Welcome Guest! In order to take advantage of all the great features that Waterloo Region Connected has to offer, including participating in the lively discussions below, you're going to have to register. The good news is that it'll take less than a minute and you can get started enjoying Waterloo Region's best online community right away. Click here to get started.


Thread Rating:
  • 4 Vote(s) - 3.75 Average
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
General Road and Highway Discussion
(07-12-2017, 08:58 PM)danbrotherston Wrote: the buying activity will still take place, and will almost certainly result in the same economic activity and taxes as buying a car (with a possible small decrease if you instead buy on average more imported goods).

This is an overly simplistic assumption. Money can be used in a lot of ways that don't result in sales tax revenue. Savings. Non-taxable goods. Foreign goods and Travel. Etc. There's some overlap, but you can't just ignore it and pretend like it would be spent anyway.
Reply
ijmorlan, I don't have a fundamental disagreement with your proposal.  But I think the big gaps are:

1. Ensuring the Government doesn't double dip.  Tax revenue should go down commensurate with the service level they're offering going down.

2. There should be some accounting for the general economic and social benefit that highways provide.  It's not just the drivers of the highway that benefit.  The Government should pony up some money for that benefit that comes out of general tax revenue (which is our 'best' way of charging society as a whole in a fair manner).

3. There should be some accounting for the nature/purpose of the highway and its relative importance.  In your proposal it seems like we should provide some basic level of transportation 'for free'.  Between some high density areas, that basic service level may require highways.  In other cases it might not.  But I think its too simplistic to say that non-highways are ok to be funded directly by the Government but highways aren't.  It's very situational dependent.
Reply
(07-12-2017, 10:01 PM)SammyOES2 Wrote:
(07-12-2017, 08:58 PM)danbrotherston Wrote: the buying activity will still take place, and will almost certainly result in the same economic activity and taxes as buying a car (with a possible small decrease if you instead buy on average more imported goods).

This is an overly simplistic assumption.  Money can be used in a lot of ways that don't result in sales tax revenue.  Savings.  Non-taxable goods.  Foreign goods and Travel.  Etc.  There's some overlap, but you can't just ignore it and pretend like it would be spent anyway.


I think it's a fair argument. Money doesn't have any inherent value until it's exchanged for some sort of goods or services. The government taxes that. The exceptions are a small fraction of what is taxed with HST.
Reply
It's not about the 'inherent value' of the money. The issue at hand is money that arrives (or doesn't) in the Governments hands to be spent. If I pay HST on gas they get to spend that money now. If instead I invest that money for retirement, they don't get to spend the money for awhile (if ever).
Reply
It doesn't make a lot of sense to me to view sales tax on gasoline as some kind of a user fee to pay for roads. The gas tax is intended to be something like that, but HST applies on everything- I can't think why, in the specific case of gasoline used for driving, it would go to anywhere besides general revenue.

As for the question of whether money not spent on gas or cars would instead be spent on something else, some of it would indeed be saved or invested- but, in Ontario lately, not much. Households' savings rates are not particularly high right now. The majority of it would be used for consumption.

I can understand that, for someone who drives, it's not very important whether the costs of that come from charges to him as a motorist, or taxes paid by him as a taxpayer. And, given that most Ontarians drive, that may well be good enough. If you're not a driver, though, or you're a light user of the roads, you're probably subsidizing drivers or more-frequent drivers.

That probably isn't a big problem (how much are the subsidies likely to be, really? is anyone living in poverty because of all the taxes he pays to support other people's driving habits?). But it isn't efficient, and if we ever wanted to curb driving in any real way, the way the costs are paid would need to change. We don't, though: most people are happy with the current system, there's no political will to make driving more expensive for drivers.
Reply
(07-13-2017, 06:31 AM)MidTowner Wrote: It doesn't make a lot of sense to me to view sales tax on gasoline as some kind of a user fee to pay for roads. The gas tax is intended to be something like that, but HST applies on everything- I can't think why, in the specific case of gasoline used for driving, it would go to anywhere besides general revenue.

It should go to general revenue, that's not really my point.  But in the context of "the amount of subsidies" discussion, I really don't understand why you wouldn't count at least a portion of the revenue that comes directly from people driving.  It has a real effect, since w/o driving a chunk of that money wouldn't be generated as revenue.  I mentioned examples above, but another big one is for out-of-province drivers.  The high-level point being if you want to talk about the subsidies that drivers receive, you can't ignore a chunk of revenue that they generate for the Government (imo).

(07-13-2017, 06:31 AM)MidTowner Wrote: As for the question of whether money not spent on gas or cars would instead be spent on something else, some of it would indeed be saved or invested- but, in Ontario lately, not much. Households' savings rates are not particularly high right now. The majority of it would be used for consumption.

There's a non-trivial amount that wouldn't be.  Low-income drivers that consume a bigger proportion of tax-exempt goods.  High-income drivers that would save the excess money.  Tourists that would spend their money at home instead.  Etc.

(07-13-2017, 06:31 AM)MidTowner Wrote: I can understand that, for someone who drives, it's not very important whether the costs of that come from charges to him as a motorist, or taxes paid by him as a taxpayer. And, given that most Ontarians drive, that may well be good enough. If you're not a driver, though, or you're a light user of the roads, you're probably subsidizing drivers or more-frequent drivers.

Yes.  My point isn't that its totally fair.  Just that the frequent claim by some people in this forum (and in that opinion piece) is that drivers are "enormously subsidized".  And that's just nonsense.  Edit: And also note that when it comes to Government services, most of them *SHOULD* be subsidized in some way.  If they're being provided by the Government we should generally consider them important and want to offer services more fairly to our citizens.  It's the same reason I argue with people complaining about 'the subsidies' that public transportation receive.

(07-13-2017, 06:31 AM)MidTowner Wrote: That probably isn't a big problem (how much are the subsidies likely to be, really? is anyone living in poverty because of all the taxes he pays to support other people's driving habits?). But it isn't efficient, and if we ever wanted to curb driving in any real way, the way the costs are paid would need to change. We don't, though: most people are happy with the current system, there's no political will to make driving more expensive for drivers.

I'm really skeptical of the claim that it isn't efficient from a direct financial point of view like many people here argue.  Or at least, that its less efficient than most other services we receive (both public and private).  The one area where I think the argument is true is when looking at the environmental externalities of driving.  But in that case I don't think mile-based usage fees are the best answer because I don't think it sets the right incentives.  And I think the problem is much bigger than just driving vs. public transportation.
Reply
(07-12-2017, 10:07 PM)SammyOES2 Wrote: ijmorlan, I don't have a fundamental disagreement with your proposal.  But I think the big gaps are:

1. Ensuring the Government doesn't double dip.  Tax revenue should go down commensurate with the service level they're offering going down.

I agree that other tax revenue should go down, ceteris paribus; on the other hand, the government itself does not need or want tax revenue. Instead, it has programs, mostly demanded by the citizens, that require funding; whether to use the removal of a major expense (highway construction) from the general books as an opportunity to reduce taxes, pay down debt, or fund new programs is an appropriate subject for debate. Far too often I see discussions around tax that view government as “greedy” which simply makes no sense. It may make sense when talking about a for-profit business, but unless one is alleging widespread graft committed by members of government and/or civil servants, the concept of greed in government doesn’t really make sense. I will agree that many governments have a bias towards new program spending rather than tax reductions and I think I would agree with you that the default use of any “windfall” should be tax reduction or debt payment.

Quote:2. There should be some accounting for the general economic and social benefit that highways provide.  It's not just the drivers of the highway that benefit.  The Government should pony up some money for that benefit that comes out of general tax revenue (which is our 'best' way of charging society as a whole in a fair manner).

Let’s take an example: I benefit from the highways because my bread arrives on a truck that takes the highway.

OK, but I pay for the bread, and what I pay has to cover all the expenses associated with making and delivering the bread. This includes the highway used to deliver it. If the highway really provides a big enough benefit to actually be worthwhile, that should be reflected in the affordability of bread, even if the delivery truck has to pay for the road the same as they pay for every other input into the bread-providing process. Nobody says that I benefit from the ovens used to cook the bread, and therefore the general public should pay for big ovens.

The same observation applies to every other use of the roads: if something truly beneficial depends on the road, it can afford to pay for the road. If it can’t afford to pay for the road, that suggests that it is a marginal activity that possibly isn’t actually demanded sufficiently to need to exist.

The biggest objection I see to the above is essentially related to economic inequality: economically speaking, the merest whim of a billionaire (say, $100,000 worth of stuff) is worth more than an entire year of a poor person’s life (way less than $100,000 spent on all purchases, including life-necessities such as food). But even here, instead of saying that poor people should be able to use roads for free, it makes more sense to say that they should get some money for free, and they can decide whether to spend it on roads or on something else.

Essentially, the bottom line is that by providing free roads, we as a society are deciding for everybody that they will spend their money on roads. I believe in giving everybody individual choice to the greatest extent feasible, and that definitely includes deciding how much to spend on expressways.

Quote:3. There should be some accounting for the nature/purpose of the highway and its relative importance.  In your proposal it seems like we should provide some basic level of transportation 'for free'.  Between some high density areas, that basic service level may require highways.  In other cases it might not.  But I think its too simplistic to say that non-highways are ok to be funded directly by the Government but highways aren't.  It's very situational dependent.

Well, I am certain that superhighways (limited access, freeways, expressways) should be self-funding. I’m less clear on what other roads should be self-funding. I’m OK with a basic road network being free, but I’m less sure about how four-lane arterials should work. The idea is that expressways are a luxury good that makes no sense to provide for free to the user: if a use of the expressway is only economical if it doesn’t have to pay for the road, it’s not really economical. But it’s hard to imagine a world, starting from where we are, that doesn’t have local roads to every address. Also, it’s harder to toll local roads, so there is a practical component. Basic connectivity is definitely a requirement, not a luxury.

This is a bit like saying that everybody should have enough food to live, but if you want caviar, you’ll be paying for it, and it’s expected that some people won’t be able to afford caviar.
Reply
I suppose that this would also mean that childless families aren't "subsidizing" families with children who attend school, because the teachers who wouldn't be teaching without children to teach give the government back a huge chunk of their salary in income tax, and then a ton more in sales and other taxes, the parents pay for children's clothing, daycare, piano lessons, baby food, and all sorts of "clearly intended for children" activities, and both the direct HST on those transactions, as well as the created income taxes and HST from only-because-children-exist jobs should cover the costs of what we perceive as the subsidies to parents. -_-*
Reply
(07-13-2017, 07:32 AM)ijmorlan Wrote: I agree that other tax revenue should go down, ceteris paribus; on the other hand, the government itself does not need or want tax revenue. ... I will agree that many governments have a bias towards new program spending rather than tax reductions and I think I would agree with you that the default use of any “windfall” should be tax reduction or debt payment.

Yeah, I'm not making any judgements of greed or anything like that.  Just saying that if we're no longer paying for a service through general revenue, that money should be returned to taxpayers (logically, maybe not actually in practice) and then as a separate matter deciding if additional services are actually worth offering.  Mostly my point is just one that we should decide on the services a Government offers (+ debt reduction) and then fund those, versus figuring out how much money the Government is collecting and then spending that money on services.

(07-13-2017, 07:32 AM)ijmorlan Wrote: Let’s take an example: I benefit from the highways because my bread arrives on a truck that takes the highway.

OK, but I pay for the bread, and what I pay has to cover all the expenses associated with making and delivering the bread. This includes the highway used to deliver it. If the highway really provides a big enough benefit to actually be worthwhile, that should be reflected in the affordability of bread, even if the delivery truck has to pay for the road the same as they pay for every other input into the bread-providing process. Nobody says that I benefit from the ovens used to cook the bread, and therefore the general public should pay for big ovens.

The same observation applies to every other use of the roads: if something truly beneficial depends on the road, it can afford to pay for the road. If it can’t afford to pay for the road, that suggests that it is a marginal activity that possibly isn’t actually demanded sufficiently to need to exist.

The biggest objection I see to the above is essentially related to economic inequality: economically speaking, the merest whim of a billionaire (say, $100,000 worth of stuff) is worth more than an entire year of a poor person’s life (way less than $100,000 spent on all purchases, including life-necessities such as food). But even here, instead of saying that poor people should be able to use roads for free, it makes more sense to say that they should get some money for free, and they can decide whether to spend it on roads or on something else.

Essentially, the bottom line is that by providing free roads, we as a society are deciding for everybody that they will spend their money on roads. I believe in giving everybody individual choice to the greatest extent feasible, and that definitely includes deciding how much to spend on expressways.

You're missing a couple of things though:

1. There is very large and intangible social value to the movement of people.  Not to get too political but lots of problems in the world are caused by people being in their own bubble and not actually being exposed to different people / experiences / etc.

2. There are Government services that rely on the highway network.  Ambulances.  Fire.  Police.  Public Transportation.  Etc.  I guess we could toll those, but it seems silly.  And it still wouldn't really cover the benefit.  The mere existence of a highway network can save us from building additional hospitals, improve health outcomes, etc.  These are benefits that aren't particularly correlated with the amount of miles driven.  Instead they exist as soon as the infrastructure exists.

3. Related to 2, there are really large network effects related to highway infrastructure.  It enables a whole lot of economic activity that otherwise wouldn't be possible or profitable.  Everyone benefits from that.  Which is very different than a bakery going in (it still has economic spin-off benefit, but not on the same scale as something like transportation).

4. I don't have a 4.  Smile  But those are just off the top of my head, I'm sure there are a lot more.

(07-13-2017, 07:32 AM)ijmorlan Wrote: This is a bit like saying that everybody should have enough food to live, but if you want caviar, you’ll be paying for it, and it’s expected that some people won’t be able to afford caviar.

I disagree that this is the same thing.  The caloric value of food is the same (roughly) for each person.  So its generally easy to make a distinction like this.

It's not true for roads.  A 4-lane highway from two northern Ontario towns is very different transportation service level than a 4-land highway between KW and Toronto.  It's silly (to me) to use the physical size of the road and ignore the actual context of the road.
Reply
I believe we do toll these things, like Zum using 407, or how we ticket police officers who run red lights (I believe if they fail to stop to ensure cross-traffic has stopped, before going through a red light).
Reply
Interesting Christopher Hume article from this week:


Why traffic jams are a good thing
https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2017/07...picks=true
“Despite what most of us believe, however, congestion is a sure sign of a vibrant city. Congestion is good. This isn’t to say that traffic flow can’t be improved — it can — but the idea that congestion can be eliminated is misguided at best, hubristic and destructive at worst. Congestion is the price of urban success. A city without congestion is a city no one wants to live in or visit.”
 
“We have wasted decades and continue to fall behind because of political interference, bad planning, an outdated governance structure and social attitudes that see transit as the mobility equivalent of subsidized housing.”
 
“Local congestion is good for business; it signals the presence of people, money and activity. Regional congestion, by contrast, implies the opposite.”

Everyone move to the back of the bus and we all get home faster.
Reply
I'm kind of struggling with understanding that article and in particular the difference between local/regional congestion.

The best solution to both is public transit.  There are lots of places around the world where there isn't significant local congestion because living w/o a car is much more common and accommodated.  Business served by a strong regional and local public transportation network can thrive quite easily without local car congestion.  Often removing local congestion entirely (through banning cars, removing parking, encouraging bike/pedestrian friendly alternative etc.) can actually help businesses.

“Local congestion is good for business; it signals the presence of people, money and activity. Regional congestion, by contrast, implies the opposite."  

I really don't see how these are opposites.  I especially don't see how you're getting lots of "good" local congestion w/o any regional congestion.  They're related.  Downtown Toronto isn't going to be packed with cars unless those cars are coming from someplace else - and it doesn't really make sense to me that its just coming from local areas.  They're mostly coming from places that need to also use regional connections.  And nobody is taking regional mass transit into downtown Toronto just to grab a car and drive around the area.  If anything more people drive on the regional roads, park somewhere convenient, and then use public transit to get to the 'locally congested' areas.

Looking at Waterloo, it often feels like most of the "local" congestion is just congestion related to the feeding into of 85 and the other main routes into/out of the city.  

It also seems to miss that we generally want both regional and local "congestion" at least some of the time because it means we haven't completely overbuilt our infrastructure (not to mention its almost certainly not possible to avoid congestion in a lot of situations).

Am I just missing something?
Reply
I disagree with the article.

Congestion = loss of productivity or quality of life. Disney figured this out in its theme parks - originally, people thought "big lines = yay, lots of people, I must be making money!", but no - because they're stuck in line, not spending money. So, Disney invented free virtual queuing (FastPass), available to all guests - so they can be out spending money instead of stuck in line. It's a win-win.

I don't think you can just cross your arms, close your eyes and nod your head up and down in satisfaction and go "Yup, this is great" at hundreds of thousands of people stuck in traffic.
For daily ion construction updates, photos and general urban rail news, follow me on twitter! @Canardiain
Reply
Alpine Roundabout is taking shape. The Homer Watson roundabout is further behind.


Attached Files Image(s)
   
Reply
(07-15-2017, 02:08 AM)Canard Wrote: I disagree with the article.

Congestion = loss of productivity or quality of life.  Disney figured this out in its theme parks - originally, people thought "big lines = yay, lots of people, I must be making money!", but no - because they're stuck in line, not spending money.  So, Disney invented free virtual queuing (FastPass), available to all guests - so they can be out spending money instead of stuck in line.  It's a win-win.

I don't think you can just cross your arms, close your eyes and nod your head up and down in satisfaction and go "Yup, this is great" at hundreds of thousands of people stuck in traffic.

What I would say is that it is an unavoidable consequence of a densely-packed, attractive place to be — even pedestrian areas can be congested if they’re popular enough — so it can be evidence of something good. But it’s absurd to call congestion itself good.

However, just because it is bad doesn’t mean the obvious response of widening the road is correct. If a road is congested, that means there is insufficient capacity for the people who want to use it. That in turn is at least in part because there is no fee for using the road, so people use it whether or not they actually need to. But if a large capacity expansion is warranted, that can be had for much less cost by building rapid transit. A 4-lane road where 2 of the lanes are LRT tracks has an unbelievably high capacity, way more than twice the capacity of a 2-lane road.
Reply


Forum Jump:


Users browsing this thread: 1 Guest(s)