Survey of Motorist Attitudes Toward A Proposed Highway Project

Michael A. McAdams and Edward Beimborn
Center for Urban Transportation Studies
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

prepared for the Wisconsin Department of Transportation

October 19, 1995

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) has proposed the widening of Wauwatosa Road from the present two lanes to four lanes from Pioneer Road to Mequon Road in Ozaukee County. WisDOT, at the request of the Ozaukee County Highway Commission , requested the Center for Urban Transportation Studies (CUTS) at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee to conduct a survey of the users of Wauwatosa Road from Pioneer Road to Mequon Road in Ozaukee County. The survey asked its participants: if they were in favor or against the widening of the road; how they perceived the present road conditions of the two lane and the four lane sections of Wauwatosa Road north and south of Mequon road respectively; their perceived view on the positive or negative impa cts of the widening and trip making and basic demographic information. Over four thousand questionnaires were mailed to the actual users of this section of road. Of this number, over one thousand and three hundred were received.

Approximately sixty-five percent of the respondents favored the widening of Wauwatosa Road, while approximately twenty-five percent were against the project. (see Appendix, B for a copy of questionnaire). Strong opinions were held by the respondents, bot h in favor and against the project. Those favoring the project indicated that it would mean safer travel would not increase congestion or urban development and would be good for Mequon and the surrounding communities. Those against the project believed that the widening would mean unsafe travel in this section, increase congestion, cause more urban development and would not be good for Mequon or the surrounding communities. Opinions differed sharply by where the respondents resided. Those residing west of Highway 57 in Mequon represented the highest proportion of individuals who opposed the project. Those residing in other areas showed high levels of approval for the project and small rates of disapproval.

It must be cautioned that the results presented is based solely upon the data from survey respondents and therefore subject to the biases found in any survey. This survey is an indication of the opinions of the users of the road, but it is not a referend um. It contains certain biases related to those who chose to return the survey and the subjects' interpretation of the questionnaire itself.

INTRODUCTION

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) has proposed the widening of Wauwatosa Road from the present two lanes to four lanes from Pioneer Road to Mequon Road in Ozaukee County. The project is scheduled to be constructed in the Year 2003. Cur rently, WisDOT is preparing the necessary environmental documents and the right of way plat to protect the corridor. At the request of the Ozaukee County Highway Commission, WisDOT requested the Center for Urban Transportation Studies (CUTS) at the Unive rsity of Wisconsin-Milwaukee to conduct a survey of the users Wauwatosa Road from Pioneer Road to Mequon Road in Ozaukee County. WisDOT was responsible for collecting the license plates of the highway users. The CUTS staff had the responsibility for deve lopment of the questionnaire, tabulation, analysis and report writing. In this brief report, the findings of the survey will be discussed.

PROJECT DESCRIPTION AND BACKGROUND

Wauwatosa Road from Pioneer Road to Mequon Road in Ozaukee County is currently a two lane facility (see Appendix A). The road is a significant link in the movement between communities in Ozaukee and Washington Counties, such as Mequon, Thiensville, Ceda rburg, Port Washington, Grafton and West Bend, and northern Milwaukee County, Brookfield and Wauwatosa which are major employment, shopping and recreation areas in metropolitan Milwaukee. According to the purpose and needs statement in the Environmental Assessment for the project, traffic volumes on the two lane facility will exceed the available capacity sometime in the next ten years and has existing geometric safety hazards. The project is listed to be upgraded from two to four lanes in the Southeast ern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission's (SEWRPC) Jurisdictional Highway System Plan, the amended Jurisdictional System Plan and SEWRPC's Transportation Improvement Program 1995-1997.

SAMPLING TECHNIQUES AND METHODS OF ANALYSIS

On June 1, 1995, between 7 A.M. and 11:00 A.M. and 12:00 P.M. and 4:00 P.M., at the Wauwatosa Road intersections with Pioneer Road and Mequon Road , WisDOT staff recorded the license plates of over 4,000 passing vehicles in both directions. The license plates numbers were then matched with the addresses of the owners and a mailing list was prepared. As such, the population surveyed represents a sample of road users.

CUTS staff prepared a questionnaire to determine the opinions of the users toward the proposed project as well as related issues (see Appendix B). The questionnaire gathered further information on the respondents' general travel behavior, demographics (re sidence, work place, persons in household, etc.), attitudes toward the present condition of the existing two-lane road and the existing four lane section of the road south of Mequon Road, and the perceived impact of the widening.

The questionnaire was pilot tested on users of the road by CUTS staff. After staff was satisfied that the questionnaire had been sufficiently tested, it was mailed on July 7, 1995 to all 4,000 sampled persons. Approximately 1,300 were returned, represent ing approximately a thirty percent return rate. This return rate is considered extremely good and indicates the amount of interest in this project. The normal return rate for mailed surveys is normally about ten to twenty percent. The first one thous and returns were analyzed due to financial constraints. However, the exclusion of these additional surveys was not expected to considerably vary the results as indicated by the incremental examination of the survey results during the data input.

CUTS staff tabulated the data and analyzed it using spreadsheets (Excel) and a statistical program (SAS). The analysis examined the results by the total respondents, and by those who favored and those against the project using categories such as rating of the condition of the two lane section. In addition, an analysis was made of attitudes toward the project based on where people resided. Finally, a simple correlation analysis was performed to determine the strength of the relationships and their st atistical significance (see Appendix F for results of significance and simple correlations).

It must be cautioned that the results presented are solely based upon data received from the survey respondents and therefore subject to the biases found in any survey. This survey is an indication of the opinions of the users of the road, but it is not a referendum. It contains certain biases related to those who chose to return the survey and the subjects' interpretation of the questionnaire itself.

RESPONDENTS' PROFILE

In the following sections, various demographic characteristics of the sample are analyzed. The license plate sample provides information on all those travelling on the road at the survey date and time. This showed that most (64%) of the road users were from the local area, with a considerable amount (36%) from other areas (see figure 1). The respondents showed that there was a slightly higher percent from the local area than the sampled survey.(see figure 2). The work locations of the sample were sho wn to be in the northern and western suburbs of the metropolitan Milwaukee area.

Garaging Location of the Sampled Vehicles

According to the license plate survey of over 4,000 vehicles during the survey hours, it is clear that most persons reside in the general area of the road (see figure 1). Approximately sixty-four percent of the sample were from West Bend, Grafton, northe rn Milwaukee County, Cedarburg and Mequon/Thiensville.

Figure 1: Garaging Location of Sampled Vehicles

The largest percent of this group were from Cedarburg (21%) and Mequon/Thiensville (18%). This seems to indicate that most of the traffic is generated locally and is not from distant generators or related to through traffic.

Resident Location of Respondents

According to the 1,000 survey responses analyzed, the respondents were basically in the same proportion as the overall sample. However, there was a slight overrepresentation of Cedarburg (28%) and of Mequon/Thiensville (29%) as compared to the sample. T he largest response from the Mequon area was from west of Highway 57. (For a detailed listing of resident location see Appendix G). Metro area locations included such places as West Bend (9.6%), Saukville (2.3%), and Port Washington (3.5%).

Figure 2: Resident Location of Respondents

Work Location

The majority of the respondents worked in the surrounding areas including Cedarburg, Mequon, Grafton and the Northridge area (41%). A significant portion worked in the City of Milwaukee at various locations outside of the Northridge/Brown Deer area (16 %) and the metro area (23%) Only three percent of the respondents worked in the downtown area of the City of Milwaukee. (For a detailed listing of other work locations, see Appendix H).

Figure 3: Work Locations of Respondents

SURVEY FINDINGS

Attitudes Toward Project

The survey indicated a polarization of opinions associated with the proposed project (see figure 4). There were strong feelings in favor and against the project with few respondents indicating a neutral position. Over forty percent of total respondents indicated that they "strongly favored" the project and about twenty percent indicated they "favor" the project. This represents a total of over sixty-five percent who favor the project. Ten percent are "against" the project and fourteen percent are "st rongly against". This represents a total of approximately 25 percent who are against the project. The other ten percent had no opinion. As will be seen later, those who support and oppose the project tend to fall into clearly defined groups by residence location.

Figure 4: Opinion of Project for All Respondents

Opinion of Project by Residence

The analysis of the questionnaires indicte the areas that strongly favor the project are those who live in the Cities of Cedarburg, Mequon east of Highway 57, the Village of Thiensville, and the City of Milwaukee. The highest percentage that are strongly

Figure 5: Opinion of Project by Residence Location

opposed to the project live in Mequon west of Highway 57. In this area, almost 50% disapproved or strongly disapproved of the project while 45% approved or strongly approved the project. This is contrasted to those east of Highway 57 where approximatel y 65% approved the project. Those who lived in the Cedarburg zipcode area had the highest approval rate, 75%. Subsequently, this group had one of the lowest disapproval rate, 20%. Respondents from other geographic areas also showed a majority of suppor t for the project.

Usage Pattern

The majority of the respondents reported that they utilized the road in the morning and afternoon peak times (see figure 6) The road is also used by approximately thirty percent of the total respondents during the midday period. This sample is a good re presentation of the user during the daytime hours. However, it may underrepresented those using the facility during the evening hours.

Figure 6: Use of Facility by Time of Day for Total Respondents

Frequency

Over twenty-five percent of the respondents reported that they used the road for work 3 to 5 days per week (see figure 7). Over twenty percent used it for more than 5 days per week. The road is used for shopping by approximately forty percent of the re spondents 1 to 5 days per week. The road is used for school and other trips on a much lesser basis.

Figure 7: Frequency by Trip Purpose for Total Respondents

Rating of Two Lane Section of Wauwatosa Road There is significant variation in the rating of the conditions of the road between the overall sample and those approving and disapproving the project.. (see figure 8). Overall, the two lane section was rated poorly. Safety, ease of use in bad weather and the ability of the road to avoid traffic was rated between poor and average. Pavement condition and landscaping was rated between average to good.

Figure 8: Rating of Two Lane Section of Wauwatosa Road North of Mequon Road by All Respondents

Those favoring the project rated the two lane section between poor and average on safety, ease in bad weather, and avoidance of traffic congestion. (see figure 9). Pavement and landscaping was rated as between average and good.

Figure 9: Rating of the Two Lane Section of Wauwatosa North of Mequon Road

Those disapproving of the project, however had a distinctly different opinion than those supporting the project (see figure 10). Project opponents rated the existing two lane road significantly higher in all categories. The differences ranged from .80 (pavement condition and landscaping) to over 1.25 (safety, avoid congestion and ease of use in bad weather).

Rating of Four Lane Section of Wauwatosa Road

When asked about the four lane section of Wauwatosa Road south of Mequon Road, the total group respondents rated all the elements of the road between good and excellent with the exception of landscaping which was rated between average and good (see figure 10).

Figure 10: Rating of Four Lane Section of Wauwatosa Road South of Mequon Road by All Respondents

Those favoring the project rated the four lane section of Wauwatosa Road south of Mequon Road between good and excellent. (see figure 11). The only exception was this group's opinion of landscaping which is rated as between average and good.

Figure 11: Rating of Four Lane Section of Wauwatosa Road South of Mequon Road

Those against the project, rated all characteristics of the four lane roadway near good except for landscaping, which was rated as between average and good (see figure 11). Overall there is not an appreciable difference between the two groups. Those favoring the project tended to rate the four lane section better.

Opinions About Impact of Widening

When asked about their opinions on the impact of the widening, most thought that it would have a positive effect (see figure 12). The majority of the respondents agreed that the widening of the road would improve the safety of the road, that the road would be good for Mequon and also good for other communities. It was also recognized that it would increase urban development and traffic in the area. The feelings were mixed that it would ruin the rural character of the area, reflected by an overall neutr al rating. As with the overall opinion (see figure 4) most notable were those east and west of Highway 57 in Mequon. For the most part, those west of Highway 57 reflected the opinion of those opposed to the project, but are the percentages are more skewed. For example, seventy-three percent of those east of Highway 57, expressed tha t the project would mean safer travel,as compared with fifty-six percent residing west of Highway 57.

Figure 12: Opinions About Impact of Widening for All Respondents

On average, the group favoring the project agrees or strongly agrees that the road widening would mean safer travel, and would be good for Mequon and for other communities (see figure 13). On average, project supporters disagree or are neutral that the widening will ruin the rural character of the area. They are neutral in the view that it will increase traffic in the area.

Figure 13: Opinions About Impact of Widening by Those in Favor or Against Project

Those against the project have distinctly different views about the impact of the project than those who support the project. On the average, this group agrees or strongly agrees that widening Wauwatosa Road will increase traffic in the area, ruin the rural character and increase urban development. They disagre that it will mean safer travel and that it will be good for Mequon. However, there is some indication that the group believes it would be good for other communities.

CONCLUSIONS

This survey indicates a majority of the users favor the project. This seem to be true for all respondent except for those who lived in Mequon west of Highway 57. Nevertheless, the number who oppose the project is not negligible, making up approximately one fourth of the respondents. Those who favor the widening believe it will mean safer travel and will be good for all surrounding communities. They do not think that it will increase urban development, or have appreciable effect on the rural character along the road or cause and increase in traffic.

Those opposed to the project believe the exact opposite about the potential impact of the widening. They feel that the project will increase traffic, ruin the rural character and increase urban development. They do not think it mean safer travel. Ultim ately, they do not think it would be good for Mequon, but somewhat recognize that it would be good for other communities. Overall, one group sees the road widening as increasing the ease of movement, while the other group views the road as a catalyst for urban development and increased congestion. The location of respondents appears to be particularly important. Those who live in Mequon west of Highway 57where the project is located have the strongest opposition to the project Those who are more dist ant from the project are most likely to be favor of the project.