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Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Support for new rail transit systems dips below 50%

From an article by Larry Sandler of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

But expansion of I-94 finds increased support

Support for new rail transit systems has dipped below 50% in the Milwaukee area, while I-94 expansion receives stronger backing but still falls just short of a majority, according to a recent poll.

At the same time, The People Speak Poll found majority support throughout the four-county area for a new half-cent sales tax in Milwaukee County only to fund the county's transit system, despite skepticism about empowering a regional transit authority to levy a broader sales tax.

The Public Policy Forum's People Speak Poll is a tracking poll, designed to follow changes in public opinion on key local issues over time. The latest telephone poll of 386 residents in Milwaukee, Waukesha, Ozaukee and Washington counties focused on transportation issues and was the third such poll in a year to ask about plans for high-speed trains, commuter rail and streetcars.

Last fall, 57% backed plans for high-speed trains linking Milwaukee to Madison and Chicago. Narrower majorities supported plans for commuter trains from Milwaukee to Kenosha and Racine and modern streetcars in downtown Milwaukee. Those results didn't change much in the spring.

But when the latest poll was conducted June 1-4, support had dropped to 41% for high-speed rail and 42% each for downtown streetcars and commuter rail, the Public Policy Forum reported.

By contrast, a new question about adding lanes to I-94 between Milwaukee and Waukesha drew 49% in favor to 39% opposed, with the rest voicing no opinion.

Those results reflect inroads by vocal rail transit opponents, as well as public concern about the economy and strained government budgets, Public Policy Forum President Rob Henken said.

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