The article begins this way:
A coalition of conservative pressure groups has defeated any hope that congressional Republicans would back a gas tax increase to fund our nation’s transportation.
A higher gas tax is badly needed. The gas tax has not been raised since 1993, even to keep pace with inflation. As Americans drive less and vehicles become more efficient, gas tax revenue falls. Meanwhile, our infrastructure crumbles.
But last Wednesday, some 50 anti-government groups, including Koch brothers front group Americans for Prosperity (AFP) and other recipients of the Kochs’ largesse such as Freedom Partners, sent a letter to Congress calling on it to oppose any increase in the federal gasoline tax. Among their chief complaints, “Washington continues to spend federal dollars on projects that have nothing to do with roads like bike paths and transit.”
It’s part of the right-wing and Koch network’s coordinated national attack on transit. As Streetsblog’s Angie Schmitt has reported, the Kochs are going after transit in local referenda. Local AFP chapters have been leading the charge against transit expansions in regions like Indianapolis and Nashville. Last month, Urban Milwaukee reported AFP is trying to block a streetcar project. And Randall O’Toole, the anti-transit flunky at the Koch-funded Cato Institute, is arguingagainst a new line on D.C.’s metro that would link the urbanizing inner-ring Maryland suburbs.
Sorry Urban Cycling Movement, ‘You have made your bed, now lie in it‘! Here is an honest assessment of why ‘moving the goal posts after the game starts is a bad idea‘!
We as a movement have been telling anyone who would listen that the way to drive down motor vehicle use was to raise taxes. So along comes the Great Recession and job losses and the housing collapse occur and sure enough the mileage driven per household plummets. So far we look like geniuses.
But then comes the news that the U.S. Highway Trust Fund is out of money. In fact the GOP extended its life by a few months last year just to keep things from going completely belly-up. But then ‘a funny thing happened on the way to the forum‘ our team lost control of both houses in Congress! We got a general ‘ass whipping‘.
Now all of a sudden all that bravado we had been showing started to have its repercussions. We thought that all we had to do was sit around and wait for the game to come to us. We were already notching out gun handles to show how many more miles of ‘bike lanes‘ were being installed.
Then suddenly the threat of losing the only real revenue stream we had for public works projects that involved both ‘bike paths and transit‘ was allowed to lapse. And thus far is still flat-lined with respect to the rate of increase in revenue being generated.
Then as if the Good Lord was trying to tell us something, the price of crude oil world wide started to slide. The folks who have been clamoring for fracking privileges were unhappy with that series of events but what could anyone do. Well, the Loyal Opposition looked around and said, ‘look here‘ we got sucker punched at every turn on fracking so let’s see if the Left has any stomach for ‘eating their own dog food‘. And as it turns out we don’t.
Increasing Gas Taxes Works The Way We Said It Would
Suddenly we are faced with the specter of the usually aggressive ‘War On Cars‘ crowd trying to convince us that raising the gas tax will mean more money. But as has been our mantra for decades if you raise the tax the number of miles driven will go down. And that of course means that the revenue collected will drop as well. And if you raise the taxes further to offset the drop in revenue that will only hasten the precipitous drop in revenue.
This is a Hell of our own making. Trying to cast the Koch Brother as the ‘bad guys‘ is immoral and wrong-headed.
Mass Transit And Bike Infrastructure Need To Be Sustainable
I know that the Left is sincere in wanting to try and drain just a bit more from the pockets of the motoring public. But it is long past time that every segment of society, paid for itself. After all what did you think would happen if we began to tear down highways or not extend the system altogether? You surely could not believe that either of those options would create greater revenue for the U.S. Highway Trust Fund? If you did then we need some serious Economics 101 retraining.
In fact trying to yank parking off the street of cities is another big mistake. All that is going to accomplish is to decrease the income derived from parking and thus bring about additional shortfalls in municipal economies.
You surely were not hoodwinked into thinking that bicycle riders are going to be able to make-up for the drop in parking revenue and the gasoline tax decline by providing less wear and tear on streets? Surely you know that what ails our city is the ‘freeze and thaw‘ cycle each winter. Taking the cars off all city streets is not going to ‘disappear‘ the recurring pothole problem.
Unless you are planning to tax bicycle riders and mass transit users at a higher rate, their modes of transportation are going to be a further drain on the economy. I am all for paying what the service is worth. Buses and trains are too cheap at the moment. And ridership in both of these areas always responds to much needed income hikes by complaining that they should get more perks. Something which is as far from the truth as possible.
Riders should realize that bike lanes, bike trails and mass transit of all sorts are artificially cheap. We subsidize products like sugar and beef and never seem to realize that this is the case. The same is true of mass transit.
Take A Tip From Wisconsin
If you are a visitor to some of the bike trails in Wisconsin, you have to buy either seasonal or day passes. That is as it should be. There is really only one ‘good way‘ to make mass transit ‘fair‘ and that is to have it paid for the way you charge for fire protection or access to the electric grid or water system. Everyone has to pay. In fact that is how we fund public education. The fact that someone wants to send their kids to a private school should not necessarily mean that they get to avoid paying for the public system.
Mass transit should be a similar thing. To hear the ‘War On Cars‘ Crowd they would love to see cars off the road altogether and mass transit use at nearly 100%. Great! But then you surely would have to charge what the service is worth. Either you pay on a per usage basis or your taxes would float to cover added operating costs at the close of each year.
So stop trying to make what is an inherently clumsy and frankly unfair revenue stream arrangement the fault of the Koch Brothers. That is simply silly. We should not be so stupid as to use such a patently uneducated argument. Sure there are those with an agenda who despite their education will try to make the argument, but that still does not mean that it will get any more logical.
Making Motor Vehicle Operation More Expensive Is CounterintuitiveYou can try to control the increases in motor vehicle use by adding on motor fuel taxes. But eventually there is a limit to how much ‘discouragement‘ you can provide while depending on those same taxes to fund unrelated parts of the transportation landscape. And that is where we are at the moment.
We have seen the enemy and he is us.
Or think of it this way. Bulimia is essentially what we have been practicing on ourselves with this ‘War On Cars‘ attitude. Now suddenly we find ourselves in the hospital with the attending physician explaining that yes you can lose wait with a ‘binge and purge‘ protocol, but you have to know when to stop.
Evidently we do not understand the basic chemistry involved in keeping our automobile industry healthy and our economy strong while at the same time trying to fund non-related transportation segments. So eventually we are faced with a massive shutdown of our body system.