MTS Polling Finds 2020 Tax Measure Within Reach
The Metropolitan Transit System on Wednesday released a summary of polling results related to a potential 2020 tax measure, finding the potential boon for public transit funding could be within reach of voter approval.
Sixty-seven percent of respondents said they would definitely or probably vote "yes" on a half-cent sales tax measure to fund roads and transit — right at the two-thirds threshold needed to pass. Twenty-five percent said they would definitely or probably vote "no," with the remainder saying they were undecided. Three percent of respondents leaned "yes" and another three percent leaned "no."
Officials announced the polling results at a press conference Wednesday. San Diego County Supervisor and MTS board member Nathan Fletcher said greater funding for public transit would help alleviate traffic congestion by providing commuters with better alternatives to driving.
"No one is saying that every San Diegan will have to get rid of their car for transit," Fletcher said. "But to meet the demands of a growing region ... we want to have more transit options."
The cell phone, landline and online survey was conducted by polling firm FM3 Research between Feb. 9 and 18. It surveyed 834 likely voters within MTS' area of service, which excludes much of North County, in English and Spanish. The poll has a margin of error of 3.5 percent.
"Voters were given a conceptual description of a potential ballot measure that would establish a dedicated half-cent sales tax to improve transit services, such as constructing a new trolley and bus routes, enhancing safety on public transit, among other services and projects," the polling firm states in a letter summarizing the results.
The survey also asked respondents to rank various projects a tax measure would fund. The most popular project was improving roads to support transit services, with 70 percent of respondents saying that was extremely or very important. Sixty-eight percent said the same of funding a trolley connection to the San Diego International Airport.
"Overall, the survey results are encouraging and show broad enough public support to merit further planning and research regarding the development of a potential measure," FM3 Research concludes.
MTS spokeswoman Rob Shupp said the agency was declining to release the complete survey results "to protect MTS' decision-making process and to encourage candid internal discussion."
MTS gained the authority to ask voters for a tax increase thanks to a 2017 law authored by state Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez. If a tax is approved by voters, the agency can use the revenues to fund bicycle or pedestrian infrastructure, new or improved transit services and improvements to roads used by the transit system. It cannot be used to fund freeway expansions unrelated to transit service.
San Diego City Council President Georgette Gomez, who last year was elected chair of the MTS board, said city and regional efforts to combat climate change depend on making public transit a more competitive option.
"To do this, we need to be more intentional and invest in a transit system that is affordable and gets people where they need to get to," she said.
MTS board members are scheduled Thursday to discuss a public participation plan, branded Elevate SD 2020, that will shape what kind of tax measure, if any, the agency will place on the ballot. Over the next year, MTS plans to convene working groups, a community advisory committee and dozens of public events to gather feedback.