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MTA finds support still strong for Measure R in survey

Although the voters asked favored the sales-tax measure that took effect July 1, they say that the transportation authority's projects are moving too slowly.

July 17, 2009|Dan Weikel

Public support for Measure R, the new Los Angeles County sales tax for highway and transit improvements passed by voters in November, remains hearty despite the recession, but there are concerns that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority is not building projects fast enough, a new MTA poll shows.

The survey of 605 registered county voters found that 68% generally favor Measure R, which is expected to provide up to $40 billion during the next 30 years for highway and transit projects.

"Given the current economy there is strong support for moving ahead with transportation projects in the county," said Matt Raymond, the chief communications officer for the transportation authority. "There was a concern that support might have been waning."

In 2005, when the authority ran its first poll to gauge the prospects of a half-cent sales tax, 61% of voters supported it.

Raymond said the number of voters who "strongly favor" a half-cent tax has increased from 31% in 2005 to 45% in the poll. The survey indicated that the public believes that paying for local transportation projects will help bolster job creation during the recession. Unemployment in the county is more than 12%.

The poll shows, however, that 61% of registered voters believe that MTA's highway and transit projects are not happening fast enough to relieve traffic congestion, a concern that has been expressed by local elected officials, some of whom have MTA projects pending in their areas.

The survey was conducted in May by Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin & Associates, a political consulting and opinion research firm. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 4%. MTA presented the results Thursday during a workshop on Measure R. The tax increase took effect July 1.

Pollsters found that voters strongly support the array of highway and transit projects that would be paid for by the sales tax.

About 90% said that highway improvements were very important or somewhat important, compared with 77% for light rail projects and 73% for extending the subway to West Los Angeles.

Another 73% said that it was important to expand bus service while 75% supported more carpool lanes and additional service on Metrolink, the commuter rail line that serves six counties.

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dan.weikel@latimes.com

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