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Old 02-25-2014, 11:13 AM
 
Location: Philaburbia
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Quote:
Originally Posted by oceangaia View Post
How does one define "subsidy"? To me, it means that it is being supported by people who do not directly benefit from it. Who is this large group of people that doesn't directly benefit from roads? Please don't tell me about the 0.5% getting by in life on a bicycle.
Bicycles need roads, too.
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Old 02-25-2014, 11:22 AM
nei nei won $500 in our forum's Most Engaging Poster Contest - Thirteenth Edition (Jan-Feb 2015). 

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Location: Long Island / NYC
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ohiogirl81 View Post
Bicycles need roads, too.
They don't need a lot of what is spent on roads, including:

1) Highways
2) Wide arterials
3) Spending to make roads faster (including curves, sightlines are safe for higher speeds). Often makes them less useful bicycles.


In some instances, less road spending would be better for bicycles
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Old 02-25-2014, 12:02 PM
 
Location: Vallejo
14,085 posts, read 16,117,190 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BajanYankee View Post
One argument is that gas taxes aren't really "user fees." If I only use local roads, or simply fill my tank up and then park my car in the garage for a month, how am I using the highways? So in effect the gas tax is not really a user fee, but rather a subsidy not all too different from the subsidies higways receive from the general treasury.
It's a place holder, a proxy. Most use the freeways. Today the technology exists to abolish it easily. Just put tolling things (FasTrak or similar) on all on-ramps and off-ramps effectively turning all highways/freeways into toll roads. It'd be expensive, but meh. Set the fines appropriate for toll evasion. Say the rate is 2 cent per mile (currently 18 cents a gallon, so this would be a large increase necessary to pay for roads). Set fines appropriately. Say there's a 1% evasion rate, so you make fine based on that. If the average person drives 5,000 miles a year on the freeway you charge them a minimum fine of $10,000. Worth it to risk a $10,000 fine to avoid $100 in fares a year? Probably not. Statistically the fee and the fares are equal, ignoring present value.

Of course, you see the complexity of this for collecting $100/year from a driver that does 5,000 miles a year on the freeway. Maybe it's 10,000 miles and $200/year. Who knows. Sometimes an imperfect proxy is better for simplicity sake. Yes, that means the person who drives ten miles round-trip to church on Sundays gets unfairly taxed. But we're only talking about $5 a year in that case in gas taxes. On the other end is me who probably does 20,000 miles a year on the freeways and 5,000 on local roads. Using the 2 cents a mile, I should be paying $400 but I'm only paying $180. Apples to oranges. 2 cents wasn't supposed to be a revenue-neutral rate, just one that under pretty much any condition would result in more revenue. It'd be revenue neutral if people did all freeway driving at 36 mpg. Most people get less than 36 and no one drives 100% on the freeways.

You could do that today. I'd say it isn't worthwhile. Just raise the gas tax from 18.4 to 22 cents a gallon or so and stop using it for non highway uses. Going to a completely toll road system would just be too complex and the imperfect proxy works better. Same for transit. Most places don't do distance-based pricing because it's too complex. It's not really a user fee. Potentially one could get on a bus, pay the fare, and then realize they got on the wrong bus (I've done that!), someone else could pay the fee to ride 4 blocks, and someone else could ride for 10+ miles for the same fee.
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Old 02-25-2014, 12:06 PM
 
3,565 posts, read 1,880,061 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BajanYankee View Post
So what would it look like if all local roads had "user fees?" Would I pay a toll to drive only a few blocks to the grocery store? Would people living in suburban subdivisions--whose property taxes in part fund local roads--be forced to pay a toll when dropping their kids off at the school down the street? Moreover, would cyclists pay a user fee as well?
I think that practical "user fees" for local roads would be State and local gas taxes and parking fees funding the entirety of road construction and maintenance. We could also institute local taxes on bicycles as a "user fee," though bicycles do not exactly wear on roads the way that cars and trucks do.

Quote:
Originally Posted by BajanYankee View Post
Only transit is not truly a public good like the other things you mentioned. I can come to Oakland and drive on your streets, walk on your sidewalks, and ride in your bike lanes without contributing a single dime to their construction or maintenance. You can't exclude me from those things. Not so with BART. I only get to use it if I pay for it. If I jump a turnstile, I'll likely get a visit from the transit police (and hopefully not end up like Oscar Grant).
At some point, I would say that streets, sidewalks, and bike lanes are not really public goods, either. They probably lean a little towards common goods in that shared use diminishes the utility of those goods for other users (if the street, sidewalk, or bike lane is so busy that travel is slowed).

Quote:
Originally Posted by oceangaia View Post
How does one define "subsidy"? To me, it means that it is being supported by people who do not directly benefit from it. Who is this large group of people that doesn't directly benefit from roads? Please don't tell me about the 0.5% getting by in life on a bicycle.

Everyone can't subsidize everyone. If nearly everyone is using the roads (driver or passenger), the fact that it is paid in various ways (property taxes, sales taxes, fuel taxes) is a matter of cost sharing not subsidy. Many states are starting to consider a mileage based system to fund roads. That would seem fairer to me as long as there are different rates for different vehicle weight classes.
Some people certainly benefit more from road spending than others, however. If I live a quarter-mile from my work, grocery store, schools, and entertainment venues, then I need far less road than someone who lives 15 miles from those things. If we pay the same amount for roads, then I am subsidizing the other person by paying for roads that I don't need or benefit from.

Teasing out these cross-subsidies in the real world would require substantial data analysis and deconstruction of the budgetary sources of road construction and maintenance funding. I agree, though, that mileage-based funding is more "fair" in the sense that people who drive more pay more for roads. It will be impossible to exactly apportion funding according to use, though.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ohiogirl81 View Post
Bicycles need roads, too.
But certainly not the same roads that cars do. And some bicycles would be quite fine on grass & dirt, if we didn't have roads.
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Old 02-25-2014, 01:03 PM
 
3,099 posts, read 3,204,694 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TheCityTheBridge View Post
I think that practical "user fees" for local roads would be State and local gas taxes and parking fees funding the entirety of road construction and maintenance. We could also institute local taxes on bicycles as a "user fee," though bicycles do not exactly wear on roads the way that cars and trucks do.



At some point, I would say that streets, sidewalks, and bike lanes are not really public goods, either. They probably lean a little towards common goods in that shared use diminishes the utility of those goods for other users (if the street, sidewalk, or bike lane is so busy that travel is slowed).



Some people certainly benefit more from road spending than others, however. If I live a quarter-mile from my work, grocery store, schools, and entertainment venues, then I need far less road than someone who lives 15 miles from those things. If we pay the same amount for roads, then I am subsidizing the other person by paying for roads that I don't need or benefit from.

Teasing out these cross-subsidies in the real world would require substantial data analysis and deconstruction of the budgetary sources of road construction and maintenance funding. I agree, though, that mileage-based funding is more "fair" in the sense that people who drive more pay more for roads. It will be impossible to exactly apportion funding according to use, though.



But certainly not the same roads that cars do. And some bicycles would be quite fine on grass & dirt, if we didn't have roads.
Actually bicyclists were the first proponents of modern smooth roads. And I don't think bicycles would do well for general transportation without paved roads. running on grass would soon created rutted paths which would turn to mud and other ecological problems
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Old 02-25-2014, 02:27 PM
nei nei won $500 in our forum's Most Engaging Poster Contest - Thirteenth Edition (Jan-Feb 2015). 

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Location: Long Island / NYC
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MidValleyDad View Post
Actually bicyclists were the first proponents of modern smooth roads. And I don't think bicycles would do well for general transportation without paved roads. running on grass would soon created rutted paths which would turn to mud and other ecological problems
Unpaved roads aren't bad, if in good shape and the bike doesn't have very narrow tires. Most of the wear on gravel roads (washboards, ruts, etc.) are from cars, which due to heavier weight dig into the road more. Of course, paved roads are still better for bicycles.
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Old 02-25-2014, 02:43 PM
Status: "Summer!" (set 28 days ago)
 
Location: Foot of the Rockies
87,035 posts, read 102,723,474 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jade408 View Post
I don't know. I think local roads are a "greater public good" like transit, street signs, sidewalks, bike lanes and libraries. So everyone should contribute to upkeep, maintenance etc. Even if I don't use all of the city (or regional services) I should pay for them. I can't pick and choose to only pay for the ones I like.
Quote:
Originally Posted by drive carephilly View Post
There is no form of transportation that isn't subsidized. Every empire going back at least to the Persians understood the importance of a well funded and well protected trade network of roads and shipping lanes.
It is good to see some urbanists acknowledging this. It needs to be repeated about every other thread.

Quote:
Originally Posted by pvande55 View Post
Gas taxes pay for about half. The rest is general revenues. In our State video gambling pays a large share. Do heavy gamblers drive more? Police patrols seldom pay their own way, despite the fact everyone complains about traffic tickets. I suppose you can argue the subsidies are worth it for economic development, just as mall owners subsidize their parking because it brings business.
"Sin taxes", e.g. taxes on drinking, smoking, gambling, marijuana (just heard a story on NPR about how much sales tax Pueblo County, CO has collected in MJ sales tax) have long been a way to pay for many government projects.

Quote:
Originally Posted by drive carephilly View Post
Back in the day I used to do HPMS number crunching and there really aren't many "local" roads that aren't part of the national network or at least a state network.

In PA anyway, the state distributes a portion of the gas tax to municipalities along with other DMV related charges.
What about city streets? Just askin'. Or does your last sentence explain that; do cities get some money from the state that they can apply to the streets network?
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Old 02-25-2014, 03:14 PM
 
Location: Oakland, CA
27,171 posts, read 29,720,175 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Katiana View Post
It is good to see some urbanists acknowledging this. It needs to be repeated about every other thread.
My issue is really when road space is deemed as something only for cars. It is all technically public space, so we need to share and break it up over all of the potential uses: driving, parking, transit, bikes and pedestrians. Although, I might say parking might be better moved off the road in some cases to free up room for other uses.
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Old 02-25-2014, 03:18 PM
nei nei won $500 in our forum's Most Engaging Poster Contest - Thirteenth Edition (Jan-Feb 2015). 

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Location: Long Island / NYC
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Katiana View Post
What about city streets? Just askin'. Or does your last sentence explain that; do cities get some money from the state that they can apply to the streets network?
Judging from the Massachusetts link, it looks like cities/towns* get funding for streets in general that they can apply to their roads as they see fit.

*which may be rural, urban or suburban for Massachusetts
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Old 02-25-2014, 05:48 PM
nei nei won $500 in our forum's Most Engaging Poster Contest - Thirteenth Edition (Jan-Feb 2015). 

Over $104,000 in prizes has already been given out to active posters on our forum and additional contests are planned
 
Location: Long Island / NYC
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At this point, let's keep the thread on highway subsidies or open a new thread.
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