ETC Institute, in association with Resource Systems Group, Inc. (RSG), conducted a second survey of residents in the 7-County Region of Tennessee that includes Davidson, Maury, Robertson, Rutherford, Sumner, Williamson, and Wilson during September of 2014. The same survey was administered in June and July of 2010. The purpose of the survey was to gather input from residents regarding issues and opportunities relating to transportation planning for the region, as well as to assess how opinions may have shifted in the four years since the first survey was administered. The Nashville Area Metropolitan Planning Organization sponsored the study.
Some of the specific topics that were addressed in the survey included:
• Perceptions of current transportation issues.
• The degree of problems relating to various issues.
• Commute issues for those who worked outside of the home.
• Methods of transportation used.
• Potential solutions to easing travel in the future.
• The importance of various issues to transportation improvements.
• Preferred sources of funding for transportation improvements.
• Transportation status compared to other County issues.
Perceptions of Current Transportation Issues:
Those surveyed were asked about their level of satisfaction with various transportation issues.
The issues with which residents were most satisfied included:
-access to greenways or multi-use trails (65%),
-how safe it is to walk in their community (63%), and
-the maintenance or condition of roadways (61%).
Of least satisfaction was:
-the availability of mass transit services in the area (35%).
Lack of sidewalks was considered the transportation issue that was the greatest problem in Middle Tennessee, followed by the number of accidents.
The Realities of Commute Travel: Sixty percent (60%) of those surveyed work outside of the home. When asked about their commute, nearly half (46%) commuted 10 miles or less, and 68% indicated their commute took 30 minutes or less. With regard to the level of traffic congestion, 40% indicated that they experienced heavy congestion, 44% experienced some congestion, and 16% experienced no congestion.
Method of Travel by Residents: Ninety-two percent (92%) of those surveyed normally got to and from their frequent destinations by car. Eleven percent (11%) were part of a carpool, 7% walked, 4% took the bus and 4% bicycled.
Alternate Means of Transportation: Those surveyed were asked if anyone in their household used public transit, and 11% indicated they did. Eighteen percent (18%) said they primarily walked or biked for transportation purposes.
Transportation Priority: Three strategies for improving transportation in Middle Tennessee were provided to those surveyed: making communities more walkable or bicycle friendly, improving or expanding mass transit options, and building new or widening roadways. Respondents were asked to prioritize the strategies: 41% indicated the top priority should be to improve or expand mass transit options; 34% said it should be building or widening roadways, and the remaining 24% indicated the top priority should be making communities more walkable or bicycle friendly.
Personal Experiences: Those surveyed were provided with several statements about transportation and were asked their level of agreement. They agreed most with the following statements: 1) walking and bicycling is a good way to get exercise (97%), 2) if it were safe and convenient, I would walk or ride a bicycle more (68%), and 3) if it were safe and convenient, I would use public transit more (67%). They agreed least with the statement, “At least once a week, I can’t find a ride” (10%).
Mass Transit: Those surveyed were provided with several statements about mass transit and were asked their level of agreement. They agreed most with the following: 1) good mass transit is important for the local economy (87%), 2) communities in Middle Tennessee should begin working together to build a regional rapid transit system (86%), and 3) more people will start using transit due to rising fuel prices (69%).
How Transportation Improvements Should be Funded: Those surveyed were asked their preference of funding sources for transportation improvements. Their greatest support was for applying impact fees on private land developers (49%), vehicle registration fee or wheel tax (42%), vehicle emissions fee (41%), and a fee for single occupant cars to use carpool lanes (35%). When asked how much more respondents are willing to pay to increase transportation funding, the mean amount was $50.20 per year.
Shifts in Perception Since 2010
Resident opinions about transportation issues in the Middle Tennessee area have shown some significant changes since 2010. A few of these include:
- Satisfaction with access to greenways/multi-use trails and feelings of safety when walking in the community has increased significantly, while satisfaction with levels of roadway congestion has shown a significant decrease.
- Various transportation issues that Middle Tennessee residents experience (e.g. too many accidents, poorly planned development, too much road construction, etc.) are currently perceived as more of a problem than they were in 2010.
- 40% of respondents rated the level of traffic congestion on their way to and from work as “heavy”, compared to 28% in 2010.
- When asked if anyone in the household ever used public transit to go to work or other places, 11% said “yes”, compared to 14% in 2010.
- When asked if it would be fair for the tax rate on gas to increase with inflation to keep up with costs, 56% answered either “yes” or “maybe”, compared to 25% who answered “yes” or “maybe” in 2010.
The findings from this study were used in the development of the 2040 Regional Transportation Plan.