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Who Pays for our Roads?



  • fezofezo Manahawkin, NJPosts: 10,357
    Funny thing about user fees on roads.

    We've been trying to dump them for years in NJ and invariably the argument against that is "if you use the road you pay for the road." This argument is usually made by people who don't live where they'd have to use of the state's 3 toll roads.

    So, now what do we have? A proposal to hike the tolls to cover infrastructure improvements on the free roads. Swell.
    2013 Mazda 5 Grand Touring, 2010 Toyota Prius IV. 2007 Toyota Camry XLE, 2004 Toyota Camry LE, 1999 Mazda Miata
  • steverstever Posts: 52,683
    More on "the true costs of transportation."

    Most drivers don't even know how much per mile it costs them to drive, much less how various subsidies come into play (ULI).

    "U.S. roadway user fees fund only about 63% of total roadway costs. General taxes spent on roads average about 1.8¢ per vehicle mile. Vehicle user fees would need to increase by 59% to fully fund roadway costs.

    It is sometimes argued that not all roadway costs should be charged to motorists. Even residents who never drive use road access for delivery of goods and services, walking and bicycling, and for utility lines. This can be addressed by establishing a standard of "basic access" that is unrelated to driving.

    Many people assume incorrectly that pedestrians and cyclists pay less than their fair share of roadway costs because they do not pay fuel taxes or vehicle registration fees dedicated to highway funding. Local roads (the roads used most for walking and cycling) are mainly funded through general taxes that residents pay regardless of their travel patterns. Less than 10% of local road funding originates from vehicle user fees in the U.S."

    (pdf file) from the Victoria Transport Policy Institute (link)

    Still putting the social costs arguments on the back burner for a while longer. :shades:
  • gagricegagrice Pahrump, NevadaPosts: 31,432
    "U.S. roadway user fees fund only about 63% of total roadway costs. General taxes spent on roads average about 1.8¢ per vehicle mile. Vehicle user fees would need to increase by 59% to fully fund roadway costs.

    If we figure the Federal gas tax at 18 cents per gallon. The only people paying their fair share are the Hummer drivers getting 10 MPG. The guy driving a Prius is a leach on our society by that measure. I think the only fair way to tax for highway usage is by the mile as Oregon is experimenting with and CA is looking at. It would be easy to tie it in with a mandatory yearly smog check on ALL vehicles including hybrids and diesels. What ever the difference from the year before you pay 1.8 cents per mile. With the advent of EVs something will need to be done. There is already a lot of CNG drivers not paying road tax when they use a home fueling device.

    We could tie a special tax on bikes, scooters, skateboards and wheelchairs.
  • steverstever Posts: 52,683
    We could tie a special tax on bikes, scooters, skateboards and wheelchairs.

    You left off walking and breathing. :P
  • gagricegagrice Pahrump, NevadaPosts: 31,432
    That will be covered by the Carbon Tax :)
  • vchiuvchiu PARIS, FRANCEPosts: 564
    > Unlike mass transit that only a few benefit from

    That is the problem that explains why many roads are overcrowded, especially in urban areas, by single commuters in their (sometimes) big cars.

    I personally favor the addition of an "infrastructure tax" on Gas to
    1) fund roads up to 100% , including specific infrastructures paid by tolls
    incidently tolls would be removed, which would save costs and lower the gas bill.

    2) Fund alternative infrastructure, namely light rail, mass transit and inter-city high speed transit.

    The Motorist would pay the real cost of gas (which is still cheap imho) and be offered more public transports as alternatives. Let us imagine after the necessary investments were done, that 20% of US population had access to public transport instead of 5% today (my own guess), then it would mean a potential of 15% fewer cars on the road.

    Currently, everyone has the choice of his/her transport mean, provided that it is a car. This situation is unhealthy, but are we willing to go for a change?
  • gagricegagrice Pahrump, NevadaPosts: 31,432
    That is the problem that explains why many roads are overcrowded, especially in urban areas, by single commuters in their (sometimes) big cars.

    If you look at cities like NY and London that have mass transit for most of the people, there roads are totally impacted. So how did mass transit help? I do not have hard data on who does or does not have access to mass transit. I know the suburb I am moving out of has bus and trolley service. The buses and the trolley run near empty most of the time. How does that cut down on traffic or pollution in the case of the bus running empty? In 2003 it was costing San Diego $50,000,000 to subsidize the trolley system. I have used it a few times to avoid high cost parking. I still had to drive several miles to a station and park my car in a lot that is a known theft area.

    Here is an interesting study on the subject:

    Voodoo Economics won't work. I have to pay taxes to build roads and defend our oil supplies whether I drive or not, and fire trucks, ambulances, and delivery vehicles need streets to drive on. Pretending that I somehow avoid those "hidden costs" by taking the bus is beneath stupid. Telling me that 45 minutes in a crowded, lurching bus is better or a more effective use of my time than 20 minutes in my car is a couple of levels below that.

    Wishful thinking won't cut it. It will do absolutely no good to say all these problems will go away if we can somehow persuade Americans to accept higher density and move back in from the suburbs. Suburbs began to sprawl back in the days of streetcars. Americans do not want to live in high density settings. Why not just accept it and plan accordingly?

    Studies have repeatedly shown two things: the more transportation is available, the more people spread out. Second, commuters start to get irritable when commute times exceed half an hour. Basically, commuters move out to a distance where they feel the time cost is acceptable, and get angry when the rules change. Moral: Americans like to spread out until other individuals do not seriously impinge on their freedom of action. Deal with it.
  • euphoniumeuphonium Great Northwest, West of the Cascades.Posts: 3,425
    Washington has the largest ferry system in the Union. They exist to service the transport of a minority, but very high income people from the mainland to their remote island homes in Puget Sound and the San Juans. The Bremerton ferry may be an exception to high income folk, but the point is the ferries are subsidized by the state's gas tax which reduces the maintenance of existing highways and roads. Ferry support also takes away the building of needed new roads. The state is divided by the Cascade Range and the folks in Eastern Washington, Southern Washington, & Central Washington directly subsidize the ferries in The Peoples Republic of Puget Sound.

    If Oregon can charge by the mile and bikers pay their own way, how can the ferries be self supported by not being dependent on the gas tax?
  • nippononlynippononly SF Bay AreaPosts: 12,726
    Don't ferries use fuel? Isn't it taxed?

    Ditto other motorized forms of public transit.

    And they all pay annual permit fees too.

    Bikes are obviously the exception. It doesn't seem outrageous to me to require that bikes be required to have little license plates, just like motorcycles, with a fee to pay annually. Heck, don't you have to pay an annual fee to have a dog?

    2014 Mini Cooper (stick shift of course), 2016 Camry hybrid, 2009 Outback Sport 5-spd (keeping the stick alive)

  • vchiuvchiu PARIS, FRANCEPosts: 564
    >NY and London that have mass transit for most of the people, there roads are totally impacted

    My short experience of those 2 cities tell me that maybe mass transit is practically reachable by maybe 25-30% of the population. whereas the very centre of cities have some reasonably present subway lines, those lines are often operating at maximum capacity. Otoh, further suburbs are very lightly connected. the neigbouring railway system is patchy and under-represented given the population and the overall transit needs. All those need gaps are compensated by car journeys.

    I deliberately exclude the bus system as a mass transit system, unless it irrigates neigbouring mass transit station. A bus Journey will meet the same issues with clogged traffic and road usage. Reserved bus lines are a first step but can not replace a completely dedicated infrastructure.

    The situation of London is worse with a decrepit tube that is badly in need of extensive refurbishment and development. There are a few railway lines which suffer the same fate and whom everybody agree on how unpleasant any trip may be. Only the Congestion Charge (CC) set-up by red Ken is starting to bend motor usage in the hypercenter and bring some cash in to start the always postponed work.

    Yes, Mass transit need huge financing and return on investment is not as visible/quick as when you put your money on the market. I don't think of it as a replacement for individual transport but as an alternative to give people choice.

    OK let me dream somehow. let me imagine some 600 Billion USD were not "invested" by some government in a middle east venture but spent in 100 Mass transit / alternative infrastructure projects in the US? Maybe this money would have been enough to make such transports available to, say 25% of the US population instead of 5%?

    Your study talks about the problem of underfunded and inefficient public transport.
    Naturally, people won't do self flogging and spend one hour of bus journey instead of 30 minutes by car (unless forced to). Modern mass transit offers good level of comfort and attractive speed, provided it is seriously planned, funded and implemented. It won't be done without government support anyway.
  • grbeckgrbeck Posts: 2,361
    The Urban Land Institute is talking about how much individual vehicle owners are paying to drive, not how much they are subsidized by government. That is an entirely different question.

    And it does nothing to contradict what I posted earlier:

    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.

    Those figures are straight from the federal government, and, if anything, are fairer to mass transit than other sources I've seen.

    It also doesn't answer the question that, if road users aren't covering their "fair share," why are we then diverting money from the Highway Trust Fund to pay for non-road projects?

    I have no problem with bicycle paths (I enjoy bike riding myself), and I realize that mass transit benefits drivers by giving people other options (and provides transportation for those too poor to own a car, or unable to drive). But the hoary myth that drivers are getting a free ride at the expense of everyone else is just that...a myth.
  • steverstever Posts: 52,683
    So .... about 22% of road funding isn't borne by the road users from those numbers. That sounds like general revenue funding is picking up the slack. And I think it's going to get bigger unless fuel taxes are raised.

    "About 45 percent of all highway spending comes from the trust fund." (referring to the Highway Trust Fund - Fox News)

    "The bulk of highway and road funding, about 55%, comes from a combination of state and federal gasoline taxes. The rest generally comes from vehicle registrations, drivers' license fees, bonds and other public borrowing." WSJ via Planetizen

    Not really on point but this misallocation statement was entertaining:

    "Over the past 50 years, the motorists in Alaska have received six times as much from the federal highway trust fund as they have paid into it." Heritage Foundation

    The Highway Trust Fund has a bunch of problems - more fuel efficient cars means less money generated per mile traveled, purchasing power has declined while construction costs have risen, and the Minneapolis bridge collapse focused many people on an aging highway infrastructure (link).
  • gagricegagrice Pahrump, NevadaPosts: 31,432
    "Over the past 50 years, the motorists in Alaska have received six times as much from the federal highway trust fund as they have paid into it."

    You would think that Alaska would have better roads. That new Seward Highway is horrible. Alaska attracts a lot of shyster type contractors. Build it and head South, never to be heard from again. Then they probably have sent more legislators to prison in the last few years of any state. Maybe they are just cleaning house. Something the other 49 states and Congress needs to do.
  • steverstever Posts: 52,683
    "This abundance of natural gas is something we weren't expecting as a country, but it's here now, and it's a gift we should take advantage of," says Steven Mueller, chief executive of Houston-based natural-gas producer Southwestern Energy Co. "There's huge savings here and a way to help to environment."

    Natural gas is already making big inroads in the commercial-truck market. Delivery companies, trash haulers and other firms that operate big fleets are switching to natural-gas vehicles to save on fuel costs."

    At ~half the cost of diesel (not counting the infrastructure you need if you run a trucking terminal), wouldn't that mean you would pay half the road taxes that you are currently paying if your semi was running diesel?
  • steverstever Posts: 52,683
    "As Sander Van Dedem recalled watching the charges tick up every 10 seconds on the dashboard meter on the way to the airport, he resolved to try public transportation next time. “Looking at the money makes you realize that a car isn’t always a good idea,” said Mr. Van Dedem, a commercial sales manager for I.B.M. here.

    But his pricey ride was not in a taxi. He was driving his own Volvo XC60.

    The car had been outfitted with the meter so that Mr. Van Dedem could take part in a trial of a controversial government tax proposal to charge drivers a fee for the miles they drive."

    In Auto Test in Europe, Meter Ticks Off Miles, and Fee to Driver (NY Times)

    Oregon has been wrestling with this issue for a while.

    "If electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid cars do not consume gasoline, they don't have to pay the state gas tax.

    Legislators are looking to change that."

    Tax electric cars by the mile? 'The gas tax cannot survive' (KVAL)

    Massachusetts too.

    Pay-per-mile tax is latest cash grab from greedy pols (Boston Herald)
  • fintailfintail Posts: 46,245
    If only I had proof that taxes actually went to infrastructure and not to public sector graft :sick:
  • steverstever Posts: 52,683
    edited August 2012
    Pay by the mile driving proposed in the Bay Area, tracked via GPS. Probably won't go anywhere but never assume anything about San Fran. :shades:

    California Community Mulls Driving Tax Amid Privacy Concerns (Inside Line)
  • nippononlynippononly SF Bay AreaPosts: 12,726
    Almost certainly a non-starter for now, but there are more and more versions of this tax-the-miles approach popping up all the time in various municipalities.

    I would not be surprised at all to see the first of these ideas become reality in ten years. Me, I don't care about the privacy issues really, since I will be out on public roads, but I also don't believe the money will be used for what it was intended. So we will just be paying more and more to have third-world roads and constant gridlock.

    2014 Mini Cooper (stick shift of course), 2016 Camry hybrid, 2009 Outback Sport 5-spd (keeping the stick alive)

  • berriberri Posts: 9,135
    I think you're right. Heck, more and more states are trying to affix tolls to Interstates which were all taxpayer funded.
  • steverstever Posts: 52,683
    Remember this discussion? Now we can blame the millennials.

    "In a new report, Wall Street rating agency Standard & Poor's said millennials nationwide are driving far less than older motorists did when they came of age—and when they do get behind the wheel, they are generally in smaller, more fuel-efficient cars.

    Meanwhile, even if driving were to increase, the overall higher fuel efficiency of cars now on the road will continue to have an impact, even after the millennials begin having families and start driving minivans to soccer practice. The Standard & Poor's report said cars on U.S. roads are "now more fuel-efficient than ever—and by a substantial margin, compared with just a decade or so ago." It said fuel efficiency has improved 25 percent compared with vehicles from model year 2004, which will keep gas tax revenues depressed."

    Millennials ease off the gas (making it harder to pay for roads...) (
  • fintailfintail Posts: 46,245
    The criticism of the article in the comments is more valuable than the article itself.

    It'd be interesting to see the road-based tax policies that existed back when generations prior were hitting their stride, and infrastructure was much better. Maybe back then there weren't so many pseudo-private contractors at the trough, and not so many platinum benefits.
  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonPosts: 20,197
    edited November 2015
    This is a very sore subject for me since our roads are choked with bicycles.

    Fintail is aware of the old railroad bed on E. Lake Samm that got converted to a bicycle/walking path. a few years back. Well, the bicyclists didn't like the gravel path so to please them MILLIONS of dollars were spent paving to to make it smooth. And what taxes do these bicycle riders pay? How about NOTHING!

    Seattle caters to bicycles and we spend tons of money putting up Share the Road signs and painting lanes for them to ride in. Some are arrogant and some love riding side by side impeding traffic.

    It just seems to me that asking them to pay maybe 20.00 a year wouldn't be asking too much!
  • steverstever Posts: 52,683
    edited November 2015
    And car drivers are lily-white and none are driving around on expired plates. :p

    Try a bike sometime - you found out you like Toyotas just fine, you might like two wheels too. :D
  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonPosts: 20,197
    edited November 2015
    I have a lot of bicycle miles under my belt.

    Growing up in So. California, we didn't have dedicated bicycle lanes. We had to fend for ourselves and guess what? We were required to pay a yearly license fee. You paid the fee and applied a decal to your bicycle.

    If a cop stopped you for something and you didn't have a current sticker you paid a fine. Ask me how I know!

    Car drivers are far from lily white and some cars probably have expired plates. It's hard to have expired plates on a bicycle in this state since they aren't required.

    Due to your defensive comments, I have to assume you're a biker?

    As a bike rider, would you be opposed to paying a small yearly fee for a license?

    Just curious...
  • fintailfintail Posts: 46,245
    edited November 2015
    And some type of ID so the CCTV network can keep an eye on things, and insurance...

    But this isn't a bike thread. Now that WA is embracing toll lanes to keep taxation regressive, cyclists definitely should be forced to chip in if they want special areas. Pay up or shut up, just as motorists are told to do.
  • steverstever Posts: 52,683
    edited November 2015

    As a bike rider, would you be opposed to paying a small yearly fee for a license? Just curious...

    Yeah, I object, I pay enough taxes as it is.

    The only advantage of getting older was that I was able to hike around on the National Monument yesterday without having to pay the $5 daily entrance fee.

    I'm pretty much against any user fee that charges people for using their own body to recreate (or commute). Walking, hiking, biking, skiing on the flats, paddling. I'm also against state and federal park entry fees - anything that discourages people from getting out of their car and get some fresh air.

    Bike paths more than pay for themselves just with heart attack prevention and rehab.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 62,369
    I still have my "ONE LESS CAR" t-shirt that I wear occasionally to remind motorists that me on my bike represents one more parking space for them.

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