September 18, 2003
And that other big race

Good news and bad news for Metro - their rail plan has more than a 2-1 lead in a new poll, but it does not have a majority.

The poll shows 46 percent of voters surveyed said they will vote for Metro's plan while 21 percent intend to vote against it. The remaining voters were undecided or didn't answer.

"These numbers, only 46 percent in favor, are fairly surprising considering most voters have only heard one side of this issue," said David Hutzelman, director of the Business Committee Against Rail.

The poll of 815 registered voters in the Metro service area was conducted Sept. 10 through Tuesday by the University of Houston Center for Public Policy and the Rice University James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy. Margin of error is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

When asked to name the No. 1 problem in Houston, 31 percent of poll respondents listed traffic, transportation or poor streets. Jobs and the economy came in second at 30 percent.

Most impressive for rail supporters is the poll's finding that 61 percent of those surveyed believe rail is a "vital" or "important" part of the region's comprehensive, long-range transportation solution. Only 14 percent labeled rail "not important" or believe it "has no place" in the mobility debate.

"The fact that 61 percent see rail as a vital part of a regional transportation plan is a clear indication that people are concerned about mobility and want alternatives and the freedom to choose how they will get where they want to go," said Ed Wulfe, a real-estate developer leading the political action committee pushing for passage.

Professors Bob Stein of Rice and Richard Murray of UH -- political scientists who supervised the polling -- said the proposition appears likely to win given the strong sentiment that Houston must add rail to its transportation mix.

Seems a reasonable conclusion to me. The referendum doesn't need a whole lot of undecideds to break the 50% line, and opponents are going to have to peel away support in order to have a chance. It's not a lock, but I'd bet on a Yes.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on September 18, 2003 to Planes, Trains, and Automobiles | TrackBack

Unfortunately for rail proponents, U.S. Rep. John Culberson of west Houston just drove what could be a wooden spike into Metro's bond proposal.

According to this story in the Chronicle, he inserted a little specialty provision into the transportation appropriations bill that denies federal funds for "any" rail provision that doesn't say where each segment will be built.

Regardless of your opinion on the merits of light rail or lack thereof, I think most people would agree this was a pretty cheap trick on Culberson's part. But, then, consider the source.

Posted by: UncleBob on September 19, 2003 3:47 PM