Will the voter rebellion against new rail projects spread from Clackamas County to Washington County? The answer to that question may help decide whether the next MAX line in the region is built from Portland to Tualatin.

A hint might be found in a 2010 TriMet survey of residents in its service area. It revealed that Washington County residents are much more supportive of MAX than their Clackamas County counterparts. That could determine the long-term consequences of a proposed ballot measure aimed at blocking a future Portland to Tualatin light-rail line.

Such a line is being considered as part of the Southwest Corridor Plan that is being put together by Metro, the elected regional government. Opponents in Tigard are currently circulating petitions for a ballot measure requiring a public vote on any new MAX line through their city.

The proposed Tigard measure is similar to one passed by Clackamas County voters that was aimed at stopping the Portland to Milwaukie Light-Rail Project. That measure has had no effect, however, because it was approved after the Clackamas County Commissioners signed legally-binding agreements authorizing the project, which has already reached the halfway mark. The Tigard measure could go on the ballot next March. That is well before the Southwest Corridor Plan is expected to be finalized.

For starters, the survey found that more Washington County residents ride TriMet buses and trains at least once a month than Clackamas County residents — 81 percent compared to 71 percent. Eighty-four percent of Multnomah County residents ride TriMet at least once a month, just slightly more than those in Washington County.

The TriMet survey found that 84 percent of Washington County residents approve of MAX compared to only 67 percent of Clackamas County residents. The Multnomah County approval rating was 82 percent.

Washington County also had the highest percent of respondents who say they only ride MAX and never ride buses — 54 percent compared to 20 percent in Clackamas County and 27 percent in Multnomah County.

The survey also found that 79 percent of Washington County residents believe TriMet is doing enough to ensure the safe operation of the MAX system. That compared to only 60 percent in Clackamas County and 70 percent in Multnomah County.

In a related question, 83 percent of Washington County residents said they felt safe riding MAX. That compares to 74 percent of Clackamas County residents and 82 percent of Multnomah County residents.

And 79 percent of Washington County residents said they felt safe at a MAX station, compared to 67 percent of Clackamas County residents and 77 percent of Multnomah County residents.

Metro is also studying the possibility of a bus rapid transit line between Portland and Tualatin. It would involve dedicated bus lanes along portions of the route. The proposed ballot measure also requires a public vote on such a line.

A new MAX line between Portland and Tualatin could cost $2.4 billion. A bus rapid transit line might be half to two-thirds as much.

The telephone survey was conducted Nov. 5, 2010, and Jan.7, 2011, among a representative sample of 1,000 adults in TriMet’s service district.

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