Poll has C-Tran measure leading

Two-thirds of those responding oppose taxes to fund light rail

By Eric Florip, Columbian transportation & environment reporter

Published:

Updated: October 10, 2012, 7:21 PM

 
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C-Tran’s Proposition 1 has found favor among nearly half of likely Clark County voters, according to a poll released Wednesday.

If it holds up, the 48 to 42 percent margin would put the proposed sales tax increase in a strong position to pass when voters cast their ballots for the Nov. 6 election. But with 10 percent undecided, according to the poll, that result is far from a sure thing.

Plus, the same survey also found that two-thirds of respondents are against raising taxes to pay for a new light rail extension from Portland to Vancouver. That’s exactly what Proposition 1 would do, along with help fund a bus rapid transit system on Vancouver’s Fourth Plain corridor.

“I’m not so sure that the poll is as favorable to Prop. 1 as the results say it is,” said Michael Ennis of the Washington Policy Center, the conservative-leaning think tank in Seattle that commissioned the survey.

Proposition 1 would bump the local sales tax rate by 0.1 percentage point in the C-Tran district, or a penny on every $10 purchase. The resulting revenue would help build bus rapid transit on Fourth Plain, and cover the operations cost of light rail, planned as part of the $3.5 billion Columbia River Crossing project.

The poll, conducted by Moore Information, surveyed 400 likely voters in the C-Tran service district last weekend, according to the Washington Policy Center. It reported a sampling error of 5 percent.

Respondents were asked a series of questions, among them: “Do you support or oppose raising the sales tax for a new light rail system from Vancouver to Portland?” A total of 66 percent of people surveyed said no.

In a later question, 57 percent of respondents said they’re against “any type of tax or fee” to pay for light rail, according to the poll.

But when pollsters posed a question that used the same language that will appear on the ballot — the results came out markedly different. Forty-eight percent said they would approve Proposition 1, with 42 percent against it. Ten percent were undecided.

This year’s measure has drawn high interest with its direct connection to light rail and the politically charged Columbia River Crossing. Bus rapid transit is less a part of the conversation, but has recently drawn a campaign of its own.

Seeing relatively few undecided voters may suggest a public that’s already plugged in on one side of the debate or another, said C-Tran public affairs director Scott Patterson.

“It shows that many people have taken time to consider the issues associated with these two high-capacity transit projects,” Patterson said. “Voters are becoming more informed, and we think that’s a good thing.”

The poll reached all voting age ranges, including 21 percent older than 65 years old. Respondents identified themselves as 30 percent Republican, 32 percent Democrat, 27 percent independent, according to the Washington Policy Center. The rest answered “something else” or “don’t know,” according to the survey.

Ennis, who directs the group’s Center for Transportation, said the poll was conducted to get a better pulse on a Clark County issue that’s been watched closely.

And the seemingly disparate results?

“Polls don’t surprise me anymore,” Ennis said.


Eric Florip: 360-735-4541; http://twitter.com/col_enviro; eric.florip@columbian.com.