Growth, sprawl, transportation and more

This month’s Rebellion is out. I haven’t read it yet, but it touches on some pressing issues – transportation, growth, land use … read it here.

I said the essentially what he is saying below (with far less eloquence) the other day

From the standpoint of economic efficiency, transportation should be a “user pays” system. Political and civic leaders should disabuse voters of the notion that roads and highways are a free good. Someone must pay to build and maintain them. To the greatest extent possible, those who use the transportation system should be the ones who pay for it.

At some point, the market is going to have to drive progress. Hopefully it will be the “right” kind of growth – whatever that may be.  If you can, read it all.

Technorati Tags: , , ,

(Visited 11 times, 1 visits today)

7 Comments

  1. TrvlnMn January 4, 2006 at 03:08

    Jim wrote:

    Political and civic leaders should disabuse voters of the notion that roads and highways are a free good. Someone must pay to build and maintain them. To the greatest extent possible, those who use the transportation system should be the ones who pay for it.

    Let’s take that thought and run with it…

    As much as I hate the thought.. I think the best way to “disabuse voters of the notion that highways are a free good” would be to repeal the state gas tax and adopt the “per mile driven” tax/fee structure as is now currently being experimented with in some counties in Washington State. The experiment in Washington state was initially a reaction to tax loss due to the popularity of hybrid vehicles. But following Jim’s line of thought.. let’s make it a more representative user tax.

    Anyway that’s my 2 cents for now.

  2. Jim January 4, 2006 at 08:26

    First, for the sake of clarity, the quoted text was from Bacon’s Rebellion.

    This concept has been debated in England as well, and I believe that one of the strongest arguments against has been by privacy advocates (I would be one of them). Would those who use public transport be removed from the equation, or would the transport companies incorporate the tax into their fees?

    Honestly, If we are talking about a truly representative user tax, we should mention the FairTax.

  3. Ray Hyde January 6, 2006 at 10:24

    I really don’t see the difference between a gas tax and a per mile tax, conceptually. A gas (fuel) tax would cost more for drivers of heavy vehicles that do more damage to the roads, wheras a per mile tax wouldn’t. The fuel tax should be per dollar, not per gallon as it is now, so that tax receipts would increase with inflation and fuel costs, as do road construction and maintenance.

    A per mile tax would either have to be paid on the odometer or by GPS. GPS would be better because then you could incorporate congestion pricing as well – charging more for places that are most crowded.

    But we have already decided that trafic cameras were an invasion of privacy. A toll system that keeps track of everybody’s whereabouts might be hard to sell, except for law enforcement.

  4. TrvlnMn January 6, 2006 at 13:03

    Ray Hyde wrote:

    I really don’t see the difference between a gas tax and a per mile tax, conceptually. A gas (fuel) tax would cost more for drivers of heavy vehicles that do more damage to the roads, wheras a per mile tax wouldn’t. The fuel tax should be per dollar, not per gallon as it is now, so that tax receipts would increase with inflation and fuel costs, as do road construction and maintenance.

    As I understood the difference between the gas tax as it is now and a per mile tax- the per mile tax was being considered/looked at by the west coast states because, as a direct result of higher gas prices and the resulting surge in hybrid car purchases, the state’s were losing gas tax revenues. In those states the gas tax was supposed to be used for “transportation and transportation infrastructure.” (The reality was that tax pool always got raided for other state programs).

    Having the fuel tax be “per dollar” instead of “per gallon” – that’s an interesting idea. If we switched to that method do you think we could lower the overall tax cost per vehicle?

    As for the privacy issues both you and Jim bring up, I agree. I’m not really a fan of gps tracking for a per mile tax system. But for the sake of discussion I figure’d I’d put it out there.

    However when one brings up “privacy rights” for me that’s a political discussion. I’m all for privacy rights, However I get really irritated at how Inconsistant people are about the subject. Everyone wants to “cherry pick” which privacy rights one should and should not have, and one’s choices (for and against) are largely reflective of what political affiliation one has.

    And Jim, I checked out the “Fair tax” webpage. It’s interesting reading, however I think I’d need a tax expert to find all the potential loopholes before I could say yea or nay. Even then I’m probably leaning toward nay on it.

    Anyway that’s my 2 cents for now.

  5. Ray Hyde January 7, 2006 at 14:54

    Full disclosure: I drive a hybrid. I also have five other vehicles, two of which are heavy trucks.

    We have railed for years about autos not paying their full costs on account of the external costs of pollution. So here comes a vehicle for which the owner pays a premium to reduce the externality of pollution, and what do we do? Tax him more for not paying his fair share of gas tax!

    This is incredibly stupid.

    Road use taxes should go to transportation, and they don’t. That is part of the reason we have not been able to spend on roads, another reason is the success of the anti-road lobby.

    Because the tax is charged by the gallon, the tax rate hasn’t changed in years, and as cars become more efficient the dollars collected per mile go down. Fortunately, a lot more miles are being driven, so revenues haven’t completely shriveled. If it had been charged per dollar the taxes would have gone up withthe price of fuel. We would be paying more, but at least we would be paying our fair share.

    Heavy trucks use up the roads at a rate that is literally thousands of times faster than cars. Weather uses up the roads whether we drive on them or not. Even with tax based on fuel use, trucks are still getting a bargain, they need additional taxes to cover their full costs.

    Where you see cherry picking is in this full cost argument. Some people scream bloody murder about subsidizing auto use, but don’t blink at even larger subsidies for transit.

  6. TrvlnMn January 7, 2006 at 20:32

    Ray Hyde wrote:

    We have railed for years about autos not paying their full costs on account of the external costs of pollution. So here comes a vehicle for which the owner pays a premium to reduce the externality of pollution, and what do we do? Tax him more for not paying his fair share of gas tax!

    This is incredibly stupid.

    I agree. And so does the majority of people in the west coast states which have been considering the idea. Which is why it will never get off the ground. But by simply proposing the per-mile tax the politicians managed to get people to stop leaning on them for a temporary repeal of gas taxes when the per gallon cost went up as high as 3.oo/gallon (that and started them thinking the existing tax isn’t so bad).

    Some people scream bloody murder about subsidizing auto use, but don’t blink at even larger subsidies for transit.

    True, but then the theory behind mass transit is that with more riders it’s also more “environmentally friendly.”

  7. Ray Hyde January 8, 2006 at 21:45

    That is the theory. It’s also supposed to reduce traffic congestion. We can see how well that works.

    I love riding the train: every time I buy a $6.00 ticket, someone else pays an addittional $9.20.

    The cost of rail is 5.8 cents per seat mile, bus is 5.9 cents and (operating cost only) for autos is 7.8 cents (1990 figures). the cost advantage of bus and rail is not recognized because they operat with a great deal of excess capacity. they typically go one direction virtually empty. Rails averag load factor is 17.6% Buses are 14.3% and autos are 37.5%.

    This means the operating cost per passenger mile is rail 37 cents, bus 44 cents, auto 37 cents. Even after the appropriate charges for pollution are assesed, cars come out ahead in all but the most heavily used tranist routes.

    Data from Winston and Shirley, Brookings Institution.