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Funding roads (taxes, user fees etc)
#1
(12-18-2016, 05:53 PM)darts Wrote:
(12-17-2016, 05:51 PM)tomh009 Wrote: Current gas taxes add up to 24.7 cents/litre (10 cents federal and 14.7 provincial) in Ontario, excluding HST (which applies to almost everything anyway).  

Most of Europe is 50-75 cents/litre.  Japan is about 50 cents/litre but highways are very frequently tolled.

Personally I would be happy to pay an extra 25 cents/litre if that got us better road infrastructure.  Current levels amount to roughly $13B/year; another 25 cents would nearly double that (assuming some reduction in driving due to higher prices).  Consistently spending an additional $10B/year on our roads and bridges alone would surely be a good start in catching up our transportation infrastructure deficit.

How much disposable income do you have to be happy to pay more in taxes? I know I'm not getting a raise in 2017 : /

This conversation could get derailed real quickly, your lack of a raise is a big issue, but it's no justification to let our infrastructure rot and burden future generations with enormous debts (both financial and infrastructure).  

I'm a staunch advocate for reducing income inequality, but I'm also against using income stagnation as an excuse for bad government policies.

@embe  Nobody is denying that cars have benefits, that's why there's no car hate.  However, often, what *is* denied is the harm they cause, and the fact that they're enormously subsidized.  It's frustrating to hear people speak as if they're entitled to free roads, and free parking, and when they're forced to pay for these things, call it a war on cars.
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#2
"I consider that a two-lane (single lane each direction) network of roads should be provided free, on the theory that some vehicle access is needed “everywhere”."

I've considered writing a response to this a couple of times, because I think there are a number of fundamental flaws with this approach/proposal.

But the one I'll go with, is that it treats everything from Northern Ontario to Downtown Toronto the same. A single lane road in a very high density area isn't really providing vehicle access because its going to be completely unusable. The level of service in those two places is completely different. So if we change your idea to be that some basic level of 'transportation' service should be provided to everyone, I'm totally for it. That covers the ability for people/goods/emergency services/etc. to move at least somewhat efficiently. In many places this means by car, but in some places it means by mass transportation.

And I think that's generally what we do (although, sure, far from perfectly). New road expansions are determined by at least somewhat objective measurements. There ARE usage fees for driving. The gas tax is still being paid and its still being paid by the people using roads the most. There are also usage fees for public transportation and some Government subsidies there too. I definitely agree that car drivers are on the 'privileged' side of the spectrum right now. But I also think things like saying there should never be "free parking", every multi-lane road should be tolled, etc. is going too far to the other side of the spectrum and kind of ignores that drivers already are paying something.

Also, and as a more general point and not really in response to the quote, I'd point out that the attitude that we should only pay for the things we ourselves directly use can make it hard to build a great society.
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#3
(12-18-2016, 09:12 PM)SammyOES2 Wrote: "I consider that a two-lane (single lane each direction) network of roads should be provided free, on the theory that some vehicle access is needed “everywhere”."

I've considered writing a response to this a couple of times, because I think there are a number of fundamental flaws with this approach/proposal.  

But the one I'll go with, is that it treats everything from Northern Ontario to Downtown Toronto the same.  A single lane road in a very high density area isn't really providing vehicle access because its going to be completely unusable.  The level of service in those two places is completely different.  So if we change your idea to be that some basic level of 'transportation' service should be provided to everyone, I'm totally for it.  That covers the ability for people/goods/emergency services/etc. to move at least somewhat efficiently.  In many places this means by car, but in some places it means by mass transportation.

And I think that's generally what we do (although, sure, far from perfectly).  New road expansions are determined by at least somewhat objective measurements.  There ARE usage fees for driving.  The gas tax is still being paid and its still being paid by the people using roads the most.  There are also usage fees for public transportation and some Government subsidies there too.  I definitely agree that car drivers are on the 'privileged' side of the spectrum right now.  But I also think things like saying there should never be "free parking", every multi-lane road should be tolled, etc. is going too far to the other side of the spectrum and kind of ignores that drivers already are paying something.

Also, and as a more general point and not really in response to the quote, I'd point out that the attitude that we should only pay for the things we ourselves directly use can make it hard to build a great society.

I think you're mostly, in agreement with the OP, on your first point.  But I disagree with the second, road expansions are determined by objective measurements, but those measurements are centered around minimizing congestion at rush hour.  Which basically benefits single occupant vehicle drivers, it provides no real economic benefit over providing other forms of transit, but incurs substantial societal costs, the majority of which aren't borne by drivers.  You point out they pay some fees, but those fees cover only a small portion of the costs associated with driving.

On your more general point, I entirely agree.  We should invest in, and subsidize things to make our society great.  I don't believe mass single occupant vehicle transportation is one of those things.  As pointed out, it has enormous costs.  That, I believe was the OPs original point, and one you do seem to agree with.  Roads provide huge benefit, but the problem is, in dense areas, the inefficient and wasteful uses (single occupant vehicles) crowd out the more beneficial uses, so we must, at enormous cost, build them enormously wide.  I'd argue pretty much any other option would be better than that, including forcing those who are incurring the inefficient and wasteful use of roads to incur the full cost of widening and operating them.

In my mind, it really boils down to separating the beneficial uses of roads, with the inefficient and socially expensive uses.
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#4
Single occupant vehicle drivers still provide a massive amount of economic and social benefit to our society.  They're not just costs.  Maybe they're a net negative (I honestly don't know, its really complex to measure), but almost certainly not to the degree you're making them out to be.

We have vast areas of the province/country that do not have the density to support any reasonable form of mass transportation.  People need to get to/from those areas to their place of employment.  Even when a person lives/works in an area that can support mass transportation they may need to drive for a portion of their commute.
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#5
(12-18-2016, 09:47 PM)SammyOES2 Wrote: Single occupant vehicle drivers still provide a massive amount of economic and social benefit to our society.  They're not just costs.

We have vast areas of the province/country that do not have the density to support any reasonable form of mass transportation.  People need to get to/from those areas to their place of employment.  Even when a person lives/works in an area that can support mass transportation they may need to drive for a portion of their commute.

"Need to drive for a portion of their commute"...no, that's a land use choice, not a requirement of the mode.  But that's another discussion entirely.

Yes, there are areas of the province which don't support mass transit, I'm not talking about those areas, obviously.  But "single occupant vehicle commuter" is long enough already, rather than saying "single occupant vehicle commuter in an area dense enough to support mass transit".

In are's which are dense enough to support mass transit, there is no social benefits to providing personal transportation by single occupant vehicle over mass transit, only costs.
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#6
(12-18-2016, 07:46 PM)tomh009 Wrote:
(12-18-2016, 05:53 PM)darts Wrote: How much disposable income do you have to be happy to pay more in taxes? I know I'm not getting a raise in 2017 : /

Big Grin

Seriously, if there is value for those taxes, then it's fundamentally no different than spending money on a movie or a new car.  (Except for the fact that you have no choice about it, of course.)  Paying more taxes but getting nothing in return, that would be a whole different thing.

Well except I value a movie or a car that you are assuming I can afford. I will be paying more in taxes to receive the same services.
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#7
(12-18-2016, 10:57 PM)darts Wrote:
(12-18-2016, 07:46 PM)tomh009 Wrote: Seriously, if there is value for those taxes, then it's fundamentally no different than spending money on a movie or a new car.  (Except for the fact that you have no choice about it, of course.)  Paying more taxes but getting nothing in return, that would be a whole different thing.

Well except I value a movie or a car that you are assuming I can afford. I will be paying more in taxes to receive the same services.

What I suggested was that I would be willing to pay to get better infrastructure, not the same one.  No one wants to throw money away for no benefit, but by the same measure we can't get things for free, either, someone has to pay for them.
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#8
(12-18-2016, 09:12 PM)SammyOES2 Wrote: "I consider that a two-lane (single lane each direction) network of roads should be provided free, on the theory that some vehicle access is needed “everywhere”."

I've considered writing a response to this a couple of times, because I think there are a number of fundamental flaws with this approach/proposal.  

But the one I'll go with, is that it treats everything from Northern Ontario to Downtown Toronto the same.  A single lane road in a very high density area isn't really providing vehicle access because its going to be completely unusable.  The level of service in those two places is completely different.  So if we change your idea to be that some basic level of 'transportation' service should be provided to everyone, I'm totally for it.  That covers the ability for people/goods/emergency services/etc. to move at least somewhat efficiently.  In many places this means by car, but in some places it means by mass transportation.

You left out the bit where I said that additional capacity would be provided on an engineering basis. Most four-lane roads around here are full of single-occupant vehicles whose occupants could be riding a bus or LRT. I’ve waited for a bus on Fischer-Hallman and counted single-occupant vehicles going by. At rush hour there are several every single minute, probably enough to justify a bus service running every 2-3 minutes. So under my idea, there would be a single general traffic lane and a transit lane in each direction. Any capacity that couldn’t be handled by the general traffic lane would be handled by transit. If you don’t like the congestion, you can travel at a different time, use transit, or pay for a toll lane to be added to the road. Society has no obligation whatsoever to give car drivers as much free road space as they can use. I was going to continue with “any more than it has an obligation to provide as much free bread as everyone can eat” but I think there is actually a better case to be made for free bread than for free roads. For one, it (or some form of food) is essential to survival. For another, it would probably cost less than our fixation on free roads.

Having said that, there may be some locations where free four-lane roads are justified. It would depend on the details of how the system was to be set up. For example, there might be places where the volume of traffic from trucks carrying things that can’t go on transit justifies a four-lane road. On the other hand, maybe that means we need to build a toll lane. There might also be places where the design of an intersection requires small segments with additional lanes. Certainly, my design would have turn lanes almost everywhere — the single lane in each direction would have a single purpose, that of moving traffic, not storing it while somebody is waiting to make a turn. So my intersections would be almost as big as our actual intersections, but the roads between the intersections would typically be much narrower.

Short version: no more free ride for motorists!
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#9
And round and round we go. As others explained many times, it's hardly a "free ride" for motorists. Cars, and all the things that they come (insurance, fuel, etc.) with are expensive.

I really shake my head sometimes and wonder what kind of world a few of you grew up in that you think there should be no cars.
For daily ion construction updates, photos and general urban rail news, follow me on twitter! @Canardiain
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#10
(12-19-2016, 06:40 AM)ijmorlan Wrote: Short version: no more free ride for motorists!

We’re so far from motorists covering our own costs that any movement away from the free ride we’re getting now would be a good one.

I share tomh009’s wonder at the fact that governments haven’t taken advantage of abnormally cheap gasoline prices to raise the gas tax recently. I would say that that would be the place to start, and maybe investigating VMT, implementing road tolls on certain high-volume highways, and introducing carbon pricing. Those things seem politically achievable, and are a step in the direction of low-occupancy vehicles covering their own costs.

It doesn’t seem likely to be able to toll all roads above a base level of service, as much logical sense as that might make. The free ride has been going on for so long, people who drive (the majority of us) would balk strongly at anything like that. But we can move towards a situation where more of the costs of low-efficiency transportation are borne by the people making transportation decisions, so they can make better choices.
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#11
Sure, let's throw some more gasoline on the fire.

Nice roads are a subsidy for low-density development which locks the disadvantaged into a system which, should prices increase, will cripple their financial mobility even further.

Specifically: we have nice roads, so of course you don't need to build social benefit centres close to where people live. We have nice roads, so of course affordable housing doesn't need to be close to where people work. And if the gas tax goes up, or a toll is put in place, or some km-driven or road-impact based measure for usage is added, they will impact the poor with devastating effect and terrifying precision.

But the poor will pay, because they have no choice. The roads are already there, so the housing has already been built, the malls have already paved their parking lots, and the schools have already defined their catchments. They can't move closer and ditch their car. They can't buy a newer vehicle and dodge the gas tax. They're stuck.

This is the problem with consumption- or usage-based fees, and one of the key reasons behind progressive income taxation. When you are earning below the median income, HST and Gas Tax and Tolls and Mandatory Insurance and all the other frictional costs are going to take half of your income. (citation needed, sorry. I'm letting the rhetoric carry as I don't actually have data)

So whether you're talking Real World or Ideal World, consider the less fortunate in your plans for their future.
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#12
I think those are all really valid points.

I think the guaranteed minimum income is promising for addressing these types of problems and I think something like the "mileage based" tax is also helpful because we'd know exactly what each person is spending, and easily adjust that for income level.
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#13
(12-19-2016, 06:48 AM)Canard Wrote: And round and round we go. As others explained many times, it's hardly a "free ride" for motorists. Cars, and all the things that they come (insurance, fuel, etc.) with are expensive.

I really shake my head sometimes and wonder what kind of world a few of you grew up in that you think there should be no cars.

I’m talking about the stuff provided for free by all of us through our governments. When you can include road-use fee (to cover construction, maintenance, expansion, and congestion charging) in the expenses, then you get to say that it’s not a free ride. Until then, one of the most expensive components of a car-based transportation network most certainly is a free ride, and in fact what you mention about expense makes another of my points, which is that it is a free ride only for those wealthy enough to afford a vehicle and its attendant costs.

As for the second paragraph you might want to re-think. I’m looking at what I wrote and I’m not seeing how anybody could possibly think that I think there should be no cars. It’s just an utterly bizarre inference to draw from anything I wrote there. All I’m saying is that luxury goods should be provided on a user-pay basis. Uncongested roads in densely populated areas are indisputably a luxury good.
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#14
(12-19-2016, 06:48 AM)Canard Wrote: And round and round we go. As others explained many times, it's hardly a "free ride" for motorists. Cars, and all the things that they come (insurance, fuel, etc.) with are expensive.

I really shake my head sometimes and wonder what kind of world a few of you grew up in that you think there should be no cars.

Lets just be clear, the cost of something doesn't entitle anyone to better benefits. Cars are costly because they, as a vehicle, are designed to be costly. Some is out of necessity (you want a vehicle able to top out over 200kph, that can be a killer missile at fractions of that speed, yeah it will need some safety elements, and yes you will need to pay for insurance), some is your choice (I know many people who buy pickups that are used to ferry more than 2 people around maybe once every five years, rather than rent a pickup for those days and save tens of thousands, let alone when we want bluetooth connectivity or leather seats or better mileage), but in no way does that entitle anyone to a better version of a road. The $50 bike I pick up at a police auction gets me the ability to cycle on the same trails that someone investing four or five figures in a finely tuned bike gets. All taxes on every stage of cars or bikes (or anything) are taxes on general commercial activity, not an entitlement to better versions of a road or anything else (the gas tax being the one exception, though after having been frozen for a quarter century, certainly less so every year).
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#15
Here is a good post from City Observatory discussing the fact that motorists do not cover the cost of the roads they use, let alone all of the other costs associated with driving (air pollution and climate change, inefficient land use patterns, traffic injuries and fatalities).

It also talks about the fact that pricing roads makes them more efficient, but that isn't true in the same way for transit. And it addresses calls for pricing infrastructure for people on foot or bicycle- that absurd idea is sometimes proposed when someone hears an idea to ask motorists to pay for a bit more of the social costs they create.
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