Residents think Raleigh is a great place to live, but they’re sick of sitting in its traffic.
More than 90 percent of residents who responded to the city’s first-ever community survey rated Raleigh as an “excellent or good” place to live, while also pointing to traffic and road maintenance as their top concerns. Only 2 percent of respondents rated Raleigh poorly.
Raleigh commissioned ETC Institute, a Kansas-based research group that has done surveys for 900 municipalities since 2006, to collect feedback on topics such as city services and whether residents feel safe.
More than 1,200 residents completed the surveys by phone, mail and online. An ETC representative, Jason Morado, presented the findings to the Raleigh City Council on Thursday during its retreat at the N.C. Museum of Art.
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Raleigh scored higher than many comparable cities, Morado said. ETC looked at other areas such as Austin, Kansas City, Richmond and Mecklenburg County.
“Only one of ten residents don’t think the city is heading in the right direction,” Morado said. “That’s very good.”
However, Raleigh residents scored local roads lower than the national average for similar areas surveyed by ETC. Raleigh’s top priorities should be improving traffic flow, maintaining city streets and managing stormwater runoff, respondents said.
About 44 percent of respondents rated Raleigh’s traffic flow as below average or poor, while 28 percent are generally content with the flow – 2 percent lower than the national average.
The survey doesn’t show which roads, specifically, respondents are most concerned about. But a geographical breakdown of the responses shows that the worst road scores came from the South Saunders Street corridor, Capital Boulevard, Northeast Raleigh and the Brier Creek area in Northwest Raleigh.
Council members pointed out that many of Raleigh’s largest and most congested thoroughfares – such as U.S. 440, Glenwood Avenue and Capital Boulevard – are under the state Department of Transportation’s jurisdiction, not the city’s. But they said the survey reflects the need for additional transportation funding.
Road maintenance is one of the costliest expenses local governments face, and Raleigh has historically asked residents to boost funding through bond referendums. Residents in 2013 voted to raise the property tax rate by 1.12 cents to raise $75 million for 18 transportation projects.
Mayor Nancy McFarlane said the council may float a referendum within the next two years, and that Raleigh leaders in the meantime can encourage alternative modes of transportation through smart planning.
“How we build those nodes of density so that people can get around the city without needing a car is going to be the key moving forward,” McFarlane said.
She also hopes city representatives work with DOT to improve state-maintained roads in Raleigh.
“We’re going to try to work with the state. We’ve changed in past years the way that’s done,” McFarlane said. “It used to be that we’d maintain and fix them, and then they’d reimburse us. Now they do it.”
Raleigh scored below the national average for mid-sized cities in two other areas.
A third of respondents said they’re happy with how Raleigh cleans up litter and yard debris, 6 percent lower than the national average. Fifty-three percent are satisfied with how the city manages stormwater runoff, 3 percent lower than the national average.
The city is already taking steps to improve runoff collection, said Ruffin Hall, city manager. Council members in June raised the stormwater fee by $1 to raise money for more stormwater projects.
“The backlog of projects requested by citizens had gotten really long, and there were a lot of demands on our stormwater system,” Hall said.
The survey revealed geographical splits on some issues.
Respondents who live near downtown and to the south gave Raleigh lower scores for enforcing laws than those who live outside the Beltline. Those who live to the east of Capital Boulevard gave lower scores for parks and recreation services than those who live west of Capital.
Meanwhile, respondents from Southeast Raleigh gave the city lower scores for its communication efforts than respondents from the rest of the city. Southeast Raleigh residents also gave the city low scores for police responsiveness.
On the overall quality of city services, Raleigh scored 23 percent higher than the national average.
Of the more than 1,200 Raleigh residents surveyed by ETC Institute:
▪ 92 percent rated the city’s fire services as good or excellent, the highest score of any category. National average: 81 percent.
▪ 91 percent rated Raleigh as a great place to live. National average: 71 percent.
▪ 85 percent rated the city’s parks and recreation services as good or excellent. National average: 63 percent.
▪ 79 percent rated the city’s police services as good or excellent. National average: 59 percent.
▪ 71 percent of respondents said traffic should be the city’s top priority.
▪ 55 percent said street maintenance should be the city’s top priority