New America THINKS survey results from HNTB Corp. illustrate that transit and passenger rail remain at the top of America's minds after the Obama administration's $8 billion high-speed rail grant announcement last month.
Nearly nine in 10 (88 percent) Americans are currently open to high-speed rail for long-distance travel within the U.S. While this is a strong majority, that support is down slightly from the 94 percent America THINKS recorded in March 2009.
"The time has come for high-speed rail," said Peter Gertler, HNTB high-speed rail services chair. "Stimulus money is seeding initial projects. It'll be up to those of us in the industry — working in partnership with transportation agencies and elected officials — to keep up the momentum."
Gertler said such advocacy efforts are crucial at a time when general excitement about high-speed rail has slowed. Americans were far more likely to choose high-speed rail over driving or flying for a trip to a city in their region in March 2009 than February 2010 (54 percent versus 38 percent).
"The pain we all felt when gasoline was hovering near $4 a gallon has receded," Gertler said. "Yet we can't stand by for the next crisis to hit to address the underlying issues of congestion and our dependency on limited fossil fuels."
While general interest may have slowed, there's still a great deal of support for passenger rail enhancements overall. More than four in five (83 percent) Americans agree public transit and high-speed rail infrastructure should receive a larger share of federal funding than they do now.
HNTB's latest America THINKS survey polled a random nationwide sample of 1,007 Americans Feb. 1 to 7, 2010. The previous high-speed rail survey was conducted March 18 to 23, 2009. They were conducted by Kelton Research, which used e-mail invitations and online surveys. Quotas were set to ensure reliable and accurate representation of the total U.S. population ages 18 and over. The margin of error is +/- 3.1 percent.