The question: If the Utah Transit Authority had more funding, do you believe it could provide improved public transportation?

The poll result: Yep, said 69 percent of the 1,000 Wasatch Front residents who responded to a Dan Jones and Associates opinion survey last spring.But wait, you say. This is a no-brainer. You can usually improve most things if you throw enough dollars at the problem.

How about the more probing question: Are you willing to pay a quarter of a cent more sales tax to help fund mass transit?

Yep again, fired back 61 percent of the local folks surveyed by the Jones' pollsters.

The message in these numbers, polling analyst Pat Jones told the Salt Lake County Council of Governments Thursday, is that the public view of mass transit is beginning to change.

Wasatch Front residents are listening to new transportation options and evaluating the costs, she suggested.

"Transportation is now at the top, or near the top, of people's lists" of things they are most concerned about," Jones said. "I-15 reconstruction is causing people to rethink what is going on."

A strong 73 percent of those people polled said they think the UTA is doing a good job meeting the transportation needs of Wasatch Front residents.

That's probably the news the Utah Transit Authority wanted to hear when it commissioned the Jones poll last winter.

Particularly interesting to UTA officials were the findings that the majority of the people polled favor expanding bus service as well as providing an east-west light-rail service between the Salt Lake International Airport and the University of Utah.

The survey was unusually intensive, polling 1,000 people instead of the usual 600 or so. As a result, the large sample size helped reduce the margin of error to plus or minus 3 percent.

While the poll found UTA's image has improved both externally and internally in the wake of a recent change in top management, it also noted the overall public perception of the UTA is unfavorable.

The survey also found a majority of respondents still think the UTA does a poor job communicating its goals and performance.

Jones also warned valley mayors and commissioners the public views local leadership on transportation issues as "basically nonexistent" and wants someone to step up and take the reins.

The poll found strong support for the UTA assuming that leadership role, she reported.

Some people even cite a need for a "transportation czar," Jones added, who can step in a plug the apparent leadership void.

Other poll results were more predictable. Many of the respondents indicated they don't ride the bus because of the inconvenience and lack of service.

Only 16 percent said they have considered taking the bus since I-15 reconstruction began.