Understanding How Public Perceptions of Road Diets Are Formed

With state and federal focus on decreasing greenhouse gas emissions and U.S. dependence on foreign oil, the development and implementation of projects at the local level that facilitate well-planned non-motorized transportation options will be critical. Community perceptions on benefits and costs are often split for these types of projects because they reallocate vehicle capacity, usually along congested corridors. A much greater understanding of how to effectively conduct outreach and communication with the public on potential project merits and challenges is needed. The City of Davis is currently studying a proposed "road diet"/ "road re-design" along a congested corridor. This offers a unique opportunity to develop a better understanding of perceptions and attitudes as the project develops. The research will consist of a City-wide public opinion survey and a second focused survey of residents and businesses in neighborhoods adjacent to the proposed project, for the purpose of answering the following research questions: 1. What factors have influenced public opinion on the probable success of this project so far and how did respondents obtain information related to the project, 2. What are corollary factors that are linked to support/lack of support for the proposed re-design, including the respondent's demographic characteristics, strength of environmental ethic, perceptions of Fifth Street, and familiarity with the Fifth Street redesign project, 3. How do opinions and information sources vary between residents and businesses in neighborhoods directly adjacent to the proposed project, and residents of the City as a whole? Road diets have only recently become a viable mode strategy in most cities and very little is known regarding how related public perceptions are formed. This research will contribute by expanding our understanding of how people judge the desirability and potential feasibility of road diet projects. This survey will also serve as the precursor to an ex-post study on changes to public opinion and utilized to further inform communication materials for future road diets.