Take off the transportation blinders

Thursday, December 10, 2009

From a commentary by Dave Zweifel in The Capital Times:

It’s long been a myth that the streets, highways and bridges that accommodate our love affair with the automobile are all paid for by highway taxes.

Far from it. Just check your local city and county budgets and see how much general purpose tax revenue is siphoned into street repair every year. Property taxes help fund a lot of those orange trucks you always see on the roads.

Or how about the $8 billion that the Bush administration funneled into the highway trust fund in 2008 and the $7 billion that the Obama administration ponied up in 2009 because the gas tax money is falling short? And that’s not counting the $3 billion of taxpayers’ funds that went into the “cash for clunkers” automobile fix or the $81 billion in federal aid to GM and Chrysler.

So it’s always with some amusement that I hear politicians insist that — come hell or high water — passenger rail improvements need to pay for themselves. They’re demanding from rail what they don’t demand from every other mode of transportation, airlines included.

It’s a primary reason that America’s public transportation systems lags the rest of the developed world’s.