Recreation Management Rec Report - The Newsletter for Recreation, Sports & Fitness Facility Managers

Feature Story

January 2015

Poll: Voters Want Investment in Biking, Walking

National active transportation advocacy organization, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC), engaged leading Republican and Democratic pollsters to understand the attitudes of likely 2016 voters about federal funding for biking and walking. The findings, which were made public last month, show that opposing federal investment in biking and walking is not widely popular with supporters of either major political party.

Leading Republican and Democratic pollsters, Christine Matthews of Bellwether Research, and Celinda Lake of Lake Research Partners, surveyed 1,000 likely 2016 voters in September 2014, selecting a proportion of Republican and Democratic voters that matches the national voting population.

The poll found that four times as many voters favor increasing or maintaining current levels of federal investment in walking and biking paths as decreasing them (74 percent vs. 19 percent). Strong majorities supported this funding regardless of party affiliation.

Despite constituting only 1.5 percent of the federal surface transportation budget, in recent years biking and walking infrastructure has become a popular target for lawmakers looking to gain political points by highlighting their fiscal conservatism. Several recent efforts have aimed at reducing or eliminating support for active transportation.

RTC Senior Vice President of Policy and Trail Development, Kevin Mills, said that the poll's findings demonstrate that congressional opponents of active transportation are out of step with their own constituents. "This proves that there is no real constituency for decreasing federal investment in biking and walking," Mills said. "Ahead of an expected transportation bill reauthorization battle [in 2015], this is an important message for those who would seek to attack active transportation."

While the poll found that support for biking and walking was strongest among Democrats, an overwhelming majority of Republicans also supported the federal government's role in building infrastructure for biking and walking.

"When told that about 1.5 percent of federal transportation funds support walking and biking, 64 percent of Republicans said that figure should be maintained or increased, with only 30 percent saying it should be decreased," Mills said.

The poll also undermined the frequent refrain of critics that investing in biking and walking is not fiscally responsible, with the message that active transportation is affordable and produces a strong return on investment resonating strongly with voters.

Across the political spectrum, twice as many people indicated they would be less likely (43 percent) than more likely (21 percent) to vote for a candidate who wanted to fund only highways and roads and eliminate funding for walking and biking infrastructure. When asked how they would apportion $100 of transportation funding, respondents on average allocated $26.90 to improving walking and biking paths and sidewalks, a remarkable 18 times the actual current allocation.

"It is clear that, across the political spectrum, American voters expect robust investment in walking and biking as part of the balanced transportation system they want," Mills said.

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