Signup for Nathan's News Signup for Nathan's News

Transit Officials Release Poll Results: 7 out of 10 San Diego Voters Support New Sales Tax for Public Transit Improvements


According to a recent poll conducted by FM3 Research, public support is very strong to fund more transit projects with a possible new half-cent sales tax. Transportation officials from the Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) and the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) made the announcement on Wednesday, releasing details on the poll results and adding that this is the first step in a broad public dialogue the agency will embark on over the next nine months.

“We are taking the next steps to creating a shared vision of the San Diego we want to see and this includes real choices in how residents move throughout their day,” said MTS Board Chair and San Diego City Council President Georgette Gómez. “We must be intentional and inclusive. Part of that is a robust public participation plan to shape the transit that will help us now and in the future.”

The early polling results are the first step in a broad discussion that transit officials plan to have with the public. In the next six months, MTS will convene industry-sector focus groups and a Community Advisory Committee made up of civic-minded, neighborhood-based organizations to gain more insights about how transit can best take on the issues San Diego is facing such as housing, traffic congestion, carbon emissions reduction and more. The full Public Participation Plan includes even more outreach and feedback opportunities for residents. The agency will then analyze all the public input provided and propose an expenditure and financing plan tentatively by the end of the year.

“We have significant public interest in bringing fast, safe, reliable public transit to San Diego and the region,” said San Diego County Supervisor and MTS Board Member Nathan Fletcher. “It is time to reimagine how our region moves by working together to create a transit strategy that connects our communities, reduces congestion, provides more transportation options and builds the foundation for a cleaner, greener, more sustainable future. We have a lot of work to do, but we are encouraged by the results.”

The MTS service area serves a smaller, defined geographic area than SANDAG, which covers the 18 cities and the County of San Diego. MTS serves 10 cities and the unincorporated areas in south and central San Diego county. 

“As SANDAG embarks on a big, bold transportation vision for the region, we are encouraged that MTS is working on a transit vision of its own that will complement and enhance that regional vision,” said SANDAG Vice Chair and Mayor of Encinitas Catherine Blakespear. “This effort will help regional leaders envision both near-term and long-term improvements that get more cars off the road, more people onto transit, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

The recent survey was conducted by FM3 Research and found that a large majority of San Diego residents are willing to pay a little more to increase and improve public transportation options. The poll found that 70 percent of San Diego voters would support a half-cent sales tax increase to fund transit projects such as a Trolley connection to the airport and improving roads that support transit services. Additionally, 69% of the respondents had a positive impression of the Metropolitan Transit System (MTS).

FM3 conducted 834 cell phone, landline, and online interviews between February 9-18, 2019, among likely 2020 election voters registered within MTS' area of service. Interviews were conducted in English and Spanish. The margin of error for the full sample is 3.5%.

The survey asked respondents to rank project priorities. The top four projects listed were:

●        Improving roads to support transit services

●        Connecting the Trolley to the San Diego International Airport

●        Improving safety at bus stops and Trolley stations, including lighting and adding security

●        Increasing transit services connecting jobs with housing for lower-income residents

In regards to the support for a half-cent MTS sales tax measure, 44% of voters were “definitely yes” in favor of a measure, 23% were “probably yes” and 3% “lean yes.” In total, 70% of respondents showed support for a sales tax measure. FM3 concluded: “The level of support is in line with early polling in similar and successful projects across the state.”

The poll results will be presented to the full Board at the meeting on Thursday, March 21, 9:00 a.m.

MTS operates 95 bus routes and three Trolley lines on 53 miles of double-tracked railway. Every weekday, 300,000 passenger trips are taken on MTS bus and Trolley services in 10 cities and unincorporated areas of the county. In FY 2018, MTS served more than 86 million riders.  For more information on how you can use public transportation and save money, go to