2017-05-18 / Community

Traffic is top of mind for T.O. residents

Part one of a two-part series
By Becca Whitnall


TOO MANY CARS—If they could choose just one thing to change about Thousand Oaks, 18 percent of survey-takers said “reduce traffic congestion,” more than any other response, according to the 2017 community attitude survey. 
ACORN FILE PHOTO TOO MANY CARS—If they could choose just one thing to change about Thousand Oaks, 18 percent of survey-takers said “reduce traffic congestion,” more than any other response, according to the 2017 community attitude survey. ACORN FILE PHOTO ATTITUDE SURVEY

Reducing traffic congestion (18 percent) was the most popular response when residents were asked the one change they’d make to improve the city, according to the results of the latest Thousand Oaks Community Attitude Survey.

Other choices: not sure/can’t think of anything (12 percent), limit growth (12 percent) and engage in economic development (11 percent).

Conducted since 1968, the poll is intended to aid city officials in identifying key issues of importance and measuring resident satisfaction with their job performance. Since 2009, the city has contracted with an outside agency—True North Research Inc.—to do a statistically reliable survey using a random selection of households so it could compare results from one poll to the next and identify trends.


IMPROVEMENTS—The above chart shows the different responses to the poll question: “If the city government could change one thing to make Thousand Oaks a better place to live now and in the future, what change would you like to see?” 
Courtesy of True North Research IMPROVEMENTS—The above chart shows the different responses to the poll question: “If the city government could change one thing to make Thousand Oaks a better place to live now and in the future, what change would you like to see?” Courtesy of True North Research The results of the poll shared at last week’s City Council meeting represent phase one of the 2017 survey, which was conducted March 16 to April 3 and involved 567 Thousand Oaks households. The second phase of the survey was made available online to every T.O. household, and those results are due out any day now.

In addition to topping the change list, reducing traffic congestion came in fourth—behind fire protection, streets/roads and police—when respondents were asked to rank the importance of city services. But it is unclear whether respondents were talking about congestion on city streets or on the freeway, which is under the state’s purview.

“It could be interpreted in a lot of ways,” city spokesperson Rachel Wagner said. “I think what it will probably do is trigger staff to take a comprehensive look at traffic circulation and mitigation.”

Overall, only 20.6 percent said they were very satisfied with the job the city is doing in managing the congestion. Another 41.7 said they were somewhat satisfied.

Just last year, Caltrans, with financial aid from the City of T.O., completed a $40-million widening of the 101-23 interchange in Thousand Oaks aimed at reducing gridlock.

“If we’re going to do these (surveys),” Councilmember Andy Fox said, “we kind of have to pay attention to what the folks are telling us, and to me that traffic thing, that’s something we have to pay attention to.”

While the council member did not list any specific solutions, he said concerns about traffic and growth must be taken into account.

“We’re not going to do anything crazy, but adding whatever we’re looking at on (Thousand Oaks) Boulevard is going to create more traffic,” Fox said.

Councilmember Al Adam, the council’s most vocal proponent of improving the boulevard, reminded Fox that the goal is not to add thousands of new residents but to add enough to properly support a thriving downtown.

He pointed out that economic development ranked fourth on the list of responses to improve the city, proof that residents still care a great deal about the council’s revitalization efforts on the boulevard.

Quality of life

Thousand Oaks residents tend to think the city offers an excellent quality of life, but they see room for improvement, according to survey results.

Nearly 57 percent of those polled rated T.O.’s quality of life as excellent, and another 39 percent rated it good. The first figure was significantly down from 2015, when 65 percent of respondents said the quality of life was excellent.

Fox said he was concerned that the city was trending in the wrong direction. In 2009, 1.7 percent rated the quality of life in Thousand Oaks as fair; this year, that figure was 4.1 percent.

“It’s a pretty drastic increase,” Fox said.

Council members asked whether the turmoil in Washington, D.C., may have influenced survey-takers to respond more negatively when asked about their quality of life.

Tim McClarney of True North Research said he didn’t think so.

Fox said some survey-takers misunderstand the roles of the various public agencies, blaming the city when really the issue rests with Conejo Rec and Park District or Conejo Valley Unified School District.

“It’d be helpful for the council and for the city if we could make that distinction. Construct this so that (we know) they’re really talking about a city service and not the school district or park district,” he said.

History of service

For its first 45 years, the survey was offered every five years, but the frequency increased to every two years in 2013. Since 2009, the city has contracted with Encinitas-based True North to conduct both the main phase-one survey and the at-will phase-two survey, in which members of all Thousand Oaks households may participate. The contract fee is $30,000.

The phase-one group was invited by email, mail and phone to participate in the survey, then given the option to complete it online or by phone.

Mayor Claudia Bill-de la Peña asked about the large jump in the percentage of people over 65 who were surveyed.

In 2015, about 17 percent of those polled were 65-plus, while in 2017 that figure was 22 percent.

McClarney said the numbers were determined by demographic forecasts for Thousand Oaks that show the city’s older population increasing.

“We are matching our sample demographics to what updated forecasts are for the age profile of the community,” he said. “So that change in the demographic profile is actually a reflection of . . . what forecasters are saying about the demographics of the community, that it’s getting a little older.”

The statistically reliable method has a 4.1 percent margin of error, which is related to the sample size.

Phase two of the survey ends May 31.

The complete survey results from phase one are available on the city’s website, www.toaks.org/survey.

Part two in the series will dig deeper into other portions of the survey.

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