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Survey shows Portland residents prefer street fee to other options for investing in transportation maintenance, safety

Portlanders prefer a new street maintenance fee over other options for investing in longstanding maintenance and safety needs, according to a new public opinion survey that is part of the city’s efforts to gather input on transportation funding.

The 800 respondents in the telephone survey were initially divided in their support of a street maintenance and safety fee, when presented with options of $8 a month or $12 a month fees. When first asked, support for a fee ranged from 44 percent to 47 percent, while opposition ranged from 48 percent to 50 percent, according to a report on the survey results by DHM Research of Portland.

Support for paying a monthly fee increased by 5 to 7 percentage points after respondents learned about options for how it might be implemented. A strong majority of residents said that seven of the eight options would make them more likely to support a fee. The three most popular options to include with a street fee were: a combination of preventive maintenance to keep streets in good condition and adding flashing beacons and other safety features at dangerous intersections; a provision that would ensure the revenue could not be used for other purposes; and a discount for low-income households.

After respondents considered the fee implementation options, support for an $8 a month fee increased to 52 percent and support for a $12 a month fee rose to 51 percent.

“It’s clear that Portlanders are more likely to support a street fee when they learn more about what it could pay for,” said Commissioner Novick, who oversees the Portland Bureau of Transportation. “Street maintenance and safety continue to be top priorities for Portland residents, and they will be at the top of the list of any funding package we put before council in the coming months. Congress isn’t coming to the rescue any time soon, so we here in Portland have to take control of our own destiny.”

Commissioner Novick and Mayor Charlie Hales have said they are committed to addressing transportation funding this year.

“We haven’t developed a funding proposal for the City Council to consider,” Commissioner Novick said. “The results of this survey and the comments we hear at the upcoming town hall meetings will help us create a way to address longstanding maintenance and safety needs.”

Survey respondents supported a street fee more than other revenue options.

Respondents were asked about several funding options that some Portlanders suggested at community meetings in recent months. The options included a city sales tax, a city income tax, a tax proportional to what a person pays in state or federal income taxes, and city bond paid by property taxes. Just a one-quarter to one-third of the respondents said that any of these was more preferable to street maintenance and safety fee.

The survey also affirmed results of a similar survey in January that found maintenance and safety are high priorities for Portlanders. Respondents to the March survey who strongly or somewhat support an $8 a month fee said they did so because “roads need maintenance” (39%) or because “safety is important,” “protects bicyclists” or “protecting pedestrians” (37%).

Commissioner Novick and John Horvick of DHM Research shared the findings at a news conference today in the Lovejoy Room at Portland City Hall.

DHM Research conducted a telephone public opinion survey of 800 Portland residents from March 27 to April 1. The scientifically valid survey results are part of the Transportation Bureau’s effort to gather input from the public on an effort to address longstanding transportation needs.

Members of the public can take the survey themselves starting today at the funding project web site www.ourstreetspdx.com.

The Transportation Bureau reminds the public and news media to attend four upcoming town halls on transportation funding. Mayor Hales, Commissioner Novick and Transportation Director Leah Treat will welcome the public and discuss transportation needs and funding options at the town hall events:

  • Wednesday, April 16: 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization (IRCO), 10301 NE Glisan St.
  • Thursday, April 17: 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., Kaiser Permanente's Town Hall, 3704 N Interstate Ave.
  • Thursday, April 24: 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., Multnomah Arts Center, 7688 SW Capitol Hwy
  • Thursday, May 1: 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., Woodstock School, 5601 SE 50th Ave.

The town hall meetings will provide an opportunity for the public to speak with transportation staff, ask questions and make comments for the mayor and commissioner to consider as they explore ways to improve transportation funding.

The April 16 to May 1 town halls follow three meetings in February where Mayor Hales, Commissioner Novick and Director Treat discussed transportation needs with the public.

Mayor Hales and Commissioner Novick also convened a Transportation Needs and Funding Advisory Committee in January to advise the commissioner on a transportation funding package. The committee helped draft the language used in the telephone surveys.

For more information, see the project web page: www.ourstreetspdx.com.

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