YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Orange County

Public Backs CenterLine, Survey Finds

Of those who have an opinion, 55% would vote for the rail project if it were on the ballot.

September 16, 2003|Dan Weikel | Times Staff Writer

A majority of Orange County residents supports CenterLine, a new poll has found, even though the controversial light-rail project has been shortened repeatedly due to a lack of political support.

The public opinion survey by the Orange County Business Council, released Monday, shows that 55% of county residents who had an opinion on the project said they would back the 8.2-mile line if it were put to a vote.

Pollsters found that 45% percent of those with an opinion would vote against the project, which is being planned by the Orange County Transportation Authority. Other findings show that six in 10 would like to use light rail and at least seven in 10 said the truncated line should be built to get the system started.

"The more the public reads about it, the more they learn about it, and the more they see successes in other parts of the country, the more they recognize that light rail can benefit Orange County," said Tim Keenan, a Cypress councilman who chairs the OCTA board of directors.

Orange County Supervisor Chris Norby, a CenterLine critic who also is a transit district director, argued that the survey reinforces his recent call for a countywide vote on the project. The Board of Supervisors rejected his request 3 to 2.

As now envisioned, CenterLine would connect John Wayne Airport and the Santa Ana Regional Transportation Center with key stops at South Coast Plaza and the Santa Ana Civic Center. OCTA officials estimate the line would cost about $900 million.

Due to a lack of political and community support, CenterLine plans have been shortened three times over the years from 28 miles to eight miles. The latest cut came in June when Irvine voters rejected a portion of the route through their city.

The Center for Public Policy at Cal State Fullerton conducted the survey on behalf of the business council, which represents about 350 local companies. The council works regularly with Cal State Fullerton on research related to social and public policy issues.

Pollsters interviewed 506 heads of households or their spouses or domestic partners between Aug. 26 and Sept. 10. The margin of error is plus or minus 4.45%.

For purposes of reporting the various findings of the poll, Cal State Fullerton counted only those respondents who had an opinion on CenterLine. The results show that had people who were undecided been included in the tabulations, 51% support the project, 42% oppose it, and 7% offered no opinion.

"The most interesting observation about these numbers is the agreement with the concept of light rail," said Keith O. Boyum, director of the Center for Public Policy. "Light rail should be part of the mix, respondents agree. Let's start for the future, even if it means accepting a short line."

The poll found that nine of 10 respondents said they "rarely" or "almost never" use public transportation in the county. Only about 6% use transit at least once a week.

In an apparent contradiction, the poll found that a majority of residents would rather widen the Garden Grove Freeway and the extend the Orange Freeway to the San Diego Freeway than build light rail.

Support also dropped somewhat for light rail when the public was asked whether the bus system should be improved instead. The poll found that residents were virtually split on the question.

Los Angeles Times Articles