No matter how high of a gas tax increase TxDOT predicts, when trying to scare the public into accepting toll roads, that gas tax increase is still much cheaper than toll roads. Read that again because it takes a while to sink in and it’s such a shot to the heart of the pro-toll argument that it just can’t possibly be true. The best explanation I’ve seen of this yet comes form McBlogger:
Now remember, TXDoT says to do away with tolls in Central Texas we’d have to have a gas tax of 17 cents a gallon. Assuming your car gets 20 miles a gallon and your daily commute on the tollway will be 20 miles (not, by any means inconceivable) you’d spend only an extra 17 cents per day driving to and from work. That’s the non-toll road math. So how much will it cost you with the tolls.
No one knows yet what the toll will be. 25 cents per mile? 50 cents per mile? Let’s go with 25 cents per mile… using the same assumptions as above, you’d pay $5.00 per day in tolls. Using Republican math, that’s cheaper than 17 cents, don’t you know. Yeah, I can totally see how 17 cents is more than $5.00. Is this the same kind of math Bush has been using to ‘balance’ the federal budget?
That estimate should be cut in half ($2.50) because the starting tolls, and they will go up, on the new toll roads around Austin are 12.5 cents/mile. That’s 17 cents v. $2.50 on your daily commute to pay for the new road. I bring all of this up because of this article from the SAEN today about the scare tactics TxDOT is using in San Antonio, Toll-road rejection may spark big gas-tax jump.
If the idea of paying tolls to drive on future highway lanes in San Antonio turns your stomach, perhaps you could swallow a higher gas tax instead.
How about adding 38.2 cents a gallon, or as much as $1.09, on top of the 38.4-cent tax that motorists pay now.
That’s what Texas Department of Transportation officials came up with recently when they estimated how high the gas tax would have to go in Bexar County to widen 70 miles of highways without tolling the new lanes.
The difference is whether motorists everywhere in the county pay a new gas tax of 1 to 2 cents a mile, depending on vehicle miles per gallon, or if only drivers using the new lanes pay a toll of 15 to 20 cents a mile.
Neither is all that palatable.
These gas taxes of which TxDOT speaks – 17 cents in Austin and 38.4 cents to $1.09 in San Antonio – are local taxes. Also from the excerpt above the tolls in San Antonio will be 15 to 20 cents per mile, that means between $3.00 to $4.00 for a daily commute. As Kuffner points out if we just raised the state gas tax 10 cents, that’s 1/2 cent per mile for all Texans using the 20 MPG model, then toll roads could be out of the discussion.
Dammit, the reason that gas taxes are “drying up” is because they haven’t been raised in 14 years. Texas’ gas tax rate of $0.20 per gallon is 36th highest among the 50 states, which just doesn’t make sense. Raising it by a dime, which would still leave us with a lower tax than other high-population states, would generate over a billion dollars a year for transportation (and over a quarter billion for education, as 25% of your state gas taxes go to education funding), without being an excessive burden to the vast majority of people.
And if we pay for our roads with the gas tax then we own them and we don’t have to worry about foreign corporations raising our tolls in the future so their guaranteed profits come in.
In simplest terms if we raised the gas tax by $2.00/gallon locally it would still be cheaper than toll roads. From what I’ve seen in media accounts the gas tax is treated like a non-starter and is presented as, and presumed to be, unpalatable by the public. Let’s look at the facts, like above, and have a rational discussion on raising the gas tax v. tolls and I think most people will decide to raise the gas tax. It will save taxpayers money.
P.S. The other part of this gas tax v. toll discussion that was mentioned in the article in the SAEN today but many times is left out is the discussion of mass transit. Which could help reduce driving and some of the need for new roads.