americans by a 2-1 margin, 65 percent-32 percent, oppose higher gasoline taxes even if the money is earmarked for transportation projects.

HOV lanes -- though not broadly seen as very effective -- garner fewer objections. Among the seven in 10 Americans who don't have them in their areas now, 51 percent would support HOV lanes, while 43 percent oppose them. Support is higher in worse traffic areas, including cities and suburbs.

Sixty percent oppose opening HOV lanes to single drivers who are willing to pay an extra toll for the privilege – another anti-toll result. But 54 percent are in favor of another proposal, opening HOV lanes to single drivers of low-pollution hybrid vehicles in order to encourage the use of such cars.


Public transit is more available in the Northeast and West (seven in 10 say it's an option) than in the South and Midwest (five in 10). But it's not an especially attractive alternative: Among those who have public transit available, 52 percent rate it positively -- no better than the number who positively rate their local traffic.

Lack of convenience seems to be the main rap -- as noted, 93 percent of Americans say it's more convenient to travel by car. Fewer but still a majority, 56 percent, don't see a cost advantage either, instead saying it's less expensive for them to drive.

Public Transportation
Is Available59%
If available, use it often10
Use it to get to work4

Incentives are few and far between: Just 8 percent of people with jobs outside the home say their employers offer money or other incentives to encourage people to take public transportation to work.

There is a plus for public transit: People who know it best like it. Among those who use it, 69 percent rate it positively; 23 points higher than among those who don't. (Use of public transit peaks among city dwellers, minorities and lower-income Americans.)

Carpool/Car Share

While just 8 percent of commuters currently car pool, 20 percent of solo drivers say they'd be interested in it -- far from a majority, but enough to take plenty of cars off the road if they were to follow through. For most, though, that looks unlikely: Just 6 percent are "very" interested in a car pool arrangement.

As with mass transit, convenience is the biggest objection: Asked the main reason they're not in carpools now, 51 percent say it'd be inconvenient, and an additional 22 percent give reasons related to convenience or privacy. Eighteen percent, though, say it's because they don't know anyone to carpool with.

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