Rail survey indicates mixed signals on MOM

Staff Writer

Staff Writer

A recent poll may not be the sweeping endorsement of the Mon-mouth-Ocean-Middlesex passenger rail proposal that officials had hoped.

"They (residents) need to be educated because the majority of them are unaware of the MOM project," the June survey by McLaughlin and Associates of Alexandria, Va., states.

Ocean County officials sponsored the survey during the summer, hiring a nationally known Republican research firm to evaluate residents’ support for the project.

McLaughlin and Associates was founded by John McLaughlin, who has worked as a strategic consultant and pollster for more than 20 years, according to the firm’s Internet Web site.

According to the survey, 400 adults from each of the three counties that would be affected by the MOM project were contacted by "professional telephone interviewers" and at least 133 residents were contacted in each county. The survey has a margin of error of 8.5 percent, according to the firm.

While residents expressed favor with the idea of the project, 65.5 percent, two-thirds, of those contacted, said they had not heard about the project.

The project, estimated to cost about $400 million, would use existing Conrail tracks for a commuter rail route from Lakehurst in Ocean County to the Northeast Corridor Line in the Monmouth Junction section of South Brunswick. Ocean and Monmouth County officials support the project while Middlesex County towns oppose the plan.

When the survey was released earlier this year, Ocean and Monmouth county officials said the results showed "overwhelming support" for the project.

The survey itself states that people only expressed a favorable view after they were given a description by the interviewer.

After being given a description of the MOM passenger rail line, 78 percent of those contacted said they would support the project, although only 16.9 percent said they would use it regularly, according to the survey.

Thirty-six percent of those contacted said they would not use the passenger rail service at all. Thirty-one percent of those surveyed said the project would raise the value of their homes, while a like number said the project would keep home values the same.

Residents surveyed were split on whether mass transit is effective in solving traffic issues.

According to the survey, 46.9 percent of the respondents feel it is effective and 46.4 percent feel it is not. When residents were asked if they would support the plan, 42.7 percent said they strongly favor the project while 52.8 percent were not sure if they would support it or refused to answer.

While the survey said that at least 133 residents from each county were contacted, the survey’s demographic breakdown showed that 48 percent of those who were surveyed came from Ocean County, 28 percent came from Monmouth County and 24 percent came from Middlesex County.