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Who Pays for our Roads?



  • oldfarmer50oldfarmer50 Posts: 10,692
    I say build bike paths everywhere so that no cyclist ever has to ride where I drive. Do you have any idea what damage a twisted up bike does to the paint job on your car? :P

    2015 Mustang GT, 2009 PT Cruiser, 2004 Chevy Van

  • grbeckgrbeck Posts: 2,361
    guss: I did not know that all taxes collected needed to go back to the people that paid them. I know all the senior citizens in my state will be disappointed when the lottery money has to go back to gamblers for new casinos.

    Gasoline taxes are user fees designed to make the user pay for both the benefits being offered by the project (better roads make it easier to drive a vehicle) and the wear and tear caused by that use.

    As per the federal transportation act, gasoline taxes and other vehicle user fees that go into the Highway Trust Fund are being diverted to other non-road projects, such as bike paths.

    Given that current levels of revenue do not appear to be sufficient to maintain our roads and bridges, it is reasonable to ask whether diverting some funds for bike paths is the best possible use of those revenues, and whether bicyclists should perhaps pay at least something to maintain bike paths.

    guss: Saying that bikes and bike paths are good is kind of like saying mean people suck.

    It's isn't that bike paths are bad. (They aren't). I've used them myself. The question is who should pay for them, and whether we should divert funds from roads and bridges that are in dire need of maintenance to build them.

    guss: It goes with out saying that the are better for the environment than cars and certainly better for your health.

    I belong to a gym, which I use to maintain my health (which will reduce health care costs) and keep off excess weight (which will improve America, by preventing one more pot belly from marring the visual landscape).

    My gym membership, therefore, is a public benefit.

    Please list your address, so that I can send you the monthly bill for my gym membership. Keeping in mind the same spirit that you use to advocate taxing all drivers for bike paths, I'm sure that you will be happy to help America by making a monthly contribution to my gym membership fees. ;)
  • gussguss Posts: 1,181
    the argument is then that while bike paths are good we don't want the money coming from the highway fund. I would be fine with it coming from the general fund. It makes no difference to me where it come from, but if you say the government should not be in the bike path building business I would have a problem with that.

    I know the rationale for using gas tax money for paths is that they should relieve congestion on surface streets thus saving the need for additional roads. Whether this is effective or not I do not know. I do know a fair amount of people that actually commute by bike instead of using their car. I guess the real issue is how do we make them pay their share for using the bike paths and lanes.

    I am sure if you go to any of the biking forums you will get the other side of the issue ; "Iraq war, should bicyclists pay for it." But I am sure neither one of us wants to go down that road.

    BTW, since you work for the State of Pa , aren't I paying for your gym membership already? :P
  • grbeckgrbeck Posts: 2,361
    guss: I would be fine with it coming from the general fund. It makes no difference to me where it come from, but if you say the government should not be in the bike path building business I would have a problem with that.

    Perhaps a modest tax could be assessed on each new bicycle purchased, with the resulting revenue channeled directly to the Bicycle Path Trust Fund. Bicycle paths would thus be ensured a steadier stream of revenue.

    guss: I am sure if you go to any of the biking forums you will get the other side of the issue ; "Iraq war, should bicyclists pay for it." But I am sure neither one of us wants to go down that road.

    That's a different issue entirely. With bike paths, we are talking about diverting revenues from the Highway Trust Fund - which is already short of money and was originally set up to fund road and bridge projects - to pay for non-road projects.

    It is my understanding that the Iraq war, like all defense spending, comes out of the general fund. EVERYONE - not just bicyclists - is paying for it.

    guss: BTW, since you work for the State of Pa , aren't I paying for your gym membership already?

    I want a direct incentive. ;)
  • gussguss Posts: 1,181
    tax on each bike sold is something I could live with. But we both know that will never come close to funding bike paths.No one should have a free ride , literally. But bikes last so much longer than cars . Heck, I'm still riding the same bike I bought in 1976 with my grass cutting money.

    Maybe we need to register and inspect them every year. I can see it now , the Department of Bicycles, Scooters and Roller blades.
  • grbeckgrbeck Posts: 2,361
    Quite a few bicyclists I know do trade up regularly for the "latest and greatest." They follow developments in bicycles as eagerly as some people follow developments in new cars.
  • langjielangjie Posts: 250
    i don't think it costs that much more for bicycle paths. think of it like college sports. ncaa football and basketball are the big money makers. does the football program get all that money, no....the money is split within the school to fund other programs.

    i'd rather crooked politicians not get my tax money instead of cyclists.
  • snakeweaselsnakeweasel a Certified Edmunds Poster.Posts: 13,561
    Oh don't get me started on bicyclists, way to many of them think that traffic laws don't apply to them.

    2008 Sebring Ragtop, 2011 Hyundai Sonata.

  • tedebeartedebear Posts: 832
    Oh man, don't even get me started about drivers who think bicycles are toys that should only be ridden on parking lots.

    Bicycles have the same rights to the road as any other vehicle. And, yes, we must obey the same laws. I always signal my turns, stop at all red lights and stop signs and ride as far to the right as I can where a sudden wind gust won't blow me off the road.

    I wish I had a dollar for all the infractions and dangerous acts I witness by motor vehicle operators on a daily basis.
  • snakeweaselsnakeweasel a Certified Edmunds Poster.Posts: 13,561
    And, yes, we must obey the same laws.

    Yet I can count on one hand of a high school shop teacher the number of times I have seen a bicyclist stop at any of the 4 way stop signs around town.

    I wish I had a dime for every time I had to hit the brakes because some yahoo blew off the stop sign on the bike path and just flew out into traffic.

    And my favorite one was when I came to a complete stop at a four way stop the proceeded to make a left turn and almost hit the moron on the bike that at a high rate of speed just went through the stop sign then had the nerve to yell at me saying "Bicycles have the same right to use the roads". What a chumpolone.

    2008 Sebring Ragtop, 2011 Hyundai Sonata.

  • tedebeartedebear Posts: 832
    One of my favorites is the yahoo who passes me on a two-lane narrow road in a no passing zone on a blind curve when he/she has no way of knowing whether there is oncoming traffic. Once in a blue moon there IS someone coming the other way.

    Then there are the apparent deaf drivers who have their radio blaring so loud that I can hear it clearly when they pass me with their windows rolled up. I bet that gives them plenty of warning when an emergency vehicle is approaching.

    Or the occasional impatient driver who finds it necessary to fly around me when I am about 10 seconds from getting to the stoplight. I guess he/she gets bonus points at the end of the year for additional time sitting at red lights.

    It used to be a lot worse before I moved to a different suburb of St. Louis 7 years ago. At least the majority of the drivers where I'm at now seem like they engage their brain when they engage their gear selector. However, I've done multiple coast-to-coast rides and other things, so I've seen it all.
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 23,043
    Y'know, it might not be a bad idea to make bicyclists carry insurance, and registration. After all, if they want to have the same right to use the roads as cars, let them pay for the privilege. Yes, that's right...privilege!

    That way, they can be tracked better, and held accountable when they do damage. For example, right now, if a bicyclist hits your car and damages it, you have to take them to court and file a case against them, and hope that you can get them to pay up. I've been hit twice, while stopped at a traffic light, by a bicyclist cutting between the lanes. One of them smacked the mirror on my pickup with his backpack. Just kept right on going. The other one, a girl, tried cutting between the lanes in a traffic circle, lost her balance, and fell against my truck.

    Now, neither one did any damage, but what if I had a brand-new car and it got scaped up? If you damage a vehicle with another vehicle, and then flee the scene, is that not a hit and run? Which is, I believe, in most jurisdictions, a felony?

    Now sure there are plenty of decent bicyclists out there, I'm sure. But I've lost track of how many times I see one just blow through a red light without even looking, hopping up on the sidewalk to blow across a crosswalk to beat a traffic light, and so forth.

    It really makes me wonder, when a bicyclist gets themselves injured or killed, how often did they really bring it upon themselves? Judging from how often many of them act, I'd say quite often. Heck, back when I used to deliver pizzas, I almost nailed one once. And not with a car...with the front door to the store! I opened that door, with about 3 hotbags in my hands, and suddenly heard this yelling and screeching of tires. It was an idiot on a bike, flying down the sidewalk in front of the store. Trust me, everyone within earshot in the parking lot heard a few choice words that day...I tend to get a loud voice when I'm irked. That biker was about to get mouthy, but when he saw I was out for blood, took off REAL quick.

    Oh, another thing I like is how bicyclists tend to think that they don't have to stop for pedestrians in the crosswalk. I've almost knocked a few over, as a pedestrian, that way.
  • tedebeartedebear Posts: 832
    What many idiot drivers apparently don't know is that you are required to maintain at least a 3 ft gap when passing. I wouldn't even begin to try and keep track of the number of morons who pass within 12 inches of my elbow when the oncoming lane is completely clear of traffic.

    I'm sometimes tempted to carry a 12 inch heavy pipe. With my arm extended that should come to about 3 ft from my bike. If a car passes with 3 ft to spare it wouldn't impact on their windshield.
  • la4meadla4mead Posts: 347
    This is a perfect example of a totally irresponsible statement that helps spread violence and aggressive behavior, even if you were just kidding when you wrote it, and especially does warrant a response, since there are others who advocate and have done exactly as you have written, generally from cars against bikers.

    "I'm sometimes tempted to carry a 12 inch heavy pipe. With my arm extended that should come to about 3 ft from my bike. If a car passes with 3 ft to spare it wouldn't impact on their windshield."

    When you make a public statement like this whether you a ride a bicycle, motorcycle, or drive a car, you are encouraging adversarial and possibly violent attitudes between the operators of two and four+ wheeled vehicles which can only hurt your cause.

    Granted, you are "sometimes only tempted", however this statement is not helpful to your cause.

    While you are bringing up laws, let's think about legal rights, such as "share the road". Many of the recent posts against the responsible use of bicycles and motorcycles touch on this. Public roads do not belong only to bikers or drivers of other vehicles. And that goes for the folks who think bicyclists are too slow to be on the road. They should get over when they can, but otherwise you are obligated to yield. Think about it... You have to go slow in your 5500 pound 300HP pickup because someone is riding a bike up a hill, and you can't wait to get to a legal place to pass so you are raging? Huh...
  • tpetpe Posts: 2,342
    I have nothing against bicyclists. In fact with obesity becoming such a big problem in this country I think bike riding should be encouraged. However these bicyclists need to realize that our roadways were paid for by motorists and primarily constructed to facilitate vehicles getting from pt. A to pt. B. So even while the law requires that we share the road if I'm a bicyclist impeding the flow of traffic I will personally feel guilty about doing this on a road that these motorists paid for. So when it comes to sharing the road consideration works both ways.

    I've lived in a lot of areas in this country. Some are definitely more bike friendly than others when it comes to road design. I currently live in So. MD and the roads and bridges were clearly not designed for bicycles and cars to coexist. I do see people riding bicycles but they've got more nerve than me. I wouldn't feel comfortable with vehicles constantly whizzing by me a couple feet on my left at 50+ mph.
  • steverstever Posts: 52,683
    Roads existed long before motor vehicles. You remember walking, the horse, democrat wagons and buggies? Motorists don't pay their fare share (fare - get it? :) ) -- the road subsidy paid for by general taxpayers is huge and road subsidies date back to Zane's Trace in 1796. Taxpayers pay for building the roads, removing the snow and all sorts of stuff that the gas tax doesn't begin to cover. This book says the subsidy was $400 a person in the US in 1997.

    Since they don't use gas, maybe we can take the bike argument over to Bicycle paths, should motorists pay for them?.
  • grbeckgrbeck Posts: 2,361
    First, that book is hardly an unbiased source. I love the comment that roads are "exempt from property taxes." Well, duh - they are owned by the government! Guess what - government buildings aren't taxed, either. Does it make sense for the government to tax itself?

    He also includes the tax breaks for ethanol in the calculations. That's not a road subsidy - it's subsidy for agribusiness (think ADM), and most of us would be happy if Congress eliminated it.

    His claim that the sprawl is fueling increases in fire protection is particularly unpersuasive. Fire companies have always been expected to protect rural areas, which were linked by roads even before motorized transport. What is driving costs in that sector are more effective - but much more expensive - equipment and increasing professionalization of emergency medical services and fire personnel. The number of fires has actually been decreasing for years, due to sprinkler systems in mosts commercial buildings, safer heating systems in homes and a decline in smoking (fewer people are falling asleep with a lit cigarette dangling out of their mouth).

    I note that he conveniently ignores that, since the early 1980s, a certain percentage of the money raised by the Highway Trust Fund (which pays the federal portion of costs associated with maintaining and building the interstate highway system) has been directed to non-road projects, including bike paths and mass transit. One wonders why, if roads aren't paying for themselves, we can now subsidize other forms of transportation with revenues raised by federal taxes on diesel fuel, gasoline and other automotive products. Not that I have a problem with helping other forms of transportation - I like to ride bicycles, too - but let's get the COMPLETE picture here.

    Each state is expected to cover a portion of road construction and maintenance costs. Here in Pennsylvania, we raise the necessary funds through a combination of the gasoline tax, driver's license and vehicle registration fees and a dedicated portion of the state sales tax. Which means that a person who lives in rural Bedford County, for example, may be subsidizing the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority (SEPTA), even if he or she never sets foot in the Philadelphia metropolitan area.

    Sorry, but I take that book's claim with a rock-sized grain of salt. He has an agenda (I love his claim that we can spend the savings on '"necessary programs, like education" - a bloated nightmare if there ever was one, never mind that there is no proof whatsoever that we aren't spending enough on education.), and is twisting the facts to make it.
  • steverstever Posts: 52,683
    "Highway users, for example, pay only a fraction of the actual costs of highway construction, repair, and a host of other motor-vehicle-related services." link

    "Although "user fees" in the form of gas taxes, registration fees, and tolls pay for a portion of the infrastructure services, large government outlays remain that must be covered by general revenues." link

    "Q: How much of total road and highway costs in Wisconsin are covered by non­user fees from local governments?
    A: Estimated $1.29 billion of $3.29 billion (39%)" link

    Note that I'm ignoring all the social costs arguments here.

    Love the links wars. :shades:
  • tpetpe Posts: 2,342
    How much do bicyclists pay in user fees?

    Whether or not a motorists actually pays his fair share for the use of the road is debatable. A bicyclist obviously does not. That really doesn't concern me all that much. It's the impact on the flow of traffic that is more of an issue for me. One bicyclist on a road that 100's of vehicles have to navigate around is a trivial nuisance. Put 100's of bicyclists on this road and it becomes a nightmare. They have effectively imposed their will on the driving community. It's as if their right to use the road at 25 mph trumps a drivers right to use the road at 50 mph. So maybe instead of a user fee bicyclists should pay a disruption fee that will go towards expanding lanes so that there is an adequate shoulder for them to ride on.
  • kernickkernick Posts: 4,072
    From your 2nd link:
    Government directly subsidizes oil consumption through preferential treatment in tax codes. A multitude of federal corporate income tax credits and deductions results in an effective income tax rate of 11% for the oil industry, compared to the non-oil industry average of 18%. If the oil industry paid the industrywide average tax rate (including oil) of 17%, they would have paid an additional $2.0 billion in 1991.

    The official SEC reviewed, Price-Waterhouse audited annual report of the largest oil company in the world seems to greatly contradict this!! Look at P. 40

    For those with a slow connection let me recap. Exxon-Mobil sold $365.5B in product in 2006. It had a bunch of expenses including paying $30.4B in sales-taxes + $39.2B in other taxes. It was left with $67B in profits. Then they paid $27.9B of that to the government in Income Tax. That leaves the owners (stockholders) with $39.1B.

    So if my math is right Exxon Mobil after paying all their workers, and buying and refining the oil, earned $39.1B and paid taxes of $97.5B. So the owners got less than $1 for every $2 the government got. Did the majority of this $97.5B go to the DOT for road building or repair? The driving-public's money does pay those taxes in the end.

    It is the taxes that make oil and gasoline high. The oil companies are taxed up the ying-yang and have to pay for drilling rights, we are taxed on our income before we buy the gasoline, and then we pay tax on the gasoline from the $ that was just taxed!

    I think your author conveniently just used (Income tax/ Revenue) as his tax-rate?

    Would you like to look at the annual report for any other large oil company?
  • steverstever Posts: 52,683
    How much do bicyclists pay in user fees?

    Depends on whether you define user fee as a tax. "User fee" is one of those political inventions used to avoid calling a tax a tax. So, if you agree that a user fee is a tax to use the roads (and it's not like you have a choice in the matter if you want to exercise your constitutional right to travel), then the question depends on what taxes the biker pays. There's sales tax for buying the bike at least.

    Similar "right to use" arguments come up in the aviation community too. How dare that Piper Cub use the same runway as UAL's 747-400 and make all those paying customers wait for it to take off, even though the "tax" the plane is paying is a landing "fee" since there's no fuel tax on jet fuel.

    (Kernick - I don't do math; that's Tidester's bailiwick. :shades: Please carry on without me; I was out a week for the holiday and need to move on).
  • kernickkernick Posts: 4,072
    If bicyclists want full rights to the road then they should have to register their vehicles, be insured as I'm sure it is not always the auto-driver's fault, and still cede right-of-way.

    I've commuted many days this summer on my bike, and I stay on the sidewalks wherever possible; primarily for safety. I'm not one of these people who want to "make a point" that I have equal rights on the road, when obviously the paved roads in this country were built for autos/trucks, and paid for by the drivers thru taxes and fees. Here in NH horses also have a right to be on the road. Again, another not-so-hot idea!
  • kernickkernick Posts: 4,072
    (Kernick - I don't do math; that's Tidester's bailiwick.

    Then we'll have to logically ask you to refrain from posting on issues that involve math. ;) No more posts concerning taxes, finances, or physics. :)
  • grbeckgrbeck Posts: 2,361
    Here is a quote from your first source:

    Highway users, for example, pay only a fraction of the actual costs of highway construction, repair, and a host of other motor-vehicle-related services.

    Yet, the group's real agenda comes through in this sentence: Making the case for badly needed transportation reforms--more efficient conventionally powered vehicles, more attractive public transit, and the introduction of climate-friendly vehicles for the next century--the authors argue that these initiatives are unlikely ever to get off the drawing board unless and until U.S. drivers pay more of the true costs of transportation. (emphasis added)

    More efficient conventionally powered vehicles won't lessen the need for subsidies (actually, they will make it worse - if taxes to pay for road construction and maintenance are raised through gasoline sales, and vehicles use less gasoline, they will generate less revenue for road construction and maintenance).

    Whether a vehicle is "climate friendly" (a term, that I'm sure, has been tortured to mean whatever is convenient for the World Resources Institute's main thesis) has nothing to do with highway subsidies.

    As for more attractive public transit - if subsidies are the concern, then mass transit isn't the answer. On a per person mile basis, mass transit systems receive subsidies that are 50 times higher than that received by highway users.

    The share covered by user fees is 77.8 percent for users of highways and local streets, versus 23.9 percent for mass transit users.

    These figures are from the federal government, which I trust more than the studentbusadvocate and the World Resources Institute, as I deal with advocacy groups on a regular basis. So it looks as though drivers are paying more of the "true costs" of their choice of transportation.

    steve: Q: How much of total road and highway costs in Wisconsin are covered by non­user fees from local governments?
    A: Estimated $1.29 billion of $3.29 billion (39%)"

    How each state covers its portion (as opposed to the portion paid for by the federal government, through the Interstate Highway Trust Fund) of road and maintenance and construction costs varies from state to state. Wisconsin chooses to cover its portion with property taxes...considering that roads make real estate more valuable, and both people and businesses benefit from improved access (to ship and receive goods and services), one can certainly make the case that this "subsidy" is benefiting the intended recipients.

    Also note that it does nothing to disprove that revenue from federal taxes raised through sales of diesel fuel, gasoline and automotive products is diverted to "non road projects" (i.e., bike paths and mass transit), and has been since the early 1980s, as per federal law.

    All forms of transportation receive some subsidies. But the idea that drivers are not paying their "fair share" is inaccurate.

    steve: Note that I'm ignoring all the social costs arguments here.

    Smart move - they tend to be bogus.
  • vchiuvchiu Posts: 565
    >A bicyclist obviously does not

    but aren't many bicyclist also motorists ? And for the portion of those who don't own a car, how did they not pay for their share? Of course if one cyclist is jobless, homeless and on welfare... But I guess this is not the point here.

    > Put 100's of bicyclists on this road and it becomes a nightmare
    Isn't it rather a nightmare because there are thousands of cars on this road? I think we should consider that many cyclists mean that many fewer cars on the road. I consider my chances of dying when bumped into by a cyclist as much lower than by a motorist.

    >So maybe instead of a user fee bicyclists should pay a disruption fee that will go towards expanding lanes so that there is an adequate shoulder for them to ride on.

    I rather think that road infrastructures that don't provide the necessary provision for non motor users are either uncomplete or dangerous. That's the case in China where the same lane is shared by motorist, motorcyclists, cyclists, pedestrians and everyone else, hence the dismal fatality rate on the roads ands the very slow average speeds a car can go.

    Sidewalks and/with bicycle lane should be considered as a full part of the infrastructure , as they contribute to the safety and the pace of all road users.
  • snakeweaselsnakeweasel a Certified Edmunds Poster.Posts: 13,561
    This book says the subsidy was $400 a person in the US in 1997.

    So? Even if you never personally use any road you still benefit from the roads. All you get or used is trucked over a road at some point. Fire and police protection use roads as well as medical personal. So everyone benefits from roads even if you never use one personally.

    2008 Sebring Ragtop, 2011 Hyundai Sonata.

  • steverstever Posts: 52,683
    We had a thread over in the $4 a Gallon Gas discussion about who pays for the roads and whether they are subsidized (and if so, too much so?).

    So this discussion is being tweaked from paying for bike paths to include all the real and social costs of fuel taxes, road taxes, tolls and general revenue dollars used to pay for highways.

    Please feel free to contribute your experiences outside the US.
  • gagricegagrice San DiegoPosts: 31,178
    The first two links are by groups that are anti personal vehicle. I know in CA the gas tax goes into the general fund. The big complaint is it does not get used for highways. Much gets wasted on mass transit. Mass transit should pay its own way also. I know of NO place in the US that it comes even close to covering its own cost. Highways are for the better good of more citizens than mass transit. So if it is coming out of our tax dollars what difference does it make. If they have to raise the gas tax to maintain the infrastructure, fine. I just don't want to see a penny of my tax going to buy buses & trolleys that run around the city empty, wasting fuel.
  • steverstever Posts: 52,683
    There's lot more links out there, including a bunch of "social costs" arguments that I haven't looked at closely. I'm too tired to even read all of Grbeck's post yet, much less try to respond to some of it. :shades:

    I did like Snake's "everyone benefits from the subsidy whether you drive or not" comment.
  • gagricegagrice San DiegoPosts: 31,178
    I did like Snake's "everyone benefits from the subsidy whether you drive or not" comment.

    That is the truth. Unlike mass transit that only a few benefit from. The roads connect us from San Diego to Maine and all places in between. Some will argue it was the end of the trains. That may be. What better way to spend tax dollars, than on the infrastructure? It is used in one way or another by ALL Americans, as was pointed out. I am for taxing by the mile for ALL users of our roads, bike paths and sidewalks. To include bikes, cars, trucks & wheel chairs. We are right now spending a lot of money to add sidewalks out in the boonies as mandated by some ADA legislation. Those that will use that should be taxed for its use. That is reality. Paying for what we use.
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