The AJC has published a report on a new technology that may replace the gas tax as a means of funding transportation: a little black box in each car that records the miles you travel on roads and taxes accordingly. It’s a controversial proposal that has formed some odd alliances, with Libertarians and environmental groups both in favor. But many others are opposed. Here’s a quote:
…while Congress can’t agree on whether to proceed, several states are not waiting. They are exploring how, over the next decade, they can move to a system in which drivers pay per mile of road they roll over.
Defenders of car-dependent sprawl and people who generally fear good urbanism (including, apparently, the author of this news piece) are up in arms regarding the black box’s potential to be used against them:
It is no surprise that the idea appeals to urban liberals [Darin: “that’s me! they’re talking about me!”], as the taxes could be rigged [Darin: “rigged - because urban liberals are conniving bastards, of course”] to change driving patterns in ways that could help reduce congestion and greenhouse gases, for example.
I kinda doubt the black box stands a chance in the current political climate, with the public particularly sensitive to government data-collecting in the wake of the NSA scandal. But, importantly, this move shows a willingness on the part of leaders to tax the true cost of vehicle miles — at least more so than the gas tax allows, given new car technologies that reduce gas use.
It’s a small step toward accounting for the true cost of driving in car-dependent places. And that sounds good to me.
Incidentally, the LA Times has a poll about the issue that shows the black box to be an unpopular product.
Photo of Atlanta traffic by Flickr user Muzikbynature1
Looks like my kid isn’t the only one who thinks trains are cool: train riders in small cities just gave Amtrak its highest numbers ever, setting their 10th ridership record in the last 11 years.
If members of Congress want to continue appealing to “real” “small town” Americans, I think they’d better warm up to funding passenger-rail expansion.
Read about it here: Smaller Cities Propel Amtrak Ridership to a New High
There’s an informative article this week titled Defunding Mass Transit is Not Good for the Tea Party, Whatever They May Think and I highly recommend it as a good post-TSPLOST read that compares current problems in transportation funding with ones from Georgia’ past.
Here’s a quote:
Since the introduction of the automobile created the demand for modern road construction a hundred years ago, political infighting has defined debates over transportation. What today is a conflict between city and suburban folks over roads versus rails was once a contentious battle between urban dwellers and rural farmers over highway construction, and one that exploded every bit as intensely as it has today.
The article’s author is currently writing a book about the history of the Dixie Highway. Some good parallels are drawn here between the rural/suburban/urban divides that existed during that century-old project and the ones that still run deep today — and quite probably affected the TSPLOST vote.
Photo of opening of Dixie Highway in Calhoun, GA (1928) from Georgia’s Virtual Vault
I’ve been waiting for the Creative Loafing editorial board to take a Yes or No stance on the T-SPLOST vote for a transportation tax in the Atlanta region. Today they published their opinion: Yes. Read it here:
Atlanta transit: Envisioning our future CL’s stance on the T-SPLOST, or how to kill a beast that won’t die
I’ve mentioned briefly in comments here and elsewhere that I’ve reluctantly decided to vote Yes. I have a lot of misgivings about this tax and whether or not the road projects on it promote the sprawling, inefficient land use of the last few decades that has caused so much environmental damage.
In the end, I got tired of the stress that larger view was causing me and decided to take a more narrow view. I looked at what the tax does for me and my immediate neighborhood and I liked what I saw, particularly the pedestrian & cycling improvements on the list of projects from the tax’s allowance of 15% for local spending.
Still, I won’t be crying if the tax doesn’t pass, because I see a silver lining: a lack of a fix for the region’s traffic might make people think twice about living 20 miles from their job in a car-dependent area.
Atlanta traffic photo by Instagram user cj_mainor
I almost spewed my coffee when I read this morning’s AJC article on Metro Atlanta voter approval of mass transit.
You know those Tea Partiers’ rants at recent public forums on the upcoming transportation sales tax referendum? The ones where they oppose the funding of rail transit lines on the grounds that trains are somehow “archaic” or that terrorists might want to pull a Snidely Whiplash and sabotage our choo-choo lines?
It turns out those hysterical tirades don’t represent the way most people in the metro feel about transit. According to the article, a recent poll reveals that:
- 51 percent of metro voters would vote for the referendum if it were held today
- In Cobb and Gwinnett counties alone, at least 48 percent were in support, with an additional 10 percent undecided
- 82 percent said it was important to do more to encourage everyone to commute to work by bus or train (coffee spew!)
- 57 percent of voters said they don’t agree an increase in mass transit means more crime in new areas
- 57 percent also said if the referendum passes, it is likely to reduce metro Atlanta’s traffic and congestion significantly
Bottom line: the public histrionics from fear-mongering Tea Partiers represent a minority opinion when it comes to transit. A fringe belief. My best guess to the reason why they had such a loud voice in forums is that these people are so rabid in their cause they gave up a work day (assuming they have jobs) to get to the microphone. Meanwhile, average metro Atlantans were busy being stuck in traffic.
Which begs the question: will the media (AJC included) now decide that they no longer need to give a platform to Tea Party anti-transit ramblings in every single news piece on this tax proposal? Time will tell.
Atlanta traffic photo from Flickr user wojciech.felendzer