Survey: Public Transportation With Rail Comes Out on Top

Over the past years despite negative messaging from public transportation opponents we continued to believe that Santa Cruz County residents favor improving public transportation and would support adding passenger rail. Now that the RTC has officially chosen electric passenger rail as the Locally Preferred Alternative for transit in the rail corridor and is developing a business plan, we thought it was important to hear from voters county-wide and to find out whether the public will support this plan.  The results are in, and they blew us away. It turns out that when asked, 74% of active voters in Santa Cruz County support electric passenger rail service.

We knew that Santa Cruz County supports reducing pollution and that the need for better transportation options is clear to everyone. Despite that, we were surprised by both the depth and breadth of this support. The results are overwhelmingly positive across all five Supervisorial Districts. Depending on the district, 68% to 86% of survey respondents said they are in favor of the plan to provide clean energy light rail between Watsonville and Santa Cruz. This county-wide result is a watershed moment for transportation planning in Santa Cruz County. 

The idea to tear out the track and replace them with only a trail is deeply unpopular, as is the notion of pausing rail service planning. Faced with a direct choice among continuing with the current plan for both the trail and passenger rail, continuing to build the trail but pausing the plan for passenger rail, or removing the tracks and converting the entire corridor to trail only, the survey found just 17% are in favor of tearing out the track and only 19% support a pause in planning. The majority of the county prefers continuing with the current plan for both trail and passenger rail.

Who Did the Research?

To conduct the survey, we chose California-based FM3 Research, a highly respected and independent public opinion research firm with a nearly 40-year track record of accurate, statistically valid research for non-profit organizations and local governments across the state and the U.S. They conducted 618 interviews in mid-February. Participants were a randomly selected representative sample of our county’s active voters.  They were contacted via email and/or phone numbers provided by the Santa Cruz County Registrar of Voters. The composition of the sample aligned with the characteristics of local voters including political party, age, gender, race/ethnicity and Supervisorial District. According to FM3, a sample of this size is commonly used for accurate analysis of the opinions of residents in an area like Santa Cruz County and is consistent with research the firm did before the successful passage of Measure D in Santa Cruz County in 2016.

We’re so excited to share this news with you. We’re pleased to know that transforming public transportation in Santa Cruz County has such overwhelming public support. Thank you to our donors both large and small.  It was your support that enabled us to fund this research.

What’s Next?

Our 2021 mission is clear. We must step up our efforts to reach out to all the residents of the county and to share the Coast Connect vision for public transportation: building the Rail Trail, adding clean energy light rail, and improving neighborhood streets for biking and walking. 

We didn’t plan it out this way, but like a great transit connection, this good news synchronizes beautifully with our Spring Fundraising Challenge. This means that right now is a great time to celebrate the survey results and help us get ready for our 2021 effort by making a donation. If you would like to support our work, please click here and have your donation of any amount doubled until we reach our $40,000 match challenge. Thank you for your support!

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