Afternoon Jolt

Afternoon Jolt: Poll Shows Regional Voters Happy to Pay for More Light Rail

Polling finds strong support for Sound Transit.

By Bernard Ellouk January 22, 2015

Afternoon Jolt

The Sound Transit board released new polling today from EMC Research to gauge support for a ballot measure that would give the agency tax authority to raise $15 billion for expanding mass transit in the Puget Sound region.
Conducted over the phone on 1,500 registered voters in Snohomish, King, and Pierce Counties, EMC's poll finds overwhelming support for expanding transit options in the region.
The poll shows that voters, by a margin of 55 to 31, believe Puget Sound is on the right track—a historic high that has not been approached since December 2000. And the primary concern for Puget Sound residents is mass transit, transportation, and traffic, which ranks above concerns over the economy and jobs, the environment and pollution, and education.

“As the economy gets better, people start to worry more about transportation,” says EMC's Ian Stewart.

Fifty-seven percent of voters rank expanding light rail, buses, and commuter rail as the best way to address the traffic problem, compared with 36 percent who prefer to expand existing roads and highways and build new roads. Stewart says that, coming on the heels of 2008's ballot measure to fund an expansion of Sound Transit's regional express buses and commuter and light rail service, these figures signal “a lot of appetite” to continue transit expansions.
Support for expanding transit has remained around 80 percent since 2008. The poll released today shows 82 percent of voters in favor.


The last six years have seen Sound Transit's favorability with Puget Sound residents hover at a historic high in the mid-60s; it dipped in December to 66 percent from June's 69 percent. Further, Sound Transit is more popular with voters in relation to other agencies such as the Washington State Department of Transportation (53 percent) and the Washington State Legislature (41 percent).

Concerning taxation, voters show prodigious backing for the state legislature to give Sound Transit new taxing authority with 68 percent saying yes vs. 30 percent saying no.

Even in light of the $15 billion price tag, 70 percent of those polled support a measure to expand rail. The average additional cost for each adult in Sound Transit’s service area would be about $78 per year if the same mix of taxes funding current projects were to continue. Seventy-one percent say they would support that hit (35 percent strongly support it). Only 28 percent are opposed (17 strongly).
Finally, when asked the best way to fund this expansion, 38 percent of voters chose to fund through an increase in the motor vehicle excise tax of $80 per $10,000 of vehicle value over a sales tax increase of 0.5 percent or a property tax increase of 0.25 percent per $1,000 of assessed property value. 

King County executive and Sound Transit board chair, Dow Constantine said, “It’s great to see this level of positivity from local voters.” ​


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