Does your morning commute stress you out before you walk in the door at work? Do you feel angry and frustrated when the commute makes you late for your job or for appointments? Have the lousy traffic or unexplained delays on the commuter rail made you start thinking about changing jobs?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you’re not alone.
Findings from a MassINC Polling Group survey of 1,200 registered voters in Massachusetts — taken in mid-March and released Wednesday — found a majority of respondents (66%) believe “action is urgently needed to improve the state’s transportation system” and support new revenue proposals, although the latter didn’t carry much detail about where the “new” money might come from.
The survey, sponsored by the Barr Foundation, found that few voters think things have gotten any better in the past five years when it comes to getting around. Majorities also told the pollsters they believe the state’s roads and public transportation systems are “in only fair or poor conditions.”
It shouldn’t be surprising that commuters, who have a lot of time to think about — or stew over — things when stuck in traffic or on a train, told pollsters they had thought about changing jobs or moving away because of their frustration. Some 21% of all voters polled said they have considered changing jobs to get a better commute. Eighteen percent of those polled said they would consider moving out of the area altogether because of the stress or frustration they have with traffic or public transit.
For advocates of improving public transportation, the poll results carry some positive news. When asked how much of a priority they thought specific issues should be for state government, 75% of respondents said “improving highways, roads and bridges” should be a major priority, 68% said the priority should be “reducing traffic congestion” and 57% said the major priority should be “improving public transportation.”
When asked “which is closest to your view of the condition and operations of the MBTA,” 19% said it would always be a serious problem, but 64% said “with the right policies, it could get much better.”
In answer to a similar question — “Which is closest to your view of traffic around the Greater Boston region?” — 55% said it would always be a serious problem and only 35% believed that “with the right policies, it could get much better.”
A quick read of those numbers would say more people believe the MBTA can improve with the right policies.
On top of that, a combined 86% of respondents said they strongly or somewhat agree that public transportation helps get cars off the road and “without it, traffic around Greater Boston would be much worse.” When asked about boosting the frequency of commuter rail trains running to and from Boston to every 15 to 30 minutes throughout the day, night and weekend, a combined 80% strongly or somewhat supported that idea.
It’s only one poll, and in many ways it just confirms what people know about the stress and frustration that come from traffic tie-ups or erratic subway or train operations. And asking people whether they support new revenue streams to fix roads and improve public transit doesn’t actually get at any concrete ways for doing that. But the poll results seem to underscore the need to improve the efficiency for how we get around in Greater Boston, whether that’s in a commute to and from work, or just negotiating around the city in day-to-day life.
Something to think about during that next stressful drive to work.