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General Road and Highway Discussion
(07-16-2017, 07:40 PM)sevenman Wrote:
(07-16-2017, 03:58 PM)danbrotherston Wrote: You're missing the point, which was that sales taxes aren't a road fee, they're a general tax.  

Yes, taxes fund all those things, that's the point, roads are largely built and maintained with tax dollars, not with road use fees.

Dan,
  I do understand the point you'e trying to create, no disrespect.  My question, I guess would be, why we would need "road use fees" when as you state, roads are already built and maintained with tax dollars.  I think fees or taxes, as long as they are directed to the government are really one and the same and the fees and taxes generated from manufacturing, purchase and ownership of an automobile ( whether good or bad ) more than cover the costs associated to the roads upon which they are driven.

Economics are why we should differentiate between taxes and fees.  Fees control consumption of limited resources by putting a price on them, that price should have nothing to do with the cost of that resource.  Taxes are used for two things, monetary policy, and funding the government.  But if we provide unlimited access to scarce resources, we'll run out of them really quick.  Some things, like public parks are cheap enough yet valuable enough to provide effectively unlimited amounts of them.  Some things like healthcare we limit access in a more egalitarian fashion (most critically ill first).  Other things, we use fees to limit access.  Roads could be one of these things, were we use the price to limit congestion instead of building more roads (which becomes prohibitively expensive eventually).

Of course, things in the real world are murkier, we use fees to fund transit, when it isn't really a limited resource (mostly because it's sucks compared with the very cheap driving situation).

But the real issue under discussion comes from people objecting to "subsidizing" transit because they see a fee which doesn't cover the costs of running it, but ignore the enormous subsidy paid to drivers in the form of effectively free and unlimited roads.

At the end of the day, there is a very fundamental difference between taxes and fees, they are very nearly opposites.
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(07-16-2017, 08:28 PM)danbrotherston Wrote:
(07-16-2017, 07:40 PM)sevenman Wrote: Dan,
  I do understand the point you'e trying to create, no disrespect.  My question, I guess would be, why we would need "road use fees" when as you state, roads are already built and maintained with tax dollars.  I think fees or taxes, as long as they are directed to the government are really one and the same and the fees and taxes generated from manufacturing, purchase and ownership of an automobile ( whether good or bad ) more than cover the costs associated to the roads upon which they are driven.

[…]
Of course, things in the real world are murkier, we use fees to fund transit, when it isn't really a limited resource (mostly because it's sucks compared with the very cheap driving situation).

But the real issue under discussion comes from people objecting to "subsidizing" transit because they see a fee which doesn't cover the costs of running it, but ignore the enormous subsidy paid to drivers in the form of effectively free and unlimited roads.

At the end of the day, there is a very fundamental difference between taxes and fees, they are very nearly opposites.

I wonder what would happen if we suggested free electricity for everybody? Would people understand the difference between “pay for use” and “free to use, paid for by taxes” in that market?
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We understand the difference.  Stop dumbing down our position.

Our point is that statements like: "but ignore the enormous subsidy paid to drivers in the form of effectively free and unlimited roads." is an unbelievably dishonest statement (for reasons clearly laid our earlier).

ijmorlan, I was kind of hoping you wanted to have an actual discussion, but then you didn't respond to me and went back to just making statements like the above.
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(07-16-2017, 08:28 PM)danbrotherston Wrote:
(07-16-2017, 07:40 PM)sevenman Wrote: Dan,
  I do understand the point you'e trying to create, no disrespect.  My question, I guess would be, why we would need "road use fees" when as you state, roads are already built and maintained with tax dollars.  I think fees or taxes, as long as they are directed to the government are really one and the same and the fees and taxes generated from manufacturing, purchase and ownership of an automobile ( whether good or bad ) more than cover the costs associated to the roads upon which they are driven.

Economics are why we should differentiate between taxes and fees.  Fees control consumption of limited resources by putting a price on them, that price should have nothing to do with the cost of that resource.  Taxes are used for two things, monetary policy, and funding the government.  But if we provide unlimited access to scarce resources, we'll run out of them really quick.  Some things, like public parks are cheap enough yet valuable enough to provide effectively unlimited amounts of them.  Some things like healthcare we limit access in a more egalitarian fashion (most critically ill first).  Other things, we use fees to limit access.  Roads could be one of these things, were we use the price to limit congestion instead of building more roads (which becomes prohibitively expensive eventually).

Of course, things in the real world are murkier, we use fees to fund transit, when it isn't really a limited resource (mostly because it's sucks compared with the very cheap driving situation).

But the real issue under discussion comes from people objecting to "subsidizing" transit because they see a fee which doesn't cover the costs of running it, but ignore the enormous subsidy paid to drivers in the form of effectively free and unlimited roads.

At the end of the day, there is a very fundamental difference between taxes and fees, they are very nearly opposites.
  You are correct Dan " there is a very fundamental difference between taxes and fees" and that difference is how each are paid and collected.  At the end of the day they still end up in the same "bank account " and our government decides how to use the funds.

  I don't think anybody should ever object to subsiding public transit, that is simply wrong as it is a necessity in any large community.  To say roads are effectively free is false and I think you know this.  They are no more free than is healthcare or education.

  Lastly, I'm not sure if you own a vehicle or not Dan but "the very cheap driving situation" is anything but cheap.

Cheers,
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(07-16-2017, 10:36 PM)SammyOES2 Wrote: We understand the difference.  Stop dumbing down our position.

Our point is that statements like: "but ignore the enormous subsidy paid to drivers in the form of effectively free and unlimited roads." is an unbelievably dishonest statement (for reasons clearly laid our earlier).

ijmorlan, I was kind of hoping you wanted to have an actual discussion, but then you didn't respond to me and went back to just making statements like the above.

Sorry, we’ve had illness in the house the last few days and it wasn’t a good time for me to make comments needing careful thought on here.

For the record I did read the site and I think you said some pretty reasonable things in the last few days.

But I don’t see how we can have a good discussion if some people don’t understand that roads are free to use. You can’t send less money to the government by not driving. (OK, if you don’t drive at all, you can save on the minor expense of car registration and driver licensing; and if you drive less you spend less on gas tax, which doesn’t mean regular HST but the gas-specific tax; but neither of those come close to paying for the full cost of road construction and upkeep).

So to be accurate, you can’t send significantly less money to the government by not driving. Roads are paid for by the general taxpayer, not by their users in rough proportion to the extent of their use.

Incidently, it’s possible in principle to eliminate congestion entirely: “just” introduce per-road-segment, per-time-period, congestion charges that respond to how busy the road is. So instead of getting to the road and discovering that it’s clogged, you would get there and discover that the sign is advertising a prohibitive fee for using it. You would then either decide to pay the fee and proceed, or turn around and come back a different time when it’s less busy. Of course in today’s society Google maps would probably tell you the toll and you would decide before leaving the house whether to proceed.

Same applies to parking, except that it’s actually practical to do something like what I suggested, as proven by SFPark.
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@sevenman. I thought it was clear from the context of the reply that I meant "free to use". Which is the whole point. Drivers do not pay to use roads.

Healthcare and education are also free to use.

Nobody thinks they are free to provide.

Also I am well aware of what vehicles cost, but that too is a "sunk cost" with very little incremental costs to driving more. Owning a car in fact encourages you to drive more.
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(07-16-2017, 11:43 PM)sevenman Wrote:
(07-16-2017, 08:28 PM)danbrotherston Wrote: Economics are why we should differentiate between taxes and fees.  Fees control consumption of limited resources by putting a price on them, that price should have nothing to do with the cost of that resource.  Taxes are used for two things, monetary policy, and funding the government.  But if we provide unlimited access to scarce resources, we'll run out of them really quick.  Some things, like public parks are cheap enough yet valuable enough to provide effectively unlimited amounts of them.  Some things like healthcare we limit access in a more egalitarian fashion (most critically ill first).  Other things, we use fees to limit access.  Roads could be one of these things, were we use the price to limit congestion instead of building more roads (which becomes prohibitively expensive eventually).

Of course, things in the real world are murkier, we use fees to fund transit, when it isn't really a limited resource (mostly because it's sucks compared with the very cheap driving situation).

But the real issue under discussion comes from people objecting to "subsidizing" transit because they see a fee which doesn't cover the costs of running it, but ignore the enormous subsidy paid to drivers in the form of effectively free and unlimited roads.

At the end of the day, there is a very fundamental difference between taxes and fees, they are very nearly opposites.
  You are correct Dan " there is a very fundamental difference between taxes and fees" and that difference is how each are paid and collected.  At the end of the day they still end up in the same "bank account " and our government decides how to use the funds.

  I don't think anybody should ever object to subsiding public transit, that is simply wrong as it is a necessity in any large community.  To say roads are effectively free is false and I think you know this.  They are no more free than is healthcare or education.

  Lastly, I'm not sure if you own a vehicle or not Dan but "the very cheap driving situation" is anything but cheap.

Cheers,

Roads are free in exactly the same way as healthcare and education, and different from the way in which mailing a letter is not free.

I really don’t understand why people can’t understand that general taxes, not use-related fees, pay for the roads (with minor exceptions primarily in the form of the gas tax, which probably isn’t as high as a proper carbon tax would be anyhow, so arguably it is a too-low carbon tax, not a road-use-related tax as such).
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(07-17-2017, 06:24 AM)danbrotherston Wrote: @sevenman. I thought it was clear from the context of the reply that I meant "free to use". Which is the whole point. Drivers do not pay to use roads.

Healthcare and education are also free to use.

Nobody thinks they are free to provide.

Also I am well aware of what vehicles cost, but that too is a "sunk cost" with very little incremental costs to driving more.  Owning a car in fact encourages you to drive more.

Also the vehicle is not provided by the government, so of course it costs money. If the general taxpayer, via government, does not pay for something, the main other possibility is for the user of the thing to pay for it.
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(07-17-2017, 06:24 AM)ijmorlan Wrote: But I don’t see how we can have a good discussion if some people don’t understand that roads are free to use.

I don't see how we can have a good discussion if some people don't recognize the absurdity of statements like "but ignore the enormous subsidy paid to drivers in the form of effectively free and unlimited roads".  Free to use and enormously subsidized ARE. NOT. THE. SAME. THING. (Not to mention the absurdity of a phrase like 'unlimited roads')  I've spent way too much time arguing on the internet, but a good tell on if someone is willing to discuss an issue honestly is how they react to people 'on their side' that use incorrect/wrong arguments.


(07-17-2017, 06:24 AM)ijmorlan Wrote: You can’t send less money to the government by not driving. (OK, if you don’t drive at all, you can save on the minor expense of car registration and driver licensing; and if you drive less you spend less on gas tax, which doesn’t mean regular HST but the gas-specific tax; but neither of those come close to paying for the full cost of road construction and upkeep).

Note, this is a good example of poor logic.  You want to talk about sending less money to the Government.  A proportion of the "regular HST" wouldn't be sent to the Government if people didn't drive.  We've mentioned numerous examples above (spending on non-taxable goods, savings, travel or foreign goods, spending by tourists and non-residents when getting gas here, etc.).  Again, I've argued enough on the internet that when people keep repeating already debunked statements, it's time to give up.

(07-17-2017, 06:24 AM)ijmorlan Wrote: So to be accurate, you can’t send significantly less money to the government by not driving. Roads are paid for by the general taxpayer, not by their users in rough proportion to the extent of their use.

Yes, but because the vast majority of the general taxpayers are drivers, its absurd to say they're getting "enormous subsidies".  Anyway, it's pretty clear how this debate goes on this forum.  So, I guess I'll let this die again and then in a couple of months when you or Dan come back with your ridiculous simplifications I'll just pop my head back in with:

(07-12-2017, 07:53 PM)SammyOES2 Wrote: Oh we're back to the silly argument where a lot of people pay a bunch of money for roads, but we don't count that money because that's in their role as "tax payer" and not as their role of "car driver".  Maybe that explains those times when I just can't get to sleep.  I bet "tax payer" me is just really angry at "road user" me because "tax payer" me is so heavily subsidizing "road user" me.
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(07-13-2017, 08:01 AM)SammyOES2 Wrote:
(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.

[…]
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.

(1.) is a good reason to have a free network of basic local connectivity. Two-lane roads to every address I think I can get behind, as it’s hard to imagine a world, starting from where we are, without that. Even if we all hypothetically started working hard to avoid using vehicles, we would still need those local roads for occasional deliveries to our houses. Garbage trucks would still need to come; it’s hard to imagine that taking one’s trash on the bus to the dump would ever be a reasonable way of dealing with garbage.

However, this is not a good reason to build a 16-lane superhighway. All those people on that highway could fit on a single 2-track LRT line.

(2.) again, is a good reason to have a free network of basic connectivity. Those services need to be able to get everywhere, so there need to be roads going everywhere. There do not need to be 4- and 6-lane roads, and expressways, all over the place.

(3.) is a good point, in that a single road is useless, and again this is a good reason to have a complete transportation network. But if there is so much traffic that a 2-lane road is not enough, perhaps the large volume of people using it should be the ones to pay for it.

Quote:
(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.

The physical size of the road is quite important. Basic connectivity requires a two-lane road (well actually you can get away with a single lane in many places but let’s keep things simple). Four lanes are required only for capacity. If enough people want to use a road that 4 lanes are needed, splitting the cost up among them will give a perfectly reasonable road use charge. Alternately, the capacity could be handled by high-frequency public transit. Same applies to expressways, even more so. If it is unaffordable for people to pay enough to use a superhighway to pay for the superhighway, then whatever they are doing that requires them to use the highway isn’t sufficiently economically beneficial to justify using the highway.
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(07-17-2017, 06:40 AM)SammyOES2 Wrote: ....
Note, this is a good example of poor logic.  You want to talk about sending less money to the Government.  A proportion of the "regular HST" wouldn't be sent to the Government if people didn't drive.  We've mentioned numerous examples above (spending on non-taxable goods, savings, travel or foreign goods, spending by tourists and non-residents when getting gas here, etc.).  Again, I've argued enough on the internet that when people keep repeating already debunked statements, it's time to give up.

I simply don't believe that people would spend all their extra money saved on those things. Yes, some percentage may go there, but most would not.  I can tell you personally, I spend that extra cash on things like bikes, movies, dinner out, for which I pay tax on.  Care to provide what evidence you think shows that this is not going to be the case for most people and most of their money.

Also, what is your problem with the term "unlimited roads"...is there some limit I am unaware of about how much I'm allowed to drive on roads?
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The entire discussion here seems to be one where neither side will agree with the other, so it's basically a waste of time. Besides the HST on gas and on vehicle purchase, one important piece no one considers is that literally millions of jobs across the world (and probably several thousand in Canada) are there because of the fact that people buy and use vehicles. Mechanics, dealerships, engineers, manufacturing jobs, tire companies and so on. All those people get their livelihood because of drivers, and their income tax and sales tax is generated that livelihood.
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That's a slightly different argument though. An activity could be 'subsidized' in order to create a net benefit to society (the economic and social spin-off benefits more than compensate for the original cost of the subsidy). So just because something has a bunch of benefits, doesn't really inform if it was originally a subsidy or not.

And getting into evaluating the overall benefit of our current transportation system is unbelievably complicated and requires a number of value judgements that can't really be quantified objectively.
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It is a different argument with respect to whether HST should count toward subsidies but it is not off-topic with respect to the original article that spurred this entire discussion. We hear how drivers are taking and taking from the government and not giving very much back. The fact that hundreds of thousands of jobs in Canada are dependent on this industry is entirely relevant to that argument, because government wants jobs to be created so it can earn income tax and sales tax from those jobs, and then provide services from those tax dollars.
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Alright, I think that's been enough pages of debate on the financing of our road network for now.

I'd say that you have all done an admirable job of explaining your respective positions, and that further discussion is unlikely to be fruitful.
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