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ODU: 4th Annual Life in Hampton Roads Survey Shows Changing Perceptions among Residents

jrichman-jesse-richmanJesse Richman

Respondents to the 4th annual Old Dominion University "Life in Hampton Roads" survey showed more confidence in the regional economy than in recent years, but traffic continued to be a key issue with about half of the participants expressing significant concern with congestion.

The ODU Social Science Research Center released the results this week. The survey is designed to peer into social and economic indicators of quality of life in Hampton Roads, with particular focus placed on transportation and traffic, local and state government, education, health, emergency preparedness, the economy and crime.

Survey questions are derived in part from ODU faculty. The survey was conducted by telephone with 812 residents of the seven cities of Hampton Roads.

The 2013 survey's results show respondents' perceptions of the overall quality of life in the region have changed since the annual questionnaire began circulation in 2010.

In 2011, 59.2 percent of respondents rated life here as "excellent" or "good" - a figure that increased to 68.4 percent in 2012, but decreased to 63.7 percent in 2013. When ratings of economic conditions in Hampton Roads were compared, however, 2013 was the most optimistic year with 58.8 percent of respondents giving a "fair" or "poor" rating where that figure was previously 75.6 percent and 62.2 percent in 2011 and 2012, respectively.

Alternatively, traffic continues to be a marquee issue for Hampton Roads residents.

This year, 50.4 percent of respondents, who were asked about their level of concern with traffic congestion, said they were "extremely" or "very concerned." At the same time, survey results found average Hampton Roads commute times increased by nearly a minute while 10.2 percent of respondents used public transportation in the previous week (up from 7.3 percent in 2011) and 44.5 percent of participants said they had avoided visiting a business in a neighboring city due to traffic concerns - a 4.2 percent increase over 2012.

Further, a majority of the 2013 survey sample (60.3 percent) stated they were aware of impending toll projects on existing roads and bridges in the area, but half of all respondents (50.6 percent) went on to say they would be less likely to use bridges and tunnels that are tolled.

There was little support for the current approach being taken to expand the midtown tunnel. Respondents were asked to think about the midtown and downtown tunnels and indicate whether they supported tunnel expansion. Roughly one-quarter of respondents supported contracting with a private company to set tolls (23.4%), 19.7% opposed tunnel expansion and 47.4% supported paying for tunnel expansion in some other way.

Other project highlights include:

  • Interest in expanding light rail throughout Hampton Roads has remained mostly steady in 2012 and 2013 while fewer respondents selected multiple destinations when asked where they wanted to see light rail expanded.
  • Concern over how rising sea levels in Hampton Roads will affect residents rose among respondents in 2012 and 2013; however, concern about global effects of sea level rise did not change.
  • Schools were rated more favorably by respondents in 2013 compared to 2012.
  • Perceptions of local government declined in 2013 as fewer respondents felt resources were being used wisely.
  • More 2013 respondents reported having seen a doctor in the past year than in 2012, with more than three-quarters of the survey pool who had seen a doctor in 2013 stating they received a yearly checkup.

To view the full 2013 Life in Hampton Roads Survey, see: http://al.odu.edu/ssrc/doc/LIHR__Report2013WithComparisons.pdf

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