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Build, baby build! Kulongoski’s transportation plan in line with national coalition

Posted by on October 16th, 2008 at 11:06 am

(Graphic: Transportation For America)

Yesterday, in cities across the country, Transportation For America launched their “Build for America” campaign.

The Build for America effort is focused on lobbying congress for increased federal investment in a “21st century transportation system” that will create new jobs via the construction of a world-class rail system, upkeep of our existing infrastructure, and construction of more public transit, sidewalks, and bicycle facilities. (See their, “Five Point Plan to Get our Economy Moving”)

That plan echoes an ambitious transportation package Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski says he’ll push for in the 2009 legislative session. The Associated Press reported last week that Kulongoski “will propose a transportation package in January that could create thousands of family-wage construction jobs.”

Governor Ted Kulongoski.
(Photo J. Maus)

At an economic forum last week, he added that, “This is the time when you start investing in things that put people to work.” As for how he’d pay for the package, Kulongoski said that “Nothing is off the table,” (including a possible gas tax increase and/or congestion pricing).

Streetsblog reported from one of the Build for America launch events in New York City yesterday, where U.S. Congressman Jerrold Nadler set a “target allocation of $500 billion for the next multi-year transportation spending package” (that’s about twice the amount previously authorized). Nadler told Streetsblog that,

“If we do it right, it will help us get out of the very deep recession we’re going into…If we don’t do it right, it will make the recession deeper and reduce our competitiveness.”

Both Kulongoski and T4 America have come to similar conclusions that, even though we’re facing a major recession, the time is now for a massive re-investment in our transportation infrastructure.

The Oregonian is already backing Kulongoski’s ideas. In an editorial last week titled, Roads, bridges and jobs: Stepping on the gas, Rick Attig wrote:

“…now is the right time for an ambitious transportation program — even if it involves some new funding mechanism, or an increase in taxes or fees to help pay for it.

Oregon’s economy, now and in the future, needs the jobs, needs the investment and needs improved highways, bridges and rail lines.”

The big question is, will bicycle-specific infrastructure be a part of these grand plans?

T4 America is focused primarily on transit and passenger rail, but they were at the recent Pro Walk/Pro Bike conference touting how their plan would “provide Americans with options to get around, including bicycling and walking”. Kulongoski has assembled a committee to look into a sustainable transportation vision for the state and he recently made headlines by biking to work this past summer.

Graphic taken from T4 America’s, Five Point Plan to Keep our Economy Moving.

With both of these efforts, bicycles are sure to play a role; but just how big of a role could depend on us. The mission of advocates and citizens that care about making biking a viable option for more Americans will be make our voices heard in a room crowded with interests.

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K'Tesh
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K'Tesh

Oh boy, I can already hear the workplace rants about how their gas taxes pay for my bike lanes…

How about we take back some of those huge corporate tax shelters from big oil?

Jebus
Guest
Jebus

Agreed K’Tesh.

I second the removal of the tax shelters but I also would like an increase in the gas tax to dissuade more drivers from… well you know, driving.

Brad
Guest
Brad

I love to shut those folks up with the following:

“I hear ya’. Gas is spendy and then when you think about how Kulongoski is talking about using GPS to track your mileage for tax purposes, congestion pricing, toll roads, etc. it makes me thankful that I can ride a bike or TriMet for next to nothing.”

It doesn’t directly address their bike lane rant but I do enjoy seeing the panic in their eyes especially when they Google what I tell them (or listen to Lars Larson) and realize that I’m not making it up. Then they get pissed at Governor Ted and start asking about bike commuting.

Equate bikes with conservative mantras like less taxation and freedom and you will begin get some buy off. All of a sudden, your “liberal” transportation choice becomes a libertarian ideal.

Paul Hanrahan
Guest
Paul Hanrahan

I would rather see a tax as a percentage of the purchase price of a car. This is a more fair way to tax those with and without money.

Brian E
Guest

Making our Rail system more efficient will give a huge benefit to bicycles because it will get people and freight off from our roads.

joeb
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joeb

My dream is to ride my bike to the train station, jump a train to anywhere in the Country and ride away on my bike at my destination. Last I checked, it would cost me the price of a plane ticket and take 36 hours to take the train to San Diego. To get to Eastern Washington, a bus leaves the train station at midnight arriving in Pendleton at 4:55 AM, which would be a beautiful time of day to ride 36 miles to Walla Walla, but then a weekend visit to my family would start with a sleepless all-nighter. I really hope rail and transit becomes a major investment in America.

A little aside, but I wish when Bob Schieffer asked Barack Obama for a specific percentage of how much we could reduce dependence on foreign oil in his first term, Obama would answer. There is enough money in his campaign to do some analysis and it wouldn’t take much time to break down the percentage of fossil fuels each industry uses, the alternative, the cost of the alternative, and how many sources of the alternative can be created in his first term. I believe I’ve heard transportation accounts for 40% of our oil usage. Manufacturing a brand new fleet of fuel efficient cars isn’t going to cut it. I hope somebody seriously pursues this analysis and then vigorously implements the alternatives.

Another Doug
Guest
Another Doug

They can build all the roads they want to if they will fund them using the gas tax or some other mileage based fee. Unfortunately, the state and local governments are increasingly using general funds for roads. That sends exactly the wrong price signal to drivers. Non-drivers and occasional drivers are paying to subsidize motor vehicle operation. Given the environmental and health impacts of motor vehicle operation, this makes about as much sense as subsidizing tobacco farmers.

T27
Guest
T27

A fair gas tax that would pay for the infrastructure cost of automobile would be at least double the existing tax. Tell you representatives that you want to stop subsidizing highway users with you income and property taxes. Double gas taxes now.

A common misconception repeated here is that oil companies pay taxes. Regardless of the tax rate or tax shelters, taxes are an overhead cost that is added to the cost of production and is part of the retail price. If believing that the oil companies are paying their tax for them is the only way to make fair gas taxes palatable to consumers, then so be it. However, it could have the unintended consequence of giving further competitive advantage to companies that move their profitable sectors and tax paying jobs offshore, thus reducing total revenue. Profits in the commodities market (oil) are highly volatile. Do you want a tax structure that could go three to five years with little or no revenue?

Joe
Guest
Joe

I heard that gas tax deal today at my work!
ahhhh from someone.

Pete
Guest
Pete

Brad (#3): very good point, thanks.

Paul Hanrahan (#4): I don’t agree that the purpose of a fuel tax is to burden those with more money; we have income taxes for that. The gas tax should recover costs from those that burden the infrastructure, such as heavier vehicles and those running studded snow tires. A sales tax would accomplish what you suggest more fairly, but that’s another debate entirely.

Federal and state gas taxes need to be raised, the deficit spending in the federal highway budget needs to stop, and Mary Peters needs to go. Unfortunately we don’t have politicians with the spine to vote for these things. During this election season I’ve received two negative campaign fliers saying “Candidate X voted to raise your gas taxes!”, and this was the first and most emphasized point in both fliers. In both cases it forced me to take a closer look in favor of these candidates, but I imagine Joe Public’s opinion would be swayed against them (“they must be tax and spend liberals!” – like the ‘conservatives’ aren’t spending… ;).

And yes, I drive, and I vote.

Stochelo
Guest
Stochelo

I’d like to see the taxes structured so that they discourage private car use, period. Sometimes, a tax isn’t bad just because it’s economically regressive.

Vance
Guest

But, but, but… What about freedom? Oh well, it was a dumb idea anyway. Now let’s get behind an excise-tax on soy-milk!

Drewid
Guest

When someone complains to you about gas prices, suggest they compare the cost of gas to the cost of bottled water. Basically the same. The same price for a toxic, dangerously flammable brew, pumped out of the ground, highly refined, and shipped halfway around the world. The same price as water. And they want to complain about it. I should go find a tar pit and cook it up myself if I think it’s too expensive.

Stochelo
Guest
Stochelo

Freedon–like the freedom for my neighbor’s kid to wear an Army uniform and go commit serial murder to steal oil?

peejay
Guest
peejay

Leaving aside the issue of discouraging car use by taxation is the bigger and more immediate issue of whether we should be spending more money in a recession. To listen to the Washington pundits, it’s an accepted fact that the next president needs to cut spending drastically (all three debate moderators asked the candidates what they would cut to balance the budget). However, that’s about the worst thing one can do in a recession as deep and potentially long-lasting as ours. If you don’t believe me, ask Paul Krugman, fresh off his Nobel Prize win, who explains it pretty clearly. Or ask the ghost of Herbert Hoover, who, when faced with the stock market crash of 1929, instituted an austerity program that drove us into the Great Depression. It took massive deficit spending by FDR to pull us out of it. Of course, why would we expect the talking heads on TV to know anything about that? It’s, like, ancient history.

Now, the question comes up: what to spend on? It makes good sense to build infrastructure, which, in addition to creating jobs, adds to our quality of life and can generate additional jobs nearby. Since both candidates want us to stop buying foreign oil, and both recognize global warming as a threat*, then any infrastructure that gets us out of our cars is ideal. I think we’re in agreement on that, but let’s first agree that it’s not essential to cover all infrastructure costs with a matching tax or fee, or a cut in some other spending.

Fiscal responsibility requires deficit spending during major downturns, to be made up by money generated during good times. Of course, we have that insane kicker law, making this impossible. But, perhaps we can get rid of it once and for all this time.

*Both candidates say this, one candidate actually wants to do something about it. And his middle name is not Sidney.

Vance
Guest

Stochelo #14 Oh please. Don’t you think you are overstating the issue a bit? Are you sincerely asserting that our government is actively absconding with another sovereign nation’s natural resources? In reality, the cabal of religious fanatics in control of that region’s oil supply are completely capable of destabilizing the global economy. As such, it is the responsibility of the, “civilized”, members of the global community to intercede.

You believe a myth-that there is a shortage of crude oil. It’s just a myth. Propagated by another group of religious fanatics-The Progressive Fascist Leftists of America. Your type always harbors the asinine notion that somehow the only use for crude in this country is to pour it into a Chevrolet Corvette and go tear-assing about our communities.

If you don’t like automobiles then by all means, don’t drive one. Friend, you are a shining example of, “The cure is worse than the disease.”.

Kim
Guest
Kim

You people are so narrow minded.

The gas tax is NOT limited to personal use of a vehicle. Remember recently when gas was $4.50 a gallon? Remember how the cost of “everything” increased (groceries, clothes, etc.)? Gas goes up on everything, not just personal commuting. For those of you who do not own a vehicle, you must at some point use a mode of transportation that requires “GAS”; taxi, bus, rental vehicle. Do you ever take a trip on a train or plane? Hum, eventually you pay as well.

Absolutely, get healthy and ride a bike! However, don’t be so narrow minded as to think just because a bike is your choice of transportation that somehow…YOU will never pay….because you will in one form or the other and you will be contributing to the expansion of bike commuting. Nothing is for free.

amy
Guest
amy

Obviously you people don’t have families, and most likely you are stuck in your own little world and never leave Portland. I love riding bikes and being healthy, but a long commute to a low paying job and kids make that impossible. Why don’t you tax something that isn’t good for your body like high fat foods, Cigarettes, and alcohol. That will lower heart attacks, lung cancer, and stop alcohol induced deaths by people driving drunk!!!