Archive for the 'Tax' Category

Commission Goes Crazy

A national transportation commission, with the scary sounding name of “National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission,” released a report last week known as Transportation for Tomorrow. This report calls for, among other things, raising the gas tax by 40 cents in five years, creating a new federal bureaucracy, imposing federal regulations on states ability to draw private investment in things like Public-Private Partnerships, and adding a federal transit tax on every transit ticket sold.

Ouch. Let’s look at this thing piece by piece. My first thought on the gas tax was that it wasn’t too bad of an idea. The Federal Highway Trust fund is expected to be short $4.3 billion in 2009, so a higher gas tax would solve the immediate problem. But U.S. Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters and two other commission members released a dissenting report, where they point out some serious problems with the federal gas tax. First, the federal government already plays too large of a role in transportation funding. Since the feds redistribute the wealth between states, Florida and other states don’t get back what they pay in gas taxes. According to this report, the Miami-Fort Lauderdale Metro area gets only 61 cents for highways for every dollar paid in gas taxes, or 90 cents for the overall transportation network, including transit. It’s bad enough that our area has to pay for highways in Tampa and Orlando through redistribution of the state gas tax. But it’s much worse that we have to pay for transportation improvements in places like Alaska.

The second problem with increasing the gas tax is that it is a flawed system. With more fuel efficient cars and even a few electric cars on the road today, some users are not paying as much as others for the same service. As Secretary Peters pointed out, we need a new alternative. All users should pay for using the road, whether it be at a toll booth or using some kind of GPS mileage system or whatever. But now is a good time for change, as several states are already looking into alternative funding sources. If the federal gas tax is left alone, the shortfall in funding will gradually force states to seek alternatives such as these.

Creating more bureaucracy is a bad thing, especially at the federal level where it will only strengthen the federal control of transportation. Telling states what they can and cannot do with private investment will only hurt projects like I-595 and the Port of Miami Tunnel, and make states even more dependent on federal dollars for transportation improvements.

Taxing transit tickets is sheer lunacy. Thankfully, Peters also comes out against this. Transit agencies set prices to cover as many costs as they can while still attracting the number of riders they need. If the federal government throws a tax on every ticket (the actual commission report says “all trips,” which would apply to free trips like the Miami MetroMover), that will only upset the balance the transit agency has reached between revenue and ridership. They would be forced to sacrifice their ridership or reduce fares and eat the cost of the tax themselves. The tax money would go to the general fund, where it could go towards paying for new highways or someone else’s transit system. So the chances are good that it will take away money from transit agencies. I will personally write to any congressman who dares to introduce such idiocy into a bill and I hope that the thousands of transit riders would also join us in opposing such an idea.

If you want to know who was responsible for this, read their names here. Every commissioner but Mary Peters, Maria Cino, and Rick Geddes supported the report. We’re grateful these three retained enough sanity to dissent.

Looking North for Some Obvious Answers

Perhaps Miami should look north for some answers on how to regulate our urban sprawl. Central Florida community leaders are presenting 4 alternatives on the future growth patterns the area can choose to take for regional developments and are allowing area residents to choose which path the region should take from now till 2050. I think its exceptional thinking on the part of city planners to choose a plan of action for regional growth over the next 40 years while educating the public on the negative effects sprawl will have on their community if the corrective measures aren’t taken. The report is inclusive of urban growth and development patterns, environmental land conservation, area job opportunities, and public transportation. The plan proposes three better urban growth alternatives along with the typical “do-nothing” alternative which would continue the treacherous path of disruptive land use. Needless to say, the citizens are speaking out and are overwhelmingly deciding that the “do-nothing” alternative is not a reasonable plan of action and are instead opting to see denser, smarter developments in their community. Interestingly enough, the seemingly controversial streetcar is included in denser growth patterns, as is extended commuter rail and alternative transit (bike, bus, etc.)

Our region is in dire need of an area wide policy against current land usage patterns. Our neighbors to the north have realized this, why can’t we?

I found this on the website, which has a wealth of information. One of their desired outcomes is something I have had a great deal of difficulty achieving with Miami residents since I started Transit Miami nearly a year ago:

Our Desired Outcomes:

  • Build a new regional mentality
  • Strengthen and create regional coalitions
  • Maximize opportunities and address challenges

Changing people’s minds will be the hardest objective for any visionary plan in this Country. The already disillusioned “American Dream” has morphed into an uncanny desire to lay claim to large tracts of land, repeatedly misuse resources, and generally live in an unsustainable manner. To attempt a reversal of this mindset would require a figurative amending of the constitution as well as widespread progressive leadership to reverse the suburbanization of American Culture witnessed over the prior six decades…

  • Heck, they even address the fragmentation which has occurred in the region…
  • Check out who is on board

Our Tax Dollars at Waste

I mentioned this recently, but was only able to snap a picture of it yesterday. There were at least 4 others of these along the way. I find it absurd that our tax dollars are being spent on advertising the fact that toll running will not be tolerated. Instead of highway improvements, more road rangers, or simply more FHP (you know, to catch the toll runners), our money is going down the drain with catchy slogans on oversized billboards. I can only imagine what the Clear Channel bill amounts to. What was the point of those electronic billboards (Florida Sun Guide) if we never intended to use them to actually advertise highway related information? Just another instance of our tax dollars at waste…

Keep on Tolling

Open Road tolling may be coming to Miami, as the MDX will be deciding on whether to implement the system on the Dolphin, Don Shula, Airport, and Palmetto Expressways. It’s a new technology which has already been installed at the toll-plaza on the Dolphin expressway heading east bound towards Miami. With Open Road Tolling, cars wouldn’t have to slow down or stop to pay the toll. The system works great, and will temporarily relieve some of the traffic congestion that is associated with toll collection. However, we see the implementation of open road tolling as an essential equal to widening of expressways. It’s a good idea and will streamline our expressways, but, citizens shouldn’t be duped into believing that the expressways will flow freely. More space in the end will just equal more cars.

Some quick facts from the MDX website:

  • 400 cars can pass through a manned toll booth per hour
  • 600 cars can pass through an exact change lane per hour
  • 1200 cars can pass through a SunPass dedicated lane per hour
  • 2200 cars can pass through an Open Road Tolling lane per hour

On, the plus side, more tolls would be added to the system, allowing users to pay for what they actually use, rather than existing system which has the toll plazas placed in a few unusual locations where fewer drivers carry the burden of paying the tolls…

Tax the Tourists for Transit (Part II)

Legislators are a step closer to placing an additional $2 per day tax on the upcoming election ballot. The proposal, would double the tax collected per day for rental cars rented in Florida. The counties which approve the rate hike would then see a greater return per rental in their county, a figure estimated at over $100 Million annually for the entire state if ratified in every county.

This is a win-win for the Florida citizens. We reap greater benefits while not causing a greater tax burden on ourselves and use the proceeds to help rebuild our crippled transportation infrastructure. We see no reason why anyone would be against a measure that would help spur growth in our communities by further capitalizing on the booming tourist industry. Heck, Disney isn’t going anywhere and neither are our beaches which gives us all the more reason to further profit from our visitors. Not all legislators see the great opportunity the tax hike can provide, saying:

”The power to tax is the power to destroy…”
-state Rep. Randy Johnson

Ok, Patrick Henry, take it easy on the prophetic taxation ideology. Tourism already provides a huge economic boost to our economy. A greater taxation on the services used by tourists would allow us to further enhance the mobility options for tourists in our cities. May it be a rail line in South Florida or a quaint trolley line in a lazy beach retirement town, the money collected will benefit all who are required to drive in our state…