Poll says Mass. commuters are angry and stressed, want improvements
Many Massachusetts voters are angry and stressed about the state’s transportation system, and two-thirds believe urgent action is needed to improve it, according to a new poll.
The results “paint a picture of a public that has not seen much progress on transportation over the past 5 years, and who are feeling a real emotional strain from their increasingly difficult commutes,” the MassInc Polling Group said in a polling brief.
“The levels of frustration we are seeing in this poll suggest a significant portion of workers are reaching a breaking point when it comes to their commutes,” Steve Koczela, president of the polling group, said in a statement.
The online survey of 1,200 registered voters was conducted March 15 to March 25. The questions on the survey were drafted in consultation with a committee of policy experts, transportation planners, and business leaders, MPG said.
The poll found that among voters who were full-time workers, 72 percent had become stressed, angry, or frustrated in the past few months by delays on the roads or public transit. Fifty-two percent said they had been late for work because of the delays, while 47 percent said they had been late for appointments.
Thirty percent said they had considered changing jobs to get a better commute, and 23 percent said they had considered moving out of their area altogether because of the commute.
Public transit commuters tended to be more unhappy with their commutes than drivers, while people with longer commutes tended to be more unhappy than people with shorter commutes.
Eighty percent of full-time workers whose commutes were longer than 45 minutes, for example, had become stressed, angry, or frustrated with delays in the past few months.
“These numbers show that the region needs to make some big changes — from investing in public transit to coordinating transportation with land-use decisions like where to build housing — to meet today’s needs and to prepare for the future,” Lizzi Weyant of the Metropolitan Area Planning Council said in the statement.
Two-thirds of voters overall wanted urgent action to fix the system. Only 21 percent said the system was “working pretty well as is.”
“There can only be one conclusion from this poll: The patient doesn’t need a Band-Aid; the patient needs surgery,” Jesse Mermell, president of the Alliance for Business Leadership, said in the statement.
Republican Governor Charlie Baker, speaking to reporters at the State House on Wednesday, said help was on the way.
“With regard to spending on transportation generally, I would just remind people that our plan is to spend almost $8 billion on public transportation over the next five years and a similar amount on roads and bridges,” he said. “And that will be the largest amount that’s been spent over any five-year period certainly in recent memory. At the T, I know it’s the most ever. We certainly believe that we need to spend more money on transportation, and we’re putting our money where our mouth is on that one.”
He also said, “One of the things we’re going to be working really hard on over the course of the next few years is assuring that as we spend money on transportation, we try and do it in a way that limits the amount of disruption that’s created by doing that, which just makes some of the congestion issues worse.”
He said tax increases were not needed to pay for the fixups.
“I don’t believe that raising taxes is the answer to this problem at this point in time,” he said.