What should road fares and pollution fees pay for?

Road fares should:

1. Pay for auto and truck expenses that are now subsidized from general taxes. See Huge city subsidies for autos, trucks (page 11). This is accomplished by the Free Market for Transportation Ordinance (page 16). To be politically viable, taxes that currently pay for subsidies must be lowered in an equal and balanced manner.

2. Charge an equitable property tax for road-occupied land. While railroads are often the largest taxpayers in counties, freeways, which take up many times more land, don't pay a cent. Highways should pay property taxes at the industrial rate, since transportation is an industry. Airports also should pay the same tax, since their present exemption creates unfair competition rail service, as well as additional tax burden for other business and residential property. There must be an equivalent lowering of other property taxes in the region, so that there is no net change in total taxes paid.

3. Pay for local air and noise pollution: Cars driving through a neighborhood should pay for the lowering of property taxes of that neighborhood. Freeways and major roads should pay in order to lower the property taxes of affected property.

4. Pay for road maintenance. (Note: all new roads and lane additions should be 100% paid for by direct users after points 1,2,3 and 7 have been satisfied).

Pollution fees should:

5. Pay for regional air pollution damage. Lower property taxes for each dwelling unit in the polluted region. Make direct payments for agricultural losses and forest damage, including parks.

6. In combination with (3) above, pay additional compensation for local air and noise pollution for each dwelling unit near freeways and major roads. This should be done by formula.

Both road fares and pollution fees should

7. Substitute for some general taxes (especially the sales tax) because:

a. For decades, government required land use that discourages transit, pedestrians, and bicycles (e.g., sprawl). The result of this government-required automobile-oriented development is that automobiles have an unfair competitive advantage. In order to attract private enterprise to again provide mass transit, this unfair advantage needs to be negated by charging the automobile and truck transportation industry in a way that benefits all citizens.

b. The above points (1-6) merely compensate for some effects of the automobile. Travel by automobile and truck should be discouraged for global and local environmental reasons, for the safety of pedestrians and bicyclists, and for resource conservation. Anything that is taxed is discouraged. A sales tax is regressive and discourages purchases and sales. It is no different than an internal tariff. Therefore, replacement of the state sales tax with monies generated by road fares and pollution fees would be a logical decision.

c. Automobiles unfairly discourage the competition. Some potential bicyclists don't want to breathe in exhaust fumes (smog concentrate) while exercising. Many are afraid of being hit by autos. Traffic roar discourages waiting for transit. "Bus shelters" often fill with exhaust.

d. While automobile and trucking interests will argue that it is unfair to tax their industry more than others, the fact is that they have been subsidized for decades, and have paid nothing for the use of the land occupied by their roads. The tax would not even pay back the damage, including hostile takeovers and liquidations of transit systems by automobile interests in all major California cities except San Francisco.

Correcting past inequities by the above process would induce private companies to again provide public transit. Studies have shown that these would be much more cost effective than publicly-operated transit systems. Private companies have lower operating costs. They are not subject to political clout but, rather, conform strictly to economic decisions in locating routes and stations, in selecting the transportation mode (e.g., light or heavy rail transit, or people-mover), and other decisions. Private companies strive to satisfy the customer much more than a government-owned administration, and tend to provide better service.


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