61% say “No Tax Hike” for Pinellas Rail. Few Will Ride the St. Petersburg-Clearwater Train.

61 percent oppose rail tax hike_label As the 2014 political battle kicks off to raise sales taxes 14.29% in Pinellas County to build a train and expand the PSTA budget, voters have made their position clear.  A January 22 poll shows the Greenlight Pinellas campaign is on shaky ground with 60.9% of likely voters saying they would not support a hike of sales tax to build a train.  The Sun Beam Times poll was conducted through the respected polling company St. Pete Polls.  The poll shows that, despite over $400,000 in tax dollars dedicated to the Greenlight political campaign so far, the rail tax is unlikely to pass in November. A similar transit tax hike failed in Tampa in 2010 (58:42) despite $1.6 million spent in support and only $20,000 in opposition.  The method of the poll also showed that when educated about the tax hike, 30% of people who supported the tax hike at the beginning of the poll immediately changed their mind to oppose the 14% tax hike. Even before the poll educated respondents of the nature of the tax hike, 45% opposed it with only 39% supporting with 16% undecided.

57 percent  aware of tax hike_labelThe Sun Beam Times poll was conducted only among Pinellas County registered voters who voted in the off-year 2010 election – likely voters in 2014. The Poll had a final sample size of 2114 respondents for purposes of weighting, but 2698 for raw data. The final poll results were weighted to account for the political party, race, sex and age demographics of the likely voters, which did not appreciably change the results*.  The poll also showed that only about 17.5% of these voters would be willing to ride a train between St. Petersburg and Clearwater “on a regular basis”.  The poll further showed that the majority of people were unaware that the sales tax hike would be 14% and would make Pinellas the county with the highest sales tax in the state (56%).

74 percent  wont ride train_labelThe poll shows a continued loss of support for the 14% sales tax hike.  In October, The Tampa Bay Times and Bay News 9 (through Braun Research) surveyed only 521 people in both Pinellas and Hillsborough counties and these were not likely voters but “residents” older than 18 in both Pinellas and Hillsborough county. That poll showed 56% in favor and 36% opposed and included non-voters and those who live outside Pinellas County. A Hillsborough poll in 2010, showed the rail tax in Hillsborough would pass 51 to 39, but the vote was 58% against.  The new results show nearly a 36% decline in support (from 46.8-30.1) for a tax hike to raise rail, moving from a 50:50 split to a 60:30 split, compared to an April 2013 poll by StPetePolls.org.

The Sun Beam times poll results showing 61% opposition to the 14% rail tax hike are clearly more reliable than a very small poll including non-Pinellas county residents and non-voters. The Sun Beam Times poll offers a cautionary note to those who are being asked to help fund what will certainly be a campaign spending over $1 million to pass the Greenlight Pinellas 14% sales tax hike. The money spent to pass a 14% sales tax hike for rail will likely not result in an easy victory.

Representatives of both No Tax for Tracks and PSTA were contacted to comment on the results, but have not yet responded.

The poll results are as follows

The poll started as follows:
“This is quick poll on the Greenlight Pinellas sales tax referendum in November.”

Do you support raising sales taxes to build a commuter train from St. Petersburg to Clearwater?

Yes: 38.7%
No: 45.3%
Not sure: 16.1% 

Are you likely to ride a train between St. Petersburg and Clearwater on a regular basis?

Yes: 17.6%
No: 73.9%
Not sure: 8.5%

Were you aware that Sales taxes will be raised from 7 cents to 8 cents, a 14% increase, creating the highest sales tax in Florida?

Yes: 37.4%
No: 56.3%
Not sure: 6.2% 

Do you still support raising sales taxes to build a commuter train from St. Petersburg to Clearwater?

(This question was only asked to 1095 people who said Yes or Not Sure to the first question)

Yes: 55.2%
No: 30.0%
Not sure: 14.8%

Overall support for raising sales taxes to build a commuter train from St. Petersburg to Clearwater, (including forth question change of responses):

Yes: 30.1%
No: 60.9%
Not sure: 9.0% 

*raw, un-weighted data available upon request
Note, The Founder and Editor of the Sun Beam Times is a contributor of No Tax for Tracks.com. The PSTA has used over $400,000 in taxpayer dollars to support the Greenlight Campaign so far.

Note an earlier version of this story indicated the wrong percentage of tax hike. The correct percentage hike is 14.29%.


7 Replies:

  1. Westech

    I wonder when the proponents of the little bit of train foolishness are going to quit attempting to pass this off as a “tax swap”?

  2. Tom Kulaga

    Can anyone name a geographical area in the US wherein 17 to 18% of the potential users ride the local mass transit system on a consistent basis? As long as Portland’s entire system has been in place, even when it was free, the trolley, bus, light rail, and bus rapid transit combined potential ridership totaled under 14% consistently.

    1. Westech

      The Democratic People’s Republic of Seattle has a monorail that costs $$$ to ride but breaks down with deadly regularity, a rail trolley that’s free but often non-running due to waterfront construction and a free public bus system (within the confines of downtown) Seattle that’s also free and marked by empty buses.
      What does the socialist city council want? More money for more public transportation.

  3. Pingback: Pinellas voters oppose light rail … when told sales tax would become “highest in Florida” - SaintPetersBlog

  4. Pingback: War of words: New polling language suggests voters disapprove FL transit plan « Watchdog.org

  5. Frank Tims

    October 8, 2014
    Greenlight Pinellas is a power grab by an entrenched bureaucracy that has an orchestrated campaign financially supported by those who stand to profit from it (including engineering firms) but ultimately paid for by you and me with taxes. This is a difficult letter for me to write because many of the Greenlight supporters are friends of mine and people I respect, yet I feel the campaign’s logic is weak and uses rhetoric instead of planning. Anybody can draw lines on a map and “connect the dots” of imagined “population clusters” but that is not planning–under analysis, it falls apart.
    I should say at the outset that I am a retired federal official with extensive experience in planning and budgeting. An agency director once walked into my office and said “If you can use an additional $40 million in your program, give me a plan,” I don’t believe in wasting taxpayer’s money, but I believed in our program (still do) so by the end of that day, I had the concept written, explaining the objective, the state of the science, and the mechanism I would use to deploy the funds. With that action, we saved lives (especially among the newborn infants through antiretroviral therapies), and prevented the spread of diseases such as HIV and hepatitis. Money well spent.
    In addition to my public service, I worked closely in the private sector with Alan M. Voorhees, a transportation and urban planner. Alan would not have recommended the light rail option for Pinellas. Greenlight is not a plan—and despite the propaganda in The Tampa Bay Times, the “phased planning” puts decisions off until the money is in the bank. Robert Trigaux (whom I respect) published a column last Sunday arguing that “we need mass transit to be relevant.” While better bus service would be useful–regular short-haul point-to-point routes to serve shoppers and students who do not drive is much needed. A rail system should not be part of this argument. This is not Charlotte or New York City—the demographics and population dispersal are different. About forty percent of the people in Pinellas are not in the labor force. For those who are, a rail system is not going to be rapid transit. With 14 planned stops, a trip from downtown St. Pete to Clearwater will take up to 57 minutes. That does not count the cost and travel time from your door to the rail station—expensive and time-consuming. Driving time from St. Pete to Clearwater is just over a half hour—that is rapid transit. It is useful to keep in mind the geographic size of St. Petersburg – 138 square miles (larger than the District of Columbia). It is not a population cluster of 250,000 people, but rather a sprawling venue of communities from Tampa Bay to the Gulf of Mexico. Many of us live nowhere close to the planned rail stations. o add insult to injury, few of the 21% of the County’s population who are 65 or over will never use the rail system that is scheduled to open in 2024—many will either be dead or in assisted living.
    We could use road improvement under the Penny for Pinellas infrastructure revenue, and dedicated lanes could speed up bus service, especially with express buses as part of the system. If you want mass transit, buses are the way to go (and perhaps Uber and Lyft). And it will not take ten years to complete. We have mass transit now—it just isn’t properly planned or managed.
    The rail tax should be scrapped—an ill-conceived White Elephant. Kill it November 4, and ask PSTA to come up with a sensible plan, after consulting with experienced planners, using currently available funding–without a “slush fund” sales tax.
    Frank M. Tims, Ph.D.
    St. Petersburg, FL

    1. Gary West

      Bravo. A voice of common sense and reason. Hopefully this forum will spread this word.
      Thank you, Mr. Tims

Comments are closed.