American Want Transportation Projects, But Not Their Costs

A new survey shows that the majority of Americans place high value on transportation projects, but even more of them say they're not willing to pay any more for it than they already do.

The survey was conducted by the Rockefeller Foundation, and it found that 78% of respondents favored the idea of looking for private investors to pay for transportation improvements.

"The telephone poll of 1,001 registered voters came four months after a bipartisan panel of 80 transportation experts warned that the transportation system was deteriorating so rapidly that it would undermine U.S. ability to compete in a global economy.

Headed by two former transportation secretaries - Norman Y. Mineta and Samuel K. Skinner - the group estimated that an additional $134 billion to $262 billion must be spent per year through 2035 to rebuild and improve the nation's roads, rail systems and air transportation."

Full Story: Rockefeller Foundation survey: Americans rank transportation needs high but don't want to pay the costs



Transportation Infrastructure - We Want It If It's Free

The tenor of this article seems incredulous. People think that transportation infrastructure is very important, they think that it is inadequate, they want it improved, BUT THEY DON'T WANT TO PAY MORE. What's going on? Are folks crazy?

Context: Since the 1950s, government's view about transportation was primarily concerned with mobility. In other words, how far and how fast can we go? Government's view about providing transportation infrastructure (primarily roads & highways) was "Everything, everywhere for everyone all the time for free." The invisible gas tax (we know it's there, we just don't know how much it is) would take care of it all.

After telling people that it is free to drive and park in congested places at congested times, government officials are shocked that so many people are driving and parking in congested places at congested times. (Folks aren't crazy. They're just making the best decision they can with some very bad information.)

Well, contrary to government propoganda and popular belief, roads don't pay for themselves. Gas taxes cover only a part of their construction, operations and maintenance expenses. (A large portion of police, fire and EMS budgets are spent responding to auto accidents that kill between 30,000 and 40,000 people each year and injure thousands more.) Now governments are broke and officials are surprised that folks aren't willing to pay more.

More Context: Most transportation facilities, if well-planned and well-executed, create enormous value. But because the users don't pay user fees comparable to the value created, people who own land that is well-served (near interchanges or transit stations) appropriate that value by charging premium rents and sales prices for these locations. In short, we have taxed the general public to fund infrastructure that creates enormous windfalls for relatively few landowners. Now the folks who are lucky or shrewd enough to own land next to interchanges and transit stations tend to be among the most wealthy and powerful folks around. Historically, infrastructure programs have been a big wealth-redistribution scheme, taxing the general public and creating huge windfalls for a few wealthy landowners.

Maybe folks aren't as crazy as the article implies. Maybe they believe the myths that they have been told about roads paying for themselves. Maybe they think that the landowners who are enriched by roads and transit should pay their fair share. Using this "value capture" approach, many roads and transit systems could become self-financing. (During the days when roads and transit were privately financed, user fees combined with value capture were the primary funding sources.)

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Free lunch please

I'm a huge fan of getting something for nothing and highly bothered when asked to pay for the the things I need. I find this problem particularly acute when it comes to government which, as far as I'm concerned, should cost me nothing, give me everything, and do so at high rate of efficiency that is the envy of the world. When this doesn't happen I get very angry. I get so angry in fact that I blame the people who work for the government for daring to ask for wages that will support their families today and through their retirements and demand that they simply do with less. Now where's my tax cut.

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