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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Roads Don’t Pay for Themselves

posted by on July 23 at 15:37 PM

According to those wild-eyed hippies at the Texas highway department, who report:

No road pays for itself in gas taxes and fees. For example, in Houston, the 15 miles of SH 99 from I-10 to US 290 will cost $1 billion to build and maintain over its lifetime, while only generating $162 million in gas taxes. That gives a tax gap ratio of .16, which means that the real gas tax rate people would need to pay on this segment of road to completely pay for it would be $2.22 per gallon. This is just one example, but there is not one road in Texas that pays for itself based on the tax system of today. Some roads pay for about half their true cost, but most roads we have analyzed pay for considerably less. To conclude, in the SH 99 example, since the traffic volume for that road doesn’t generate enough fuel tax revenue to pay for it, revenues from other parts of the state must be used to build and maintain this corridor segment. The same is true across the state, meaning that, as revealed by the tax gap analysis, overall revenues are not sufficient to meet the state’s transportation needs.

Drivers: The biggest welfare queens of all.

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Posted by pragmatic | July 23, 2008 3:48 PM

your use of welfare queens doesnt make sense here. it would make drivers seem like some mythical drag on the government.

Posted by Bellevue Ave | July 23, 2008 3:52 PM

Besides the direct revenue through taxes on vehicles, vehicle registration, tolls, driver licensing, etc roads generate revenue by enabling commerce and industry. The vast majority of what you see, touch, taste on a dialy basis was transported by truck at some point in the supply chain, probably more than once. So, your argument that driving is some form of welfare is dubious at best. You really are the Charles Mudede of politics.

Posted by pragmatic | July 23, 2008 3:57 PM

... and transit systems pay for themselves?

According to this page Metro is funded only 14% by fares, which is less than the 16% of this road that is paid for by gas tax. By your logic, then, Metro riders are bigger welfare queens than drivers?

Posted by w7ngman | July 23, 2008 4:01 PM

@4 HA!

Posted by Bellevue Ave | July 23, 2008 4:13 PM

Texas don't need no roads.

Posted by elswinger | July 23, 2008 4:13 PM

Bbbbubuububut if only we licensed bicyclists we could pay for it!

Posted by Anon | July 23, 2008 4:36 PM

Riddle me this, ECB: How come you yourself still carry a driver's license and drive or scooter whenever it damn well suits you? Really, I mean it, you need to publicly burn your driver's license and replace it with a WA state I.D. card to go with your 24/7 walking and biking lifestyle. And stay off the taxpayer-subsidized sidewalks.

Posted by Kaypro | July 23, 2008 4:48 PM

because ECB is a hypocrite?

Posted by Bellevue Ave | July 23, 2008 4:56 PM

COMMENT DELETED: Off topic and inflammatory. We'd rather not moderate your comments, but off-topic, gratuitously inflammatory, threatening, or otherwise inappropriate remarks may be removed, and repeat offenders may be banned from commenting. We never censor comments based on ideology. Thanks to all who add to the conversation on Slog.

Posted by someguy | July 23, 2008 5:00 PM

Hmm, I think we could have just left it at "hypocrite"...

Posted by laterite | July 23, 2008 5:06 PM

@9: Using a carsharing service once or twice a month does not a "hypocrite" make. And @10, I may be the Queen Bitch of Cunt Mountain, but comments like that are going to get deleted.

Posted by ECB | July 23, 2008 5:30 PM

@9: Using a carsharing service once or twice a month does not a "hypocrite" make. And @10, I may be the Queen Bitch of Cunt Mountain, but comments like that are going to get deleted.

Posted by ECB | July 23, 2008 5:33 PM

I for one am sick and tired of subsidizing those welfare queens who drive to "work".

Posted by Will in Seattle | July 23, 2008 5:33 PM

How is it hypocritical to point out that roads don't pay for themselves? People critical of public transit or Amtrak regularly claim that if buses/trains were so popular, they should pay their own way. That is, fares should be raised until there is no general operating subsidy required. By the same logic, gas should go up several more dollars a gallon, purely in taxes, to achieve the same effect for drivers. And in other instances there should be massive tolls for new construction. Neither of which would be supported by most drivers and anti-transit folks.

When you point out that no one fully "pays their own way", it's simply blows a hole in one particularly pernicious anti-transit argument. But leave it to SLOG commentors to degrade into misogyny insults within 10 posts instead of an actual debate.

BTW, this goes for air travel too, which is also subsidized in many forms by the government at large.

Posted by jcricket | July 23, 2008 5:44 PM

ECB @12-13: Thanks, I guess, for letting us know what the inflammatory remark was @10. It had been deleted by the time I got around to reading this thread, but now I know.

Actually tolls, in theory, are actually progressive. Those who don't drive the road, or for that matter own a car, supposedly don't have a dime of their tax dollars spent on its maintenance. Unfortunately, tolls mean drivers will use alternate routes which leads to more wear and tear on those roads and just shift maintenance projects elsewhere.

No form of transportation is entirely unsubsidized. Bicycles use the same roads as cars, and even walking requires sidewalks and pedestrian crosswalk signals. This debate over who is using more tax dollars for their transportation needs is just plain silly.

Posted by RainMan | July 23, 2008 6:12 PM

Fortunately, Erica never has to leave Capitol Hill (except on her extended vacations to Europe). If she can walk everywhere she wants to go, why can't everyone else? I mean, why do people even bother leaving the city to go to West Seattle?

Posted by joykiller | July 23, 2008 9:07 PM

ECB @12-13: First of all, learn how to not double post in all of your infuriation.

Secondly, yes it does make you a hypocrite. There are ways to get around using a car. There is the bus. You don't need a car. You shouldn't even use the bus. Both of them use gas and are bad for the environment. Far worse than plastic bags. But, your insistence in using a vehicle 1-2 times a month, and a scooter at other times, is indeed hypocritical in that you are ruining the environment, and expect other people to pay for it.

Posted by TheMisanthrope | July 23, 2008 10:12 PM

Heh Heh, ECB loves to delete the good stuff...

Yeah, throwing bait out there is what we in the internet world call a "Troll". You do it for attention, not unlike a needy stripper.

However, yet again, you failed.

I fart in your direction. Go back to nursing school and get a real job where you could actually help someone.

Posted by ecce homo | July 24, 2008 3:15 AM

You also have to add in the cost of all the parking lots most of which are empty most of the time the 20% or your mortgage going to your personal parking lots space in a condo where you are forced to buy a parking space AND the cost of your car to get started on true cost, paid by you thru govt or paid by you yourself, of the roads/autos/asphalt transportation system.

Then add in secondary costs like the earth's health, the wars, the power given to Saudi Arabia etc. etc., the fact that more cars means more congestion thus making all other cars more costly to drive via lost time, etc.

Lots of subsidization of transit too.

But you don't have to buy a bus nor park it nor insure it either .....they don't have on average like 27 parking spaces for every bus...they do for cars ......and there are few corridors where they are so maxed out with busses that there is congestion due to busses....

Posted by PC | July 24, 2008 10:15 AM

@4 v. good point -- and a link! Thank you.

Had slight trouble seeing the 14% did I miss it?

They say "The division had an annual operating budget of $387 million, received $78 million in operating revenue."
with 78/387 being 20% I get a diferent figure but the oint is made:

buses get a huge subsidy.

IF it's 80/20 sounds like the taxpayer is footing the bill for about $4-5 for each and every bus trip.

Anyone know the comparable figures for Sounder ferries, the light rail in Tacoma, the expected light rail here, the typical subway etc.?

Why isn't this all quoted every week in the paper on the financial pages, just like monthly median price and total sales etc. is reported for houses and condos?
Or we get stories on performance by Bank of America -- but not Metro???

Posted by PCdittohead | July 24, 2008 10:55 AM

Way to miss the point, commenters. #15 got it right when he/she pointed out the issue at hand: subsidies. Nearly every infrastructural element is subsidized. Parks, roads, public transit, airlines, and so on. Anti-transit "activists" need to chill out and just admit that they're self-interested and perhaps we'd all get along a bit better.

Posted by Sir Learnsalot | July 24, 2008 11:07 AM

As a former highway engineer, I can tell you that automobiles do not cause road wear. You can put a million cars on a road built for ten thousand and the road surface would stay pretty much the same. [The road would be conjested as hell, but the roadway would be fine.] So cars are *NOT* subsidized.

Trucks, on the other hand are subsidized out the wazoo. All roads are designed for the number of trucks the road is expected to accomodate. Increase the trucks by just a little - say 20% - and the road will wear down much twice as fast and need re-paving. And it's the repaving that is expensive - a minimum of a million dollars per mile here on the east coast, with heavily trafficed roads costing up to fifty-million a mile [or 1 billion per mile for new construction].

But, you say, Trucks pay thousands of dollars in road fees - yes, they do. And it doesn't cover a quarter of the damage they do to the roads they travel on. So I agree with #15 - the subsidies argument against public transportation doesn't hold water. Trucks are far more expensive to the state [not to anyone else] than any other means of transportation. If trucks had to pay for the total amount of wear they do to the roads, shipping would costs would double - and that makes rail very attrictive indeed. Hell, if trucks had to pay their full share I bet the increase in volume alone would eliminate the need for rail to be subsidized. And if we took trucks off the roads, the pavement wouldn't need to be replaced for 50 years instead of twenty, allowing cars to pay for the roads without a government hand-out.

Sorry for the long boring speech, just thought I'd toss in a few facts.

Posted by Schweighsr | July 24, 2008 11:39 AM

Arguments against ECB's opinions which are coupled with invective and spite are very unconvincing. I get the feeling that those of you who do this would deny the Earth is spherical if Erica asserted it, which makes you seem generally implausible. Disagree by all means folks, nobody is right all the time, but you just appear childish with the knee-jerk trashing.

Posted by inkweary | July 24, 2008 12:52 PM

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