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Transit, Not Traffic, the Most Important Transpo Issue for New Yorkers

Among New Yorkers who rated transportation the top issue for the city, three times as many are worried about transit as about traffic. Image: Quinnipiac Poll.

What's the most important problem facing New York City? Three times as many registered voters say it's the quality of transit service compared to the number who say traffic congestion, according to a new poll. While transportation remains a second-tier issue relative to education and the economy, the poll does show the importance of transit for those who care most about the issue.

Today's poll from the well-respected Quinnipiac University Polling Institute should send a message to New York City politicians with an eye on the next election. The voters most concerned with transportation -- the ones who will be thinking about it at the ballot box -- are far more interested in transit than traffic flow.

Of the 1,115 registered voters surveyed, five percent named transportation as the most important issue facing the city. Three percent of the total identified "quality mass transit" as the top issue, compared to one percent worried about traffic congestion. One percent named other transportation issues, unspecified in the poll, as most important.

Those results shouldn't be surprising: 54 percent of New York City households don't have access to an automobile at all, and not every car owner drives regularly. Everyone else is feeling the pain of a fare hike paired with the worst service cuts in a generation, a combination sure to put transit at the front of riders' attention.

And yet, New York's elected officials too often seem to think the voters are demanding more traffic lanes and more parking, not, say, better bus service. Likewise, editorials like this piece in today's Daily News, which seems to make maintaining the flow of private vehicles a precondition for improving bus speeds along 34th Street, are out of step with New Yorkers' priorities.

Of course, the number of voters most concerned about transportation pales in comparison to the 37 percent most worried about the economy or the 21 percent naming education as a top issue. What those voters want from the city streets isn't included in this poll. Even so, the Q poll should serve as a reminder to the city's leadership -- transportation voters are transit voters.

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