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Old 12-12-05, 01:15 PM   #1
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Taxes: Who pays for the roads?

Someone mentioned to me it perturbs them to have cyclists on the roads when he pays for gas for his car which in turn maintains our roads thru taxes. I was stumped on the road use part (nevermind I'm saving natural resources, etc).

What gives me the right as a cyclist to use our well maintained roads in Portland? I ride the roads anyways. I refused to use an MUP or bike path. I would hate to pay to ride my bike on the road, but what's the justification for road upkeep and maintainance?
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Old 12-12-05, 01:22 PM   #2
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It differs by state and locality, but at least in California gasoline taxes pay only a small portion of the upkeep on roads. In fact, I was told that on Sacramento County roads most of the upkeep comes from sales tax.
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Old 12-12-05, 01:29 PM   #3
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Usually local property taxes pay for local road upkeep, whereas fuel taxes pay for hiway upkeep.

But this does vary by state.
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Old 12-12-05, 01:29 PM   #4
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Before there was gas, there was roads. While gas taxes do fund upkeep, I don't think thats their only sorce of funds. Some roads like highways are funded by govt money and not local/state. Those funds likely don't come from all gas taxes.

I have a car too. Those taxes pay for roads in theory. Therefore I don't see a problem with my excercising on public roads. I however live in Cali, our gas taxes are robbed by our politicians to fund other things. The money they have taken will likely never be paid back. Finally lately there has been a little improvement in our roads. Hower there is a massive number of over 6k vehicles on roads posted against it. Theres a reason why those signs are up, but the law doesn't stop 10,500 pound hummers from rolling around.

Also recently made me wonder, how bad Cali schools would be had their not been a lottery to support it. Wheres the increase in intelligence as compared to that income coming into them from this outlet.
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Old 12-12-05, 01:38 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bigskymacadam
Someone mentioned to me it perturbs them to have cyclists on the roads when he pays for gas for his car which in turn maintains our roads thru taxes. I was stumped on the road use part (nevermind I'm saving natural resources, etc).

What gives me the right as a cyclist to use our well maintained roads in Portland? I ride the roads anyways. I refused to use an MUP or bike path. I would hate to pay to ride my bike on the road, but what's the justification for road upkeep and maintainance?
First, the roads are public roads, meaning that no justification need be necessary.

Second, even if cars do pay completely for road maintainance, cars are also almost completely responsible for the need for maintainance.

Third, cars do not pay completely for road maintainance, and the property and income taxes everyone pays goes towards most road maintainance budgets. I am, perhaps, 90% sure of this, but even if not, see point 2.
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Old 12-12-05, 01:39 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by caloso
It differs by state and locality, but at least in California gasoline taxes pay only a small portion of the upkeep on roads. In fact, I was told that on Sacramento County roads most of the upkeep comes from sales tax.
Right. You could also mention that your bike does almost zero damage to the roads, while cars and trucks do most of the damage. (The weather does the rest - but the hardcore-libertarian weather gods refuse to pay up, and who's gonna argue with a weather god?) So, cars are just paying for the problems they cause.

Or, most are: Hybrids presumably cause the same amount of damage as equivalent non-hybrid cars, but don't pay the same amount because they use less gas.
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Old 12-12-05, 01:51 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by EricDJ

Also recently made me wonder, how bad Cali schools would be had their not been a lottery to support it. Wheres the increase in intelligence as compared to that income coming into them from this outlet.
I'm guessing that you came to our great state after 1978? See Proposition 13 for the answer to what happens to schools when you eliminate their primary source of funding.

Back on topic, the fact that sales tax is a main source of road funds is yet another good reason to support your LBS. I also like to support our farmers' markets to fuel my machine.
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Old 12-12-05, 01:56 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by jnbacon
So, cars are just paying for the problems they cause.
And as an additional point, cars do damage to more than just the road. They exact a cost in terms of the environment that bikes don't. You pay your share of taxes for the road in the form of sales taxes and federal taxes. The federal government provides highway funds to the states, and I'm sure you file a federal return, yes?
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Old 12-12-05, 01:59 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Brian Ratliff
Second, even if cars do pay completely for road maintainance, cars are also almost completely responsible for the need for maintainance.
I love this and it makes sense.

I'm going to try to look up our laws here in Metro Portland, Ore. and try to find out who pays for what. We don't have sales tax, but our property taxes are pretty high. I have a car too so I'm paying my fair share. That's for sure.
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Old 12-12-05, 02:06 PM   #10
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Legal justification
Cyclists have a greater right to use the roads:

1. Before you can take a motor vehicle on the road it must be taxed (all US states?)
Cyclists can take their bikes on the road without taxing them
2. Before you can take a motor vehicle on the road you must have a driving licence
Cyclists can take their bikes on the road without one
3. Before you can take a motor vehicle on the road it must have an up-to-date vehicle safety test (M.O.T. in UK - don't know your term)
Cyclists don't have to.

In other words, because of the cost of constructing, maintaining, policingand other emergency services created by the use of motor vehicles and because of the greater danger to the public created by them, the state recognises that motorists must satisfy certain legally proven conditions before they can drive on the highway.

OTH, the state requires no such prior conditions of use for cyclists

Therefore: cyclists have a greater right to use the public highway than do motorists. QED
Economic justification
If someone does the figures for the full cost of constructing and maintaining highways/roads, together with the cost of policing them, together with the other emergency services, together with the additional costs imposed by their virtually universal use, such as health/hospital costs, pollution and so on, I suspect that the income from the various taxes levied won't match them - I'm sure that these calculations have been done somewhere.
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Old 12-12-05, 02:33 PM   #11
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No one has mentioned manditory bicycle registration. How many states/county/municipalities have this and where does the $$ go? Certainly not to finding my stolen bike.
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Old 12-12-05, 02:42 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by EricDJ
Also recently made me wonder, how bad Cali schools would be had their not been a lottery to support it. Wheres the increase in intelligence as compared to that income coming into them from this outlet.
Strangely, the quality of education did not go up after the lottery was passed. What happened was that legislators pulled other funding to balance the additions from lottery winnings.
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Old 12-12-05, 02:45 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by EricDJ
Before there was gas, there was roads. While gas taxes do fund upkeep, I don't think thats their only sorce of funds. Some roads like highways are funded by govt money and not local/state. Those funds likely don't come from all gas taxes.

I have a car too. Those taxes pay for roads in theory. Therefore I don't see a problem with my excercising on public roads. I however live in Cali, our gas taxes are robbed by our politicians to fund other things. The money they have taken will likely never be paid back. Finally lately there has been a little improvement in our roads. Hower there is a massive number of over 6k vehicles on roads posted against it. Theres a reason why those signs are up, but the law doesn't stop 10,500 pound hummers from rolling around.

Also recently made me wonder, how bad Cali schools would be had their not been a lottery to support it. Wheres the increase in intelligence as compared to that income coming into them from this outlet.

You didn't really answer any questions, but you provided some humor. How ironic one statement can be.
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Old 12-12-05, 02:46 PM   #14
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Tell the next moron to ask you that you'd gladly pay the $1 per year it costs for road upkeep needed due to your bike use.
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Old 12-12-05, 02:51 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by jnbacon
. . . Or, most are: Hybrids presumably cause the same amount of damage as equivalent non-hybrid cars, but don't pay the same amount because they use less gas.
This is why the SUV drivers at the US Chamber of Commerce have proposed the "Vehicle Miles Traveled" tax. Gas taxes would be abolished and everyone would pay based on their miles traveled regardless of their gas consumption.

The question is, have they put enough cash in the pockets of Cheney and Tom Delay to get it passed?

I doubt it has much of a chance, but it shows how cocky the oil industry is getting.
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Old 12-12-05, 03:01 PM   #16
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Road funding is a complicated subject. Here are some links to get you started:
http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d01836r.pdf
http://www.roadstothefuture.com/Road_Funding_US.html

Some things to keep in mind. First, all taxes are socialism. We don't link your right to use public facilities to the taxes you paid to support them -- schools, parks and libraries are open to all. If you pay directly to use a public facility, it's not a tax, it's a user fee. Road taxes are taxes, not user fees.

Second, only about 2/3 of road spending comes from taxes on gas and vehicles. If you look at the GAO report I linked to above, you'll see that the roads that cyclists use primarily -- local roads -- are the least expensive, and the ones that receive the least funding from gas tax revenue and the most funding from local governments. The roads that are primarily paid for by gas taxes -- interstates -- are generally closed to cyclists.
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Old 12-12-05, 03:07 PM   #17
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Thank you DC, for a very helpful contribution. Something tells me you're not running a fruit and veggie stand in DC.
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Old 12-12-05, 04:02 PM   #18
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Thank you DC, for a very helpful contribution. Something tells me you're not running a fruit and veggie stand in DC.
You should try my tomatoes. And the squash is very good this time of year Thanks for the kind comment.

Another thought I had after posting: The GAO paper also has fatality rates per mile for different types of roads. Not only are the types of roads that cyclists tend to use the least expensive, they are also the most dangerous. The safest roads -- interstates -- are again off-limits to cyclists. It seems like an interested caveat for any comparison of the relative safety of car travel vs. bike travel.
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Old 12-12-05, 04:30 PM   #19
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Here's another good link:

http://www.vtpi.org/whoserd.pdf
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Old 12-12-05, 04:36 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bigskymacadam
Someone mentioned to me it perturbs them to have cyclists on the roads when he pays for gas for his car which in turn maintains our roads thru taxes. I was stumped on the road use part (nevermind I'm saving natural resources, etc).

What gives me the right as a cyclist to use our well maintained roads in Portland? I ride the roads anyways. I refused to use an MUP or bike path. I would hate to pay to ride my bike on the road, but what's the justification for road upkeep and maintainance?
the simple answer to what gives you the right to use the roads is that the law in Oregon almost certainly states specifically that cyclists can ride on the roads. Unless the laws require you to pay a bike tax to access the road, then you have every right to acces the roads in accordance with the laws of your state. The City of Portland may provide some additional bike access rules, but any of these are probably minor.

There is no sense trying to establish any logic to your right to the road. Since the law specifically grants you access, there is no argument. It matters not whether you pay taxes, insurance, tolls, etc. so long as you are acting within the established laws.

People who go around making up their own laws should try for a career in Politics. There's not much support for amateur legislation these days.
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Old 12-12-05, 05:33 PM   #21
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awesome links. thanks!

it'll take me a while to get thru the GAO Report. Good stuff. Thanks.

i wrote ODOT in Salem. the oregon dept of transportation guy referred me to the whoserd.pdf as well.

I really like the parts in whoserd.pdf that shows how Frances the cyclist overpays in their share of roadway costs.
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Old 12-12-05, 05:41 PM   #22
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Here's a link for info about California: http://www.ucop.edu/cprc/highway.html
Some quotes:
"The traditional sources of revenue have all been user fees: the federal and state fuel taxes, vehicle registration fees, motor-vehicle-weight fees, driver's license fees, and tolls. Of these various finance mechanisms, the fuel taxes have raised the majority of revenues."

"Sales taxes, which are not directly related to use of the transportation system, are now a major source of highway funds. In the 1996/1997 fiscal year they raised roughly $400 million for highway projects, or about a quarter as much as the state fuel taxes raised for highways during the same period."

"...we should prefer the finance instrument that charges users more fairly in relation to the benefits they receive from the highway system, or in proportion to the costs they impose on it. Such a user-benefit finance system is (1) effective because existing highway capacity is better utilized, congestion and emissions are reduced, and revenues rise and fall with system use; (2) efficient because highway construction and maintenance needs are minimized; and (3) equitable because light users of the transportation system are not forced to subsidize heavy users of the system."

So, yes, gasoline taxes do pay a significant amount toward the construction and maintenance of roads, but they are also intended to influence road users to make choices that minimize use. That a cyclist has made such a choice only shows that he made a good economic choice, not that he has no right to the road.
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Old 12-12-05, 05:56 PM   #23
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Here's a link for info about California: http://www.ucop.edu/cprc/highway.html
Some quotes:
"The traditional sources of revenue have all been user fees: the federal and state fuel taxes, vehicle registration fees, motor-vehicle-weight fees, driver's license fees, and tolls. Of these various finance mechanisms, the fuel taxes have raised the majority of revenues."

"Sales taxes, which are not directly related to use of the transportation system, are now a major source of highway funds. In the 1996/1997 fiscal year they raised roughly $400 million for highway projects, or about a quarter as much as the state fuel taxes raised for highways during the same period."

"...we should prefer the finance instrument that charges users more fairly in relation to the benefits they receive from the highway system, or in proportion to the costs they impose on it. Such a user-benefit finance system is (1) effective because existing highway capacity is better utilized, congestion and emissions are reduced, and revenues rise and fall with system use; (2) efficient because highway construction and maintenance needs are minimized; and (3) equitable because light users of the transportation system are not forced to subsidize heavy users of the system."

So, yes, gasoline taxes do pay a significant amount toward the construction and maintenance of roads, but they are also intended to influence road users to make choices that minimize use. That a cyclist has made such a choice only shows that he made a good economic choice, not that he has no right to the road.

Whoa... I believe the above is in regard to hiways, not local roads which cyclists frequent.
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Old 12-12-05, 06:00 PM   #24
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Originally Posted by oboeguy
Tell the next moron to ask you that you'd gladly pay the $1 per year it costs for road upkeep needed due to your bike use.
Indeed, a more satisfying answer to the "cyclists don't pay" idiots might be to hand them a quarter (or a dollar) and walk away...
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Old 12-12-05, 06:40 PM   #25
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Heh, Brokenrobot, I like your answer.

Here in Massachusetts, auto insurance is mandatory. It has been this way for a long time. You cannot get a number plate, unless your application has been stamped by an insurance agent, indicating you have insurance. Of course, ever-resourceful MA motorists are very creative at beating the system, but I won't address that here.

So,,, Every cyclist I know has had something about "you should have to pay insurance!!" screamed at him / her at least once. It's a very touchy issue with some car owners, especially males who are so convinved of their driving prowess that they feel they don't need to be insured.

Oddly enough, Boston requires working messengers to carry insurance. I've been told that messengers must carry more liability coverage than a taxi. (Hearsay, not stated as fact) That aside, why aren't cyclists required to carry insurance? could it be that bicyclists don't cause millions in property damage each year, and an untold amount of personal injury, maiming, and the occasional death? Could that be the reason?

In the ultra-rich suburbs west of Boston, it's very common to see folks riding horses along the more quiet roads during the warm weather months. So, should those horse riders (Uh, do any men go in for this?)be taxed because they are using the road?
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