NAR, SGA Find Americans Prefer to Spend More on Mass Transit and Highway Maintenance, Less on New Roads

Oct 25, 2007, 01:00 ET from National Association of Realtors

    WASHINGTON, Oct. 25 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Three-fourths of
 Americans surveyed believe that either being smarter about development or
 improving public transportation are both better long-term solutions for
 reducing traffic congestion than building new roads, according to a survey
 sponsored by the National Association of Realtors and Smart Growth America.
     The 2007 Growth and Transportation Survey details what Americans think
 about how development affects their immediate community, and traffic
 congestion was a top concern. Nearly half of those surveyed think improving
 public transit would be the best way to reduce congestion, and 26 percent
 believe developing communities that reduce the need to drive would be the
 better alternative. Only one in five said building new roads was the
     "Realtors build communities and care about improving our cities and
 towns through smarter development," said NAR President Pat V. Combs, of
 Grand Rapids, Mich., and vice president of Coldwell Banker-AJS-Schmidt.
 "With increased traffic congestion and longer commutes, Americans are
 receptive to new ideas for handling growth, such as better transit or
 mixed-use walkable communities that allow people to cut down on their
 driving, as this survey shows."
     Americans give their communities high marks when it comes to providing
 good public schools, parks and open space. Respondents were less optimistic
 about their local community's ability to provide practical and convenient
 transportation and manage growth and development. While one-third approve
 of growth in their local area, the percentage of those who disapprove of
 local growth has doubled since 1999, from 10 percent to 20 percent.
     This year's survey also showed that Americans are more concerned about
 how their community is handling that growth and development than they have
 been in eight years of polling. Only 39 percent say their community is
 doing an excellent or good job of handling growth, while the majority - 58
 percent - believes the community is doing a fair or poor job.
     When asked about their top concerns regarding growth and development,
 respondents consistently cited the loss of farmland to development (72
 percent), increased traffic congestion and commute times (70 percent), and
 loss of open land such as fields and forests (70 percent). Other concerns
 include the loss of individual character of communities, increased reliance
 on cars because of sprawl, and the loss of historic landmarks and
 neighborhoods. The greatest increase was among those concerned about the
 rise in highway commercial development such as strip malls, up 25 percent
 in the past six years.
     This year the survey also asked about climate change, and more than 70
 percent of respondents are concerned about how growth and development
 affect global warming. Americans expressed strong support for bold measures
 to combat climate change. Nearly nine in 10 believe that new communities
 should be built so people can walk more and drive less; cars, homes and
 buildings should be required to be more energy efficient; and public
 transportation should be improved and made more available. Americans
 strongly disapprove (84 percent) of increasing gasoline taxes as a way to
 discourage driving and reduce energy use.
     "With concern about climate change rising along with gas prices,
 Americans are looking for options that allow them to reduce the time they
 spend in the car," said Don Chen, executive director of Smart Growth
 America. "Americans see smarter development patterns as a viable way to
 achieve that goal, while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions."
     Eight in 10 respondents prefer redeveloping older urban and suburban
 areas rather than building new housing and commercial developments on the
 edge of existing suburbs. More than half of those surveyed believe that
 businesses and homes should be built closer together to shorten commutes,
 limit traffic congestion and allow residents to walk to stores and shops
 instead of using their cars. Six in 10 also agree that new-home
 construction should be limited in outlying areas and encouraged in inner
 urban areas to shorten commutes and prevent more traffic congestion.
     With road building costs often exceeding revenues, many states are
 turning to tolls as a key funding source. Americans are divided on tolls,
 although 55 percent approve of charging tolls on more roads if that
 improves roads and decreases congestion. On the other hand, six in 10 are
 opposed to charging tolls on freeways during rush hour to reduce
 congestion. Respondents are evenly split on charging tolls during rush
 hour, even if the money is used to provide transportation alternatives to
 the freeway.
     When it comes to spending taxpayer dollars, respondents believe
 Congress should spend more money to maintain and repair roads, highways,
 freeways, and bridges and to expand and improve public transit than build
 new roads.
     Americans are overwhelmingly opposed to the private ownership of roads;
 that is, selling key roads and highways to private companies who would
 charge a toll and give a portion of the toll money to the state.
 Eighty-four percent of respondents oppose private ownership of roads; only
 14 percent support the concept. Similarly, 66 percent are opposed to
 allowing private companies to build, own and collect tolls for new roads -
 even if those companies gave a portion of the toll money to the state.
     The 2007 Growth and Transportation Survey was conducted by telephone
 among 1,000 adults living in the United States in October 2007. The study
 has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.
     Smart Growth America is a diverse coalition of nearly 100 nonprofit
 organizations with a stake in how metropolitan expansion affects our
 environment, quality of life and economic sustainability. Coalition
 partners include national, state and local groups working on behalf of the
 environment, historic preservation, housing affordability, social equity,
 land conservation, neighborhood redevelopment, farmland protection,
 business, labor, public health and town planning and design.
     The National Association of Realtors, "The Voice for Real Estate," is
 America's largest trade association, representing more than 1.3 million
 members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real
 estate industries.
     Information about NAR is available at This and other
 news releases are posted in the Web site's "News Media" section in the NAR
 Media Center.
     REALTOR(R) is a registered collective membership mark which may be used
 only by real estate professionals who are members of the NATIONAL
 ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS and subscribe to its strict Code of Ethics. Not all
 real estate agents are REALTORS. All REALTORS are members of NAR..

SOURCE National Association of Realtors