But when asked how to pay for improvements in transit and highways, Americans said no to higher gas taxes or higher sales taxes.
They were more supportive of spending what Philadelphia pol Vince Fumo used to call "other people's money."
They supported having developers and commercial land owners foot the bill for new rail lines or stations, and they were OK with highway tolls to make users pay.
"They back systems that would require others to pay, but are leery of a broad-based approach like a sales tax," said the NRDC report.
In Bucks and Montgomery counties, where public transit use is higher than the national average, resistance was lower to paying higher taxes for public transit.
There, the respondents were split 49-to-48 for a five-cent-a-gallon gas tax hike. They also supported a one-half-cent increase in the sales tax for transportation improvements, by a margin of 55 to 41 percent.
In addition to the survey, the pollsters also conducted focus groups in three metro areas, including suburban Philadelphia, and they reported "the immediate and overwhelmingly negative reaction to a gas tax cannot be overstated."
"One Philadelphia-area woman burst out, 'Oh dear God!' upon being queried about a gas tax, and the immediate reaction was immediate and negative across all the groups."
"There was a strong sense that the timing for a gas tax increase is wrong - when the price of gas is already so high and many feel it will go higher."
The issue is hot in Pennsylvania, where political leaders have been debating for many months how to increase funding for roads, bridges and transit, with Gov. Corbett acknowledging the need for more money but adamantly opposed to any increase in the state's gasoline tax.
Corbett's own transportation funding advisory commission last year identified a shortfall of $3.5 billion a year in transport funding as of 2010, growing by about $1 million a day.
So Pennsylvania's annual transportation funding gap now stands at about $4.4 billion.
Corbett's commission recommended that the state increase motor-vehicle registration and license fees and raise a component of the gas tax to produce $2.5 billion more a year for highways, bridges and mass transit.
The NDRC survey of 800 likely voters nationwide and 150 likely voters in Bucks and Montgomery Counties found wide support for increasing public transit rather than building new roads, to relieve congestion and reduce pollution.
But the survey also found many people resistant to using public transit because they prefer driving or because they find transit inconvenient.
There was a partisan cast to the findings: Democrats were far more likely than Republicans to support an increase in local public transit spending.
The survey was conducted from June 24 to July 1, with a margin of error of 3.8 percent in the national poll and 8.0 percent in the Montgomery and Bucks poll.
Contact Paul Nussbaum at 215-854-4587 or email@example.com.