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What do Oregonians want from their transportation system?
Every couple years, ODOT conducts a Transportation Needs and Issues Survey to assess perceptions about the transportation system, determine how the system is used, and identify transportation-related concerns. The 2013 Oregon Transportation Needs and Issues report reveals some interesting data about how Oregonians view the transportation system.
Most Oregonians—78 percent—see traffic congestion as a problem. However, just under half of those see it as a somewhat or very serious problem. Not surprisingly, people in the Portland area perceive congestion to be a bigger problem than those in the rest of the state. A slight majority of those in the Portland area (51.8 percent) view congestion as a somewhat or very serious problem. Interestingly, concern about congestion has dropped since the 2007 survey, possibly because the slow economy and reduced vehicle miles traveled have cut gridlock somewhat, but congestion concerns grew slightly from the 2011 survey.
When asked whether preserving highways or expanding them is a higher priority, preservation and maintenance is the key winner, with 71 percent choosing preservation. The percent choosing preservation over expansion has grown substantially. In 2007, the two choices were essentially tied. Although the report doesn’t look into the cause, it could be related to the decline in concern about congestion, particularly because people in the Portland area, who express more concern about congestion, also expressed stronger support for highway expansion.
When asked to rate the importance of 14 different areas where ODOT could spend money, maintenance was ranked the most important, with 81 percent rating it very important. Other top priorities included improving safety on roads, protecting the environment, and providing transportation services for the elderly and disadvantaged. Only 34 percent rated expanding and improving highways, roads and bridges as very important—lower than the percentage that ranked passenger rail service, adding sidewalks and bike lanes, or reducing greenhouse gases as very important.
Oregon Values and Beliefs Project
The results from ODOT’s survey match up well with the recent Oregon Values and Beliefs Project survey, which asked a number of questions about transportation and published a Transportation Topic Summary.
As with ODOT’s survey, in the Oregon Values survey road maintenance rated very high and easily beat out expanding capacity as a priority.  Seventy-two percent of Oregonians consider road and highway maintenance important and indicate they would support some increase or reallocation in tax dollars to increase such services. Nearly half of Oregonians (49 percent) consider new roads and highways very or somewhat important, indicating they would support some increase or reallocation in tax dollars to increase the service.
Transit rates as a lower priority than road maintenance but above new roads: 55 percent of Oregonians consider public transportation important, indicating they would support some increase or reallocation in tax dollars to increase the service. Half of Oregonians (53 percent) agree that the state should invest more in public transit, while fewer than four in ten (38 percent) would rather invest more in roads for cars.