Monday, March 12, 2012

We are finally no longer viewed as freeloaders. Sort of.

Nearly four years ago, I wrote about the fraudulent argument put forth (by people like Terence P. Jeffrey) that the federal gas tax covers all of the country's road expenses.

Back then, anyone paying attention knew that was completely false. The problem, of course, is that not many people pay attention.

Four years later, it seems as if there is more and more written about this topic, and the articles are not limited to fringey left-leaning or urban transit oriented publications.

In fact, USA Today* just published an article called "Gas tax falling short in paying for transportation needs," which talks about how "the federal [gas] tax accounts for about 45%-50% of capital spending for transportation." So, in other words, we have a serious case of motorist welfare going on in this country, and income taxpayers are covering the bill for lots of roads.

Which is great news for cyclists, who are often accused of receiving a free ride and enjoying the fruits of the gas tax while not contributing to the roads (or bike paths) on which they ride. Since it is a safe bet to assume that more than 50% of miles traveled in this country are by car, and that more than 50% of road wear and tear is caused by cars (opposed to bikes), we cyclists should probably be the ones outraged over the way drivers are getting a free ride on our tax dime. Right?

Regardless of your views on transportation infrastructure funding, admitting that general taxpayers are subsidizing road infrastructure with billions of dollars is the first step in having an honest conversation about this issue.

*I recognize that no individuals actually subscribe to USA Today, and the only people who read it are those who pick up a free copy from the lobby in the hotel at which they are staying. However, my point remains that the fallacy of the "gas tax pays for all roads" argument is being challenged on a more mainstream level now than it did even in 2008. Which is good news for anyone who cares about having an intelligent discussion about road funding.

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