County poll shows ample support for new transportation sales tax

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The San Mateo County Transit District Board of Directors today is set to review  results of a public poll that shows over 74-percent support for a 30-year, half-cent sales tax measure to repair roads, reduce gridlock and improve public transit in the county.

Two-thirds voter approval would be required to pass the half-cent sales tax, which is estimated to generate $80 million annually for various county transportation improvements, and could possibly appear on the November 2018 ballot, according to county documents. On March 13, the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors is set to discuss the same issue at its meeting.

The County of San Mateo and the San Mateo County Transit District partnered to conduct the poll of over 1,000 likely voters from Feb. 2 to Feb. 15.

“The results show that support has grown by more than 8-percent since [March] 2017, when the County conducted a similar poll, and is high enough to clear the two-thirds voter threshold required to create new sales tax revenues,” according to a statement by the transit district.

The poll also shows an increase in support for the tax — up to nearly 78-percent — after respondents “learned more detail about how potential revenues could be invested,” county officials said.

The polling is part of Get Us Moving San Mateo County (see video below), a public outreach campaign launched last year following the successful passage of legislation authored by Assemblymember Kevin Mullin, D-South San Francisco, that gave county officials the green light to ask voters for the transportation tax.

Since then, Get Us Moving has aimed to gather public input on transportation priorities through polls and a survey. It has identified over 120 transportation projects and programs “representing over $12 billion in unfunded needs throughout the County.”

In addition to the poll, a public survey that had been completed by over 14,000 respondents as of Monday has aimed to identify residents’ priorities. Residents were asked to rank their top five priorities for funding among a lengthy list of options.

As of Monday, the survey results showed that most respondents — 4,207 — ranked relieving highway congestion as their top priority. The second and third priorities receiving top rank among respondents were maintaining and enhancing transit services, and reducing local congestion and repairing potholes, according to city documents.

In terms of the “mean score” — which transit officials say is a better indicator of the respondents’ priorities as it assigns point values to measure the frequency and intensity of a rating — results revealed respondents would want, in this order, to relieve highway congestion, reduce congestion on local streets and repair potholes, to expand transit to better connect homes with jobs, schools etc., and to improve transit travel times and frequency.

“It’s no surprise that more and more residents want to invest in transportation solutions,” said Charles Stone, the transit district board’s chairman. “Traffic congestion is the number one issue facing San Mateo County residents. It poses a constant and increasing threat to our quality of life, and before we ask taxpayers to invest in solutions, we better make sure we understand their priorities.”

The San Mateo County Transit District Board of Directors meeting begins at 2 p.m. at 1250 San Carlos Ave. in San Carlos.