I am pathologically skeptical about polls. Too often you don’t know enough about sampling and wording and agendas to confidently assess the merits of the results.
Having said that, I hope that the most recent survey on a light rail line done for Hillsborough Area Regional Transit proves prescient. It indicated that two thirds of the (600) sampled adult county residents would either “definitely” support a 1-cent sales tax for light rail or would “probably” support it.
This is in marked contrast to a similar survey done in 2006 that showed road improvements were still much more the priority. Perhaps the combination of TBARTA publicity, stimulus-dollars competition and Mayor Pam Iorio’s bully transit pulpit have made a difference. Perhaps too much motorist down time has finally taken its toll.
But the reality is this: That encouraging survey is also in marked contrast to the retrograde mindset in general about mass transit that has been dominating this region seemingly forever. It’s a quality-of-life issue, and it’s a business-recruitment issue.
Just ask former commissioner and future mayoral candidate Ed Turanchik, who was lampooned back in the ‘90s as “Commissioner Choo-Choo” by local pundits. All he did was try to rally the public around the concept of doing something other than adding traffic lanes to address our manifestly acute transportation needs.
But that was then – and this is not. Hopefully.
The survey’s timing certainly seems propitious. County commissioners are now debating whether to put the tax-hike question before voters next year. Also up for debate: What’s to debate? Let the electorate be heard. Too much rides, quite literally, on a rail vote. Most notably: The 21st century prospects of this region without viable mass transit.