Blog: What the People Really Want

By Kristina Egan

March 18, 2013

If you just listened to talk radio or read certain columnists, you would think people in Massachusetts are opposed to contributing anything toward maintaining and modernizing our transportation system. But that’s just not the case.

Truth is, when you listen to Massachusetts voters, you find out they’re willing to support new revenues for transportation because they understand that people all across the state need it, it’s necessary to our economy, and it creates jobs.

MassInc just released a new poll that shows there’s solid support among Massachusetts voters for funding the transportation system with additional revenue. As the report on the poll says, “Voters in every region recognize the potential economic benefits of raising revenue for the purposes of improving the Massachusetts transportation network.”

The MassInc poll undid another assumption. For years, conventional wisdom held that people, who live in areas where they rely on cars, would never understand the importance of funding public transit or willing to fund it. But the poll shows just the opposite. MassInc’s report says, “In every region of the Commonwealth, residents favor investment in both roads and transit over an exclusive focus on one or the other.”

In the focus groups conducted by MassInc, people who mostly drive said they support better public transit because they understand its importance to those who cannot not drive like the elderly, students, those with disabilities, and lower-income people. In the end, people in all parts of the state understand that having all modes of transportation working together drives our economy and improves people’s lives.

While the poll tells us that people are willing to pay into the transportation system, they would do so more readily with some conditions. According to the MassInc poll, they want any additional revenues raised for transportation to be dedicated solely to transportation. They also want transparency and clarity around how these additional revenues – their money – will be spent. This means that aside from creating a new funding plan locking in that money for transportation, there must also be a system in place to list transportation projects and track their progress. This accountability measure will create stronger trust in government and encourage the public to become even more supportive of investing in transportation.

With the governor and the Legislature focused on transportation right now, we have an unprecedented opportunity to create a long-term fix for our transportation system that will create more jobs, a stronger economy, and a more competitive state. While advocates like Transportation for Massachusetts are calling for fully funding transportation, those who oppose new investment are saying the public will not support new revenues. Based on this extensive polling data, we now know that voters statewide want to raise revenues to invest in transportation.