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Re Federal Gas Tax:

A little disingenuous no?
On a federal level, ~15% of the ~32 billion dollars a year collected in the federal gas tax isn't spent on roads, rather mass transit, muti-use bike paths etc.

While there is more money being spent in totality on roads nationwide on a federal, state or local level, it certainly wouldn't be anywhere near as much if all the money collected from fuel taxes for motorist was actually spent on roads.

Of course none of this includes what must be billions a year collected in user tolls for roads, bridges and tunnels that is siphoned off for the States general fund use for other things, especially for transit projects. The 3.2 billion in road tolls from the DTR to pay for 54% of the Silver Line comes readily to mind...a sum that equals nearly the money VDOT spends in total on road and highway projects for the entire state of VA for two years combined.

The NY NJ Port Authority is another example of an enormous transfer of driver user fees to mass transit (or completely unrelated) projects.

75% of their 7 billion a year budget comes from bridge/tunnel/road user fees, yet they are only spending ~100 million a year on tunnel/bridge/road projects.

Yep, and to top it off, I'd hazard a guess that a huge chunk of that money was in the last four years -- being used as stimulus dollars.

The equity and externality arguments for roads funding vs bikes are not very good.

We need marginally higher gas taxes, that money being put into general revenue, and more money spent on fixing our roads and building transit options.

Running bus systems (like WMATA's) at such major loses and then hoping for gax tax to cover the bill -- not so good.

The calculations overstate how much was calculated by state fuel taxes and registration fees by ignoring the sales tax exemption for fuel and new cars. Given that sales taxes are supposed to be broad-based fees to run the general operations of government, the exemption for automobiles means that it is joke to say that user fees pay for roads.

While there is more money being spent in totality on roads nationwide on a federal, state or local level, it certainly wouldn't be anywhere near as much if all the money collected from fuel taxes for motorist was actually spent on roads.

But in many cases the best way to improve roads is to fund mass transit and so take cars off of roads.

@JitT; and I suppose they forgot the federal gas-guzzler tax as well.

Putting in resale gas guzzler would be positive as it would destroy resale values on trucks.

However, your campaign to pretend cars sales are not tax free is not good. Sure, I don't pay sales tax on it. I am paying another tax. 3%? 5%? varies by state.

I suspect the amount lost here is less than the exemption for internet sales.

Concerning the Douglas drawbridge. I don't think the bridge needs to be an operational drawbridge. They are not making ships at the Navy yard anymore, and I'm pretty sure the Barry is not going anywhere.

What's the depth of the channel up to Navy Yard, anyway? (Just curious).

re: the NYC bike theft video:

Would've been a more interesting film if he'd been hit on the head with a frying pan by some do-gooder.

@Charlie: However, your campaign to pretend cars sales are not tax free is not good. Sure, I don't pay sales tax on it. I am paying another tax. 3%? 5%? varies by state.

Your argument is possibly with those who say that user fees pay or the roads; I agree that auto purchasers pay a tax.

Consider the 6% tax in Maryland. If you buy a $20,000 car, you pay a $1200 tax. What would you call that $1200?

The state calls it a $1200 user fee and contribution to the highway trust fund. By that accounting, the purchase was tax free as no money goes to the general fund to pay for the general operations of government.

I think it is really a sales tax, since it has nothing to do with how much you use the car, and the rate is the same as the sales tax rate. Perhaps that is your view?

You can say that the $1200 is a tax to fund the general operations of government, or you can say that the $1200 is a user fee and that auto-buyers are exempt from funding the operations of government. What you can't say is that aoto buyers pay their pro-rata share of taxes and pay a user fee to operate the roads.

The accurate description is that auto buyers pay the same sales tax as everybody else, but through an accounting convention the state considers it to be a user fee. That doesn't mean that autobuyers are actually paying for the roads, unless you same in the same breath that autobuyers do not have to pay as much for the school system as people who do not buy cars.

I agree with you that many (most) internet sales receive a subsidy. The objection that "brick and morter" stores (and their customers) have is comparable. But at least most people admit that there is a subsidy going on.

That DCBAC page on the candidates' positions is informative, if not in the sense I'd hoped: transportation and biking issues are apparently below the radar this campaign.

@JimT; the problem is your highly artifical tax/fee distinction. I've tried to make this point before: Hypothecated taxes are not good. User fees (which are just taxes that Republican and economists like) are fine -- but not when they are hypothecated.

What we need is a higher gas tax, more money spent on roads, more money on promoting alternatives, and possibly someting like a virgina property tax is high fuel economy vehicles catch on. But all that money captured should go into the general revenue pot.

Mike Essig, I asked DDOT this question. It seems that federal law requires that navigable rivers stay navigable for defense purposes. It literally takes an act of Congress to change that. But it would save DC a fortune if Douglass could be non-draw bridge. The replacement bridge will be a drawbridge.

@Charlie. As you may know, what you call my tax/fee distinction was created before I could say "hypothecated" in the form of the highway trust fund. People like me and Ben Ross are making our "drivers underpay" argument within the framework already set up by people claiming that drivers overpay or pay enough. It seems reasonable to adopt the general structure of the argument that other people are making, if that allows them to understand your point of view better than they would understand it if you were to--for example--just talk past them.

There is an active push in Maryland for a constitutional amendment requiring proceeds from the various sources of the highway trust fund to only go to roads. Your logic would seem to oppose that amendment, full stop. That's fine. Others who try to empathize with the proponents' desire to not see driving taxes for nondriving purposes make a different argument: As it stands, driving is undertaxed. That is, it might be reasonable for a tax that only drivers paid to go for driving, but it is less reasonable to dedicate a portion of a tax that everybody pays for driving. Put another way, if everything is taxed at 6%, it is not really correct to call the 6% tax on autos a user fee for highways--but if cars were taxed at 8% then the extra 2% would look like a user fee.

@Federal Excise Tax

A little disingenuous no? On a federal level, ~15% of the ~32 billion dollars a year collected in the federal gas tax isn't spent on roads, rather mass transit, muti-use bike paths etc.

Answer: no. If X is the total revenue raise by the gas tax, y is the total amount spent on roads (which is what they say) adn z is the amount of the gas tax used to pay for things that aren't roads (so that revenue is x and spending is y+z) I believe they are reporting a comparison of x to y. Which is totally genuous.

it certainly wouldn't be anywhere near as much if all the money collected from fuel taxes for motorist was actually spent on roads.

It's kind of a shell game. We collect revenue(x), then we spend some of it on transit, bikes, etc (z). Then we spend the remainder of x + a bunch of general revenue (X+) on roads. X+ is much bigger than z.

Even if we spent z on roads, spending would still very near the current amount spent on roads. Whereas if we didn't include X+ it would far short of current spending.

Your speculation on the impact of tolls and where the money goes, but it is unsupported by anything but your rantings.

@charlie,

I'd hazard a guess that a huge chunk of that money was in the last four years -- being used as stimulus dollars.

So?

The equity and externality arguments for roads funding vs bikes are not very good.

Explain.

Hypothecated taxes are not good.

Explain.

In other news (somewhat related to bikes), the National Park Service denied a permit to hold the Washington DC Triathlon this year. Thus, the race has been cancelled.

http://www.dctri.com/

Apparently NPS is using the no summer race rule to justify the denial. They usually don't allow running races to be held between Memorial Day and Labor Day. But I have to wonder how important this rule is... to NPS? They have issued exemptions for 3 yrs. in a row (2009-2011). Is it really a rule if you break it every single year?

NPS seems to be wielding their power and using this rule in an arbitrary manner. If you promulgate a rule and then break it year after year after year, and then decide to enforce it again on a whim, what is the actual rule? No summer race unless NPS feels like it. That's how a medieval king would operate. A public agency in a democracy should not be acting like this.

I can't but help to make the connection between this and the Tourmobile/Capital Bikeshare affair. NPS was also adamantly opposed to CaBi stations on the National Mall until shortly after it was revealed that the exclusive no-bid Tourmobile contract was probably illegal. Then NPS quickly dropped Tourmobile and Tourmobile mysteriously sunk because of finances. And NPS suddenly became a fan and supporter of CaBi stations on the Mall (although the stations have not officially been installed yet, so they could still change their minds, again).

The NPS is also raising objections to the draft environmental impact statement for the 14th St. Bridge Corridor, particularly the section covering a proposed bike connector between Long Bridge Park in Crystal City and the Mt. Vernon Trail (and possibly East Potomac Park in D.C.).

I wonder why NPS controls so much local land. They wield their power over that land in an arbitrary manner, except that many of their actions seem to be anti-bike. I wouldn't mind seeing NPS losing control over many of those lands, and seeing the lands turned over to a local agency that does not view the D.C. and Northern Virginia area with the same lenses that they use to look at rural parks like Mt. Rushmore and Yellowstone. D.C. is a city. Wide-open areas shouldn't be locked down like they are natural, rural vistas and parks.

@Washcycle,

Point 1. Nothing in my post was anywhere close to ranting, rather factual and to the point. Simply labling any point of view other than your own a "rant" really makes you look pretty childish.

Point 2. You are completely wrong.

I read the PIRG report, and the reference documents sourced for the 600Billion over 60 year claim and they didn't consider any situations like the ones I illustrated. It was a simple federal gas tax, versus federal highway money allocation comparison which clearly leaves out user fees collected and disbursed for non road projects by organizations like MWAA and the Port Authority. These are only two examples out of many spread across the nation.

Further more, PIRG limiting their datasets to such, futher makes my point for me. If `15% of the federal money (5 billion last year) collected via gas taxes and user fees from vehicle drivers wasn't then siphoned off for non road projects, then that 600 billion over 60 year number would be significantly smaller.

Point 3. See figure 3 of the referenced PIRG report. 50% of highway money for construction and maintenance comes from gas taxes and user fees. Leaving the other 50% coming from genereral fund revenue.

2 Questions, how much money to build mass transit, and bike facilities comes from user fees or taxes that come DIRECTLY from the user of said facility like the federal gas tax and user tolls does for road programs?

And how much money used to build/maintain roads comes from taxes/ user fees specificalyl attributable to mass transit or bike facility ridership?

Your answer to both...zero


"If `15% of the federal money (5 billion last year) collected via gas taxes and user fees from vehicle drivers wasn't then siphoned off for non road projects, then that 600 billion over 60 year number would be significantly smaller. "

I'll take your word for that and not that you said "would be significantly smaller" rather than "would be zero or a negative number." The point of the PIRG report is that cyclists are subsidizing motorists. By your own analysis, this is still true, even if they magnitude of the problem is smaller than PIRG claims.

You my not like the level of detail in the PIRG report, but their basic points still seems to be correct. In fact, I've read numerous analyses of the "cyclists don't pay for the roads they use" fallacy and they all conclude that, in our society, cyclists subsidize motorists through property taxes and the local level and income taxes at the state and federal levels.

Nothing in my post was anywhere close to ranting

I call 'em as I see 'em.

You are completely wrong. I read the PIRG report, and the reference documents sourced for the 600Billion over 60 year claim and they didn't consider any situations like the ones I illustrated.

Really? Did you read this part (emphasis mine): "Since 1947, America’s spending on highways at all levels (federal, state and local) has exceeded the amount of money collected in gasoline and vehicle taxes and tolls by more than $600 billion."

It doesn't seem like I'm completely wrong. Since they covered tolls and all. It seems like someone else is completely wrong.

15% of the federal money (5 billion last year) collected via gas taxes and user fees from vehicle drivers wasn't then siphoned off for non road projects, then that 600 billion over 60 year number would be significantly smaller.

No it wouldn't. There is no need to include the money transferred to transit, etc, because it wouldn't change any thing.

They raised $X from "user" fees. Stop.
They spent $Y on roads. Stop
$Y-$X = $600 billion. Stop

Whether they spent all of the "user" fee money on tootsie rolls or highways, it wouldn't change the math.

how much money to build mass transit, and bike facilities comes from user fees or taxes that come DIRECTLY from the user of said facility like the federal gas tax and user tolls does for road programs?

Well, when a cyclist buys bike equipment they pay sales tax, which goes to general taxes and general tax revenue is used to pay for roads. The U.S. Bicycle industry sells about $6 billion in bikes, and so that means bike sales contribute ~$300 million to general tax revenue, and thus to roads. For starters...

And how much money used to build/maintain roads comes from taxes/ user fees specificalyl attributable to mass transit or bike facility ridership?

See above.

None of which is the real point. The point is:

1. User fees don't cover the cost of roads.
2. The rest is covered by general revenue.
3. Since cyclists require so little lane space and parking room, and impose so little wear on roads, they actually deserve a rebate of around $250 a year on our taxes, if they don't also drive

@oboe:

Jumping in late here, but the channel was dredged to 14ft in 1997.

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