Highway Robbery

Bicyclists and pedestrians hold onto your wallets! The "Gasoline Rip-off" editorial in the News Press exhorts voters to call for the repeal of gas taxes. The rationale is that half the tax–24¢ a gallon–is used to fund non-highway projects. This may be true, but the News Press drastically misleads readers by ignoring the other side of the ledger.

The entire citizenry, driving and non-driving, pays for road maintenance and construction, free or subsidized parking, traffic law enforcement, street lighting, environmental damage, etc. etc.

For example, Measure D created a 1/2% sales tax ($15 million dollars a year) for transportation infrastructure. When you buy a gallon of milk or a bicycle tube, you’re helping fund projects like La Cumbre overpass expansion. Despite the fact that bikeways were mentioned in the description of Measure D on the ballot, none of the money has been used for bikeways thus far.

According to the recent Parson’s Brinkerhoff study of transportation in Santa Barbara (see attached), the external costs for driving amount to a subsidy of 32¢ per mile. At 27 miles per gallon, a tax of $8.64 per gallon would be required achieve the implied goal of the editorial: drivers paying no more or less than the cost of the facilities they use.

True market pricing for driving would enable the magic of the market to bring people’s use of autos versus other transportation modes into rational proportion with the costs–being a resource hog would be less attractive if you had to pay for it..

The disorienting tactic of arguing with conviction the opposite of reality appears to be trickling down from Capitol Hill to our local newspaper. Yes there is a "Gasoline rip-off," but it’s the opposite direction than the editorial claims–and much bigger.


Art Ludwig

Owner, Oasis Design

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