|Is $600,000,000,000,000 in subsidies enough? PIRGIM|
As a new report shows, however, it's a lie.
The report, funded by the Public Interest Research Group in Michigan (PIRGIM), notes that gas taxes haven't usually been treated as "user fees" at all. They've rarely been dedicated just to highways, and the U.S. gas tax actually got started in an effort to reduce the federal deficit.
And do gas taxes cover the cost of roads? Not even close. Right now, they pay just half the cost of building and maintaining highways. As for the cost of wiping out Detroit's Lower East Side (I-96), and the cost of the asthma choking kids who live alongside freeways...well, you've got to be kidding.
Moreover, gas taxes are covering even less of the costs. According to PIRGIM's calculations, the gap between cumulative highway spending and cumulative"user" revenues surpassed $600 billion a few years ago, and it's growing faster than ever. We ain't seen nothin' yet, either, since we're witnessing a startling end to growth in the amount of driving we do.
|The remarkable decline in driving, beginning circa 2008.|
PIRGIM asks policymakers to recognize that transportation policies geared towards "mobility" are inherently absurd. Instead, we need to replace the mobility paradigm with one of accessibility: getting people where they need to go, instead of making them go farther and farther to fulfill the same needs. Most importantly, they urge that transportation policy be recognized as social policy, an area of government which has fundamental consequences for the way we live our lives.
Every advocate for sensible transportation, in Michigan and elsewhere, should read this critically important (and brief) report. Major props to PIRGIM for bringing the crucial truth to light. Now it's our task to develop a truthful narrative of how Michigan can forge a better path for the future. Removing our 10 percent limit on public transit funding from the gas tax would be a good place to start.