Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Why Not Apply the User Pay Principle to Road Users? A Case for Road Pricing

Who Pays for Roads? - How the “Users Pay” Myth Gets in the Way of Solving America’s Transportation Problems (45 page pdf, Tony Dutzik and Gideon Weissman, Phineas Baxandall, Frontier Group U.S. PIRG Education Fund, May 5, 2015)

Also discussed here: Report: 21st Century Transportation (Press Release, Frontier Group U.S. PIRG Education Fund, May 5, 2015)

Today we review an analysis of road costs in the USA (also applies to Canada) which shows increasingly that the tax on fuel for vehicles pays less and less of the overall costs for roads which include construction and maintenance, snow clearance, the health costs of air pollution from vehicle emissions, etc that amount to $10 to $40 B/ year attributable to driving. This is more than the costs of transit, passenger rail travel, cycling and walking combined. The balance of the costs not funded from gas taxes is borne by property taxes and general tax revenue which, in cities such as Ottawa, Canada’s capital, is more than the cost of police services or public transit. This is a clear call for road pricing which would relieve the tax burden of those who do not use roads and go beyond flat and partially subsidized road tolls. user pay for roads  

Key Quotes:

“Gas taxes and other fees paid by drivers now cover less than half of road construction and maintenance costs nationally – down from more than 70 percent in the 1960s – with the balance coming chiefly from income, sales and property taxes and other levies on general taxpayers.”

“General taxpayers at all levels of government now subsidize highway construction and maintenance to the tune of $69 billion per year – an amount exceeding the expenditure of general tax funds to support transit, bicycling, walking and passenger rail combined.”

“the average American household bears an annual financial burden of more than $1,100 in taxes and indirect costs from driving – over and above any gas taxes or other fees they pay that are connected with driving.”

“An estimated $597 per U.S. household per year in general tax revenue dedicated to road construction and repair.”

“Approximately $93 to $360 per household in costs related to air pollution-induced health damage…pollutants from road transportation contribute to approximately 50,000 premature deaths each year.. with associated costs for health care, lost productivity and lost lives. …the cost of annual cost of damage imposed by air pollutants nationwide (not including carbon dioxide) to be $71 billion to $277 billion in 2002, with automobiles, light-duty trucks and SUVs responsible for about 16 percent of those damages. The damage attributable to driving, therefore can be estimated at $10.7 billion to $41.6 billion per year,”

“Governments spend more non-user tax dollars on highways than on transit, bicycling, walking and passenger rail travel, combined.”

“Today, more than 5,400 miles of roads require tolls, 15 percent more than a decade ago.” “Congestion pricing, parking pricing, pollution-based charges and similar charges can encourage transportation choices that deliver the greatest benefits to or impose the least costs on society—even if every penny of revenue from those fees is returned to taxpayers or used for purposes other than transportation.”

 “the general public pays approximately $69 billion in taxes and fees each year toward the cost of building and operating the highway system, with hundreds of billions more in indirect subsidies and unpriced external costs.”

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