Recently, I ran across this article detailing the contents is a letter sent to the members of the 114th Congress. Penned by a consortium of conservative groups, many of which are either fronts or funded by the Koch brothers, the document suggests that the way to resolve the autocentric woes of our highway infrastructure is NOT to raise gas taxes. Instead, it suggests that such funding could be made available by eliminating pedestrian, bicycling and public transit from the transportation budget. This way of thinking concerns me on several points.
First, it states that raising the gas tax would be a regressive tax, hitting the poor harder than the rich and middle class (what remains of it.) While mathematically this may be true, it presupposes that the poor are able to afford a car. Right now, such ownership could be considered a luxury, particularly in urban settings.
If these groups are successful, and alternative transportation is removed from the budget, car ownership then becomes a necessity for anyone needing to travel to work, to shop, to medical care, or any other purpose. Now we are forcing these people to not only pay the admittedly regressive fuel tax, but also to shoulder the burdens of car ownership.
Let’s not quibble about the paltry few dollars allocated in the federal budget for alternative transportation. Instead, we should be reviewing the percs and subsidies we provide to the automobile and those voluntarily held captive by it. Because a road system is overcrowded for a couple of hours each day and runs at half capacity the remainder, cities decide they must be widened. What happens when they can’t be further enlarged? Do we then begin to tear down buildings, forcing tenants to move further out and add to the load? Why not charge those who choose to travel during those “peak” Times (or their employers) for the cost of the otherwise excess infrastructure? Why don’t we charge for parking ANYWHERE? Outside of holiday sales, most shopping center lots are largely empty.
Finally, why not eliminate the subsidies and tax breaks given to the oil companies? Let everyone pay the true cost of transportation. This last is a pipe dream, as it will require the action of those in Washington, many of whom are beholding to the Koch consortium. A consortium who profit grandly by our continued reliance on fossil fuel.