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News Organizations
Targeting Transportation – What’s Important in Washington, DC
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NewsChannel 8 and The Pew Center for Civic Journalism

Situation:

The greater Washington area leads the nation in the costs of wasted time and gasoline while drivers are gridlocked. In traffic congestion overall, we’re second to Los Angeles. The population is expected to increase 43 percent by 2020. That will bring more people – and cars – to this region. Meantime, our Metrorail system is aging and a major bridge over the Potomac River must be replaced.

 

 

 

Approach:

 

NewsChannel 8, with funding from the Pew Center for Civic Journalism (and in partnership with WAMU-FM and Metro Traffic Control), commissioned Potomac Incorporated to conduct a comprehensive public opinion telephone survey among a cross-section of 1,000 adult residents in the region on the most critical transportation concerns. The benchmark survey became the backbone of the NewsChannel 8 project, Target Transportation, which featured three live, simultaneous town meetings broadcast over cable television to elicit public input.

The town meetings were the impetus for a series of televised news vignettes that underscored, for example, the meaning of these statistics about the "typical" Washington commute:

  • 73% of all those who commute to work drive alone.             
  • The typical commuter travels an average of 13 miles one way to work and spends 30 minutes in traffic each way.             
  • About half the region’s commuters say they have made changes in their commuting behavior; of these, some 6 percent say they work at home.

Of those persons surveyed, it was learned that traffic congestion had more impact on their daily lives (34%) than any other major problem such as taxes (17%), crime and drugs (15%), excessive regional growth (11%), expensive housing (10%), and school quality (10%). 

Overall, the survey provided basic information about 

  • Commuting habits and behavior             
  • The importance of traffic congestion and how residents are dealing with this issue             
  • More about personal driving experiences, such as "road rage," major backups and highway safety concerns

Outcome:

News stories based on the survey results were featured throughout the year on NewsChannel 8.

Potomac published a 16-page brochure, which detailed the survey results and was distributed to 500 community leaders. Our survey is believed to be the largest television poll ever done on this topic in the DC metro area. 

 New Transportation Projects...

 

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