Americans are keen to see more people and freight going by rail in future, according to a public opinion poll.

And local trains are seen as more important than long-distance inter-city services and far more important than cars.

The league table of popularity is as follows:

Commuter trains 44%, long-distance trains 35%, local buses 23%, air 23%, local car 11%, long-distance car 10%, long-distance buses 6%.

The Harris Poll asked the question: "In the future, as more people travel, which two of the following would you like to see have an increasing share of all passenger transportation?"

Respondents listed the following factors as most important for the choice of travel: safety 47%, energy efficiency 44%, and cost 29%.

This survey also included questions on who should be mainly responsible for maintaining and improving the transport system at a local level and nationally.

Overwhelmingly, the American public thinks it should be a government rather than private sector responsibility.

Local transport
State government (36%) and local government (27%) are seen by the largest numbers of adults as having the main responsibility for maintaining and improving the transport system at a local level. Fewer think that the federal government (16%) or private companies (10%) should have this responsibility.

National transport
Two-thirds (68%) of adults believe national transport should be a responsibility of the federal government. Relatively few see this as the responsibility of state government (13%), local government (2%) or private companies (8%).

These results show that for most adults, transport is a public good for which government has the primary responsibility. However, that does not mean that they are opposed to the private sector providing much of the actual transport.

But they believe government, not the private sector, should make transport policy.

Freight rail also received strong support in the survey. Freight rail (63%) comes far ahead of all other modes that adults would like to see have an increasing share of freight transportation.  They are followed by: air freight (35%), and lorries (24%). 

Information from National Association of Railroad Passengers

More details on the poll:
Harris Poll