Highway Funding: The Last Bastion of Socialism in America

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Matthew Yglesias over at The Atlantic points us to this eye-popping chart from A Better Way to Go, a USPIRG Education Fund report published in March 2008. Download the report here. It’s a good one to have on-hand. A few factoids to accompany the chart:

  • Since 1956, federal, state and local governments have invested nine times more capital funding in highway subsidies than in transit.
  • In 2004, state governments spent nearly 13 times more public funds on highways than on transit.
  • The process for securing funding for new transit lines is far more onerous and less certain than for highway projects, with the federal government generally picking up a smaller share of the tab for new transit lines than for new highway projects.

Yglesias also notes:

Of course you can’t bring this subject up without legions of people informing you that the gas tax pays for the highways. This simply isn’t true. All the funds raised by the gas tax are spent on highways, and then a bunch of additional money is also spent on highways.

Mark Delucchi at the U.C. Davis Institute for Transportation Studies backs that up as well. In a study published last fall, Delucchi found that "current tax and fee payments to the government by motor-vehicle users fall short of government expenditures related to motor-vehicle use by approximately 20 to 70 cents per gallon of all motor fuel." U.S. drivers do not pay their own way.

After the jump is another great chart from A Better Way to Go. Anyone want to guess how many millions of dollars in gasoline cost savings and tons of carbon dioxide emissions reductions the New York City Transit produces annually?

  • Bravo for helping to spread the word about this issue Streetsblog. I get really tired of hearing policy makers talk about environmentally sound transportation solutions, and then go off and build more highways and talk about cars fueled on left-over Chinese take-out grease.

    Our highway system is as big a socialist enterprise as the street cars in East Berlin, if not bigger. It has allowed the absurdities of suburban life to become “normal” and has left us in a terrible state when it comes to dealing with an oil shortage.

    I don’t drive, but I’m taxed to build highways for everyone else. When will other modes get their share of the money pile we all contribute to? Soon, I hope.

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