EUGENE, Ore. (KMTR) -- Lane Transit District is touting new research about public opinion of the proposed West Eugene EmX bus rapid transit line expansion, as the project continues in the planning process.
The survey, which was released to the public on Thursday, March 22nd, 2012, is the result of work by DHM Research, an independent research firm out of Portland that was hired by LTD.
LTD says the goal of the research was to “assess community attitudes related to transit,” and to “test support for the West Eugene EMX extension.”
While LTD says the results help it understand what it needs to work on, opponents of the project are hesitant.
During the survey, researchers called 400 people with either landlines or cell phones, all of whom were registered voters. During the survey, DHM says it gathered quota levels of age, gender, city council ward and political party, which were set in percentages of all registered voters in Eugene.
According to DHM, survey respondents were classified by asking them several questions with most surveys lasting around 16 minutes. Questioning began with “what is the most important issue in Eugene,” then narrowed down to transit and eventually the West Eugene EmX.
Of the respondents, 15% said unemployment and creating jobs was the most important issue in Eugene. At 9%, “helping the homeless” was the second most important issue. Third, 8% of respondents said “education funding” was the most important issue.
Respondents were also asked about the most important transit issue.
12% of respondents said “expanding bus routes and services” was the most important issue. 10% said “better road maintenance,” another 10% said “no complaints,” and 6% said “don’t build / expand EmX.”
As for the project proposed for West 6th, 7th and 11th Avenues in Eugene, of the 400 respondents, 198 people said they were strongly or somewhat supportive of the project.
The top reason to support the project was “reducing traffic congestion” at 29%. Increased access to public transportation was second at 23%.
Meanwhile, 178 people strongly or somewhat disagreed with the project.
The top reason to oppose the project was that it's “unnecessary / unneeded”, which came in at 36%. 25% said the top reason was that its “reduces access to business and will hurt them.”
For LTD, the take-away is to do a better job of showing why West EmX is necessary. Meanwhile, the district is going from business to business to show the individual impact.
“We began studying this at the request of (Eugene) city council,” says Mike Eyster, LTD’s Board Chair.
“It's really important to correct misinformation that's one thing, because we want decision makers to base their decision on accurate data and just because someone says it loudly and a lot of times doesn't make it accurate,” says Eyster.
Still, not everyone is convinced with the survey.
A longtime West Eugene EmX opponent and commercial real estate broker, J.P. McNutt says despite the data, he believes the project will cause problems for businesses and will cost too much.
“I am pro-transit. I agree we should have transportation for people in here, and a good one; I just don't think wasting money and putting something in that there isn't a need for makes any sense,” says McNutt.
“I cannot believe that anybody can look at all of the facts and figures of all of this and think it's a good idea,” says McNutt.
McNutt says he would rather see more small busses running in West Eugene, rather than a large scale EmX route.
According to LTD, EmX in West Eugene would cost between 90 and 100 million dollars and most of that money (about 80%) would come from the Federal government.
Despite the disagreements out there that are evident in the survey, Eugene Mayor Kitty Piercy highlighted one of the major agreements of the survey on Thursday. 82% of respondents in the survey agreed, “we have a responsibility to ensure that Eugene has a robust public transportation system for all people regardless of income, age or disability so they are able to move throughout the community.”
The project is far from a done deal. LTD is waiting for approval of the environmental impact analysis report it sent off to Federal officials. After that, a 45 day public review period will begin.
After that, the Federal government will review any public concerns. If it approves the report from there, the project will go back to the Eugene City Council for approval and then the LTDBoard for approval.
To view the full survey report, click the following link: http://www.ltd.org/search/showresult.html?versionthread=6d1c10a45e6252b7dd05ef6580c442d3.