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City task force will explore how to make drivers pay true cost of road use

Posted by on October 9th, 2019 at 11:45 am

Driving is way too cheap.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

“We have limited road space in the city… We need new ideas to help people and goods get where they need to go more reliably, sustainably, and equitably.”
— City of Portland

Not to be outdone by the Oregon Department of Transportation, the City of Portland is assembling a committee to develop new policies that will make it more expensive to use automobiles.

The Pricing for Equitable Mobility Community Task Force will be a joint effort headed by the Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) and Bureau of Planning and Sustainability (BPS), “as they consider how new pricing strategies could potentially be used to improve mobility, address the climate crisis and advance equity for people historically underserved by the transportation system in Portland.”

PBOT Commissioner Chloe Eudaly is a major fan of congestion pricing so it should come as no surprise that she’s looking for policy and public backing to strengthen its case. Back in April we reported that the commissioner believes the best way to reduce traffic on I-5 through the Rose Quarter is to charge a fee for people to drive on them — not to add more freeway lanes.

Portland will use this new task force to help shape its position on the topic on related ODOT and Metro committees.

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ODOT was mandated by the Oregon Legislature in 2017 to move forward on a congestion pricing policy. Their plan to toll I-5 and I-205 was sent to the Federal Highway Administration in December 2018.

The City of Portland’s task force will be free to explore a much broader set of potential pricing policies than ODOT. In a statement, Portland said strategies that will be considered by the task force may include, but are not limited to: “parking pricing, area and time-based fees, fleet charges, road user charges, cordons [priced zones], freeway pricing and more”.

Like many policies coming out of PBOT these days, equity and inclusion are at the forefront. The task force’s work on pricing will include members who represent those who’ve been most harmed by our existing transportation system. “Historically underrepresented communities, including low-income people of color and people with disabilities,” states a statement on the task force, “face barriers that impact their mobility and access and a transportation funding system based on regressive gas taxes… The Pricing for Equitable Mobility Community Task Force will lead with equity and center transportation justice values throughout its work.”

The task force will include up to 20 members who will meet monthly over an 18-month period between 2019-2021. More info here.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org
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NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

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middle of the road guy
Guest
middle of the road guy

If they want to make things more expensive, they should have the folks over at the Water Bureau plan it.

The Dude
Guest
The Dude

Cue the incessant vitriolic whining from entitled drivers in 3, 2, 1, …

mh
Subscriber

I wish the phrase “true cost” could be worked into the article title, rather than “more expensive.”

Keviniano
Subscriber
Keviniano

Or “less wildly subsidized”.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

Driving is not “wildly subsidized”. It does have very high external costs, which is a different thing entirely.

Al
Guest
Al

Driving IS wildly subsidized AND has high external costs.

B. Carfree
Subscriber
B. Carfree

I guess this depends on what one means by “wildly”. With well over half of the cost of road building and maintenance paid for by general taxes, I’d say driving is wildly subsidized. Add in the fact that motorist user fees don’t cover any of the associated emergency responses that result from the inevitable crashes of such a subsidized system and it’s worse.

I’d also consider those “externalities” that we pay for to be pretty significant subsidies. Other than the potential loss of life on the planet, after we raise sea levels to such an extent that many major cities are gone, there’s that single biggest budget item on the national ledger: the military. A big part of their spending is to secure the car-based economy by protecting the oil dictatorships and their shipping lanes. And dare we calculate the cost to society and our economy of those 100k lives lost annually to cars (40k to crashes and 60k to air pollution)? How about the cost of the 2-4 million injured? We don’t require car addicts to pay the full cost of any of that.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

>>> With well over half of the cost of road building and maintenance paid for by general taxes <<<

Citation, please.

Alan Love
Guest
David Hampsten
Guest

I like table 4 the best, per capita taxes and fees by state. Thanks for the link.

idlebytes
Guest
idlebytes

I like number 4 a lot as well. Fits pretty closely to my own calculations from ODOTs budgets. Also in 2011 56% of the highway fund was being paid for by gas taxes that number has since dropped to 49% in 2016 so these numbers are probably worse now.

middle of the road guy
Guest
middle of the road guy

There are also external benefits to roads. If you are going to cite costs, you should also cite benefits in order to paint a fair picture.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

From https://www.oregon.gov/ODOT/About/Pages/Transportation-Funding.aspx:

>>> The Oregon Department of Transportation will collect just over $5.3 billion in total revenue during the 2017–2019 biennium.

23 percent from the federal government. [From highway trust fund, almost entirely gas tax derived, may start including general fund money in near future -H,K]
77 percent from state sources– the state fuels tax, taxes on heavy trucks, driver and motor vehicle fees, and bond proceeds and Certificates of Participation.
ODOT also receives funding for specific purposes from cigarette tax revenues, lottery funds, and a variety of transportation-related permits and fees.

About $1 billion (19 percent) of total revenue flowing through ODOT is distributed to Oregon cities, counties and other agencies. This leaves about $3.94 billion remains for ODOT’s 2017–2019 biennial operating budget and ending balance. <<<

How do we get to the 55% that the article you linked to claims for Oregon (or may be claiming, it's not really clear to me). 45% from cities and counties general fund after they've spent the $1B from ODOT? Is it even remotely plausible that cities could raise and spend that much?

I am not sure what is up; I would love to see some clear documentation of how much general fund money we are spending on roads in Oregon and who is spending it. Since all budget documents are public record, it should be straightforward to see where such a huge chunk of money is coming from.

There is also the added complexity of defining what constitutes a subsidy is when almost everyone benefits from a good road network even if they never drive, but the basic facts of funding source and amounts should be clear and indisputable, even if the interpretation isn't.

David Hampsten
Guest

HK, I served on the PBOT budget (now bureau) advisory committee from 2009-2015, and was regularly exposed to the PBOT budget process and revenue sources, exposure I’m still trying to recover from.

That said, I for one can easily believe that all Oregon cities, counties, and related jurisdictions together could generate $1 Billion annually, on average, through “local” sources.

Remember, we are talking gross revenue raised, not net (that is, minus administrative and personnel costs.)

First of all, for Portland and other cities there’s parking revenue, quite a lot in Portland, not so much elsewhere. This includes meters, pay stations, and garages.

Both Portland and Multnomah County receive gas tax revenue that is separate from ODOT’s, specific to those jurisdictions (ODOT collects it for them.)

Then there’s utility fees for cutting up streets, revenue from fairs, and whatnot. It’s not much, but part of it.

In Portland and other larger cities, locally generated urban renewal “TIF” property tax money is usually used towards transportation projects. Less so in Portland, but more so in rural areas, regular local property taxes are used to fund road repairs, build sidewalks, etc.

And yes, public transportation farebox revenue is pat of the mix as well. Trimet serves (and is sort of controlled by) 3 counties, hence its name. They also receive a massive amount from payroll taxes (income tax). Similar for LTD in Eugene and other Oregon transit services.

Multnomah County uses local taxes to pay for the repairs and maintenance on bridges it owns.

Also, some federal funding sources are treated as “local match” by the federal highway admin & ODOT, especially urban renewal, social service and welfare funding from other unrelated federal agencies. For example, public schools are part of the mix, funding sidewalk improvements, but especially their yellow bus programs, with a combination of local taxes, state funding, and federal subsidies “for education”.

There’s also bond funding, leftover project funding, MTIP, etc.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

The contention was that general funds were used to pay for roads. Things like parking fees are just more user revenue. Where is the 45% general fund revenue coming from?

The numbers in the linked article had no substantiation, and just don’t add up. I see no evidence for significant general fund payments to build and maintain the road system at any level of government.

David Hampsten
Guest

HK, anything that isn’t collected by ODOT or the feds on behalf of ODOT or the feds, for highways, is considered in these charts as “local general revenue”. This is different that what the City of Portland, for example, calls “general revenue.” So for example, the federal gas tax is “user revenue”, as is Oregon gas tax revenue collected by ODOT on behalf of the state. But City of Portland gas tax revenue, which is also collected by ODOT, is not considered “user fees, taxes, and revenue” for the charts. It is instead considered “general revenue”. Since the federal gas tax fund has been operating in a deficit since 1993, part of your 1040 federal income taxes has also been going into the pot to pay for highways. This is also considered as “general revenue” for these charts, even though the source is “federal.”

The other thing is that a lot of what is being built now and has been built in the past is paid for through deficit financing. Governments issue bonds, usually for 30 years, based upon future revenue expected. About 20% of PBOT’s current revenue goes to pay for borrowed money, while the ratio at ODOT is even higher. The Feds are effectively in default. Very few governments operate on a pay-as-you-go basis for financing transportation projects.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

>>> Since the federal gas tax fund has been operating in a deficit since 1993, part of your 1040 federal income taxes has also been going into the pot to pay for highways. <<<

The first half of this statement is accurate, but last I checked (about 6 months ago), 1040 money had not been spent on roads. True, there have been two (I think) transfers of 1040 money into the trust fund, it has not yet been spent. This will cease to be true sometime in the near future, and it will become possible to argue that at least some 1040 money is being spent on roads.

ODOT's budget, by the way, has a big spend on bond payments, so while they borrow to pay for projects, those debts are repaid from vehicle-derived sources.

I think those charts, as presented, are highly misleading if not downright wrong.

David Hampsten
Guest

And speaking of which, there’s the storm and household waste sewers of course, which usually run under our streets, paid for partly with federal subsidies, partly through original developer costs paid by the dweller, but mostly through your water rates. Fresh water is usually (but not always) also run under the streets.

Alan Love
Guest
Alan Love

It’s a few years old, but our transportation funding structures haven’t changed much…

https://taxfoundation.org/gasoline-taxes-and-user-fees-pay-only-half-state-local-road-spending

Alan Love
Guest
Alan Love

Whoops, double post.

middle of the road guy
Guest
middle of the road guy

But you do benefit from those wild subsidies, do you not?

The Dude
Guest
The Dude

You mean, by temporarily living an exorbitant lifestyle while the subsidized activities lead the human race into extinction? Yeah, I’m loving it.

David Hampsten
Guest

Even if you are living a very modest low-carbon bike-only lifestyle you are still benefiting immensely from the many subsidies. There’s the roadway and railroad network that you’ve bought into, with your friends, relatives, and delivery people able to connect with you in person or by virtual means (cell towers, phone lines, ethernet cables, electricity lines, etc). There’s direct local, state, and federal subsidies for transit, AMTRAK, BOLT bus, and Greyhound (via the Federal Transit Administration & ODOT.) There’s the various local, state, and federal grants for bikeways, not to mention street maintenance to make streets smooth and mostly glass-free. Bike racks installed by PBOT & TriMet around town. Bike parts, imported from overseas to national distributors like Quality, J&B, and others delivered nationwide, so you can purchase the cheapest most compatible parts you need for your bicycle lifestyle, since even made-in-America Paul’s components need to be distributed. Out-of-season fruit and veggies from California and BC tomatoes. And of course emergency services.

Basically, you, me, and everyone else benefits from our highly subsidized transportation and communications network. In fact, we literally couldn’t survive without it.

9watts
Subscriber

“In fact, we literally couldn’t survive without it.”

This is not helpful because it is a static view. Since we will need to relearn how to survive without this madness it would be better to stop being defeatist and put our minds to how we can back out of this juggernaut. What would it take? How hard can it be? Even if it turns out to be hard, it will be less hard than digging in our heals, shutting our eyes, and refusing to admit our foolish ways.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

The end of the world is nigh! Repent!

9watts
Subscriber

More sauce from H,K.

But what about the substance of my contention?

You have allowed here in recent months, that things could turn out for the worse, but that it will be too late anyway. How fun or interesting is that?

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fundamentalism:

>>> Fundamentalism usually has a religious connotation that indicates unwavering attachment to a set of irreducible beliefs… leading to an emphasis on purity and the desire to return to a previous ideal from which advocates believe members have strayed. <<<

The world view you promote is fundamentalist in nature, and thus invites comparison to other fundamentalist messages. There seems no possibility the world will run itself in reverse (and it's probably impossible without accepting the deaths of billions). But the nature of fundamentalist belief is to keep on believing, and I've given up trying to convince you to do otherwise.

9watts
Subscriber
9watts
Subscriber

“There seems no possibility the world will run itself in reverse (and it’s probably impossible without accepting the deaths of billions)…”

Twice impossible in one sentence. Your imagination is failing you.
The difficult we do immediately; the impossible takes a bit longer.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

You’re right… I just couldn’t figure out how to fit the word in a third time.

The Dude
Guest
The Dude

Oh, sure. We are all “benefitting” from all the pollution going into the air, right? Climate change helps everyone?!

middle of the road guy
Guest
middle of the road guy

No need to be dismissive. But the goods you use arrive somehow, right? That’s an indirect benefit, no?

If you are going to be a Holy Roller on climate change, at least admit you benefit from it as well.

Johnny Bye Carter
Subscriber
Johnny Bye Carter

“But the goods you use arrive somehow, right?”

Because goods never arrived anywhere before we got motor vehicles?

And most people don’t want all the delivery vehicles off the road.

David Hampsten
Guest

Don’t for get your fresh Bull Run drinking water, chlorinated but unfiltered, delivered constantly to you abode usually under your street; and the runoff sewage from your shower/toilet/sink goes back under your street, to be treated before being discharged or used again. The original construction costs were born by the developer than passed on to the various owners over time, but recent repairs are paid partly through federal grants and mostly in your water bill.

It’s more useful to think of your street as a package deal, not necessarily just something to drive or ride your bike on.

middle of the road guy
Guest
middle of the road guy

No argument with you there, John.

The other side of that coin is that many people are also blind to their indirect contributions towards those costs…like using goods transported by fossil fuel vehicles.

We are all hypocrites on some level and employ some level of moral relativity to justify our being better than others.

Gary B
Guest
Gary B

With respect to whether the subsidies are good policy, it’s irrelevant whether one receives some benefit from the subsidy. It’s not at all hypocritical to believe such subsidization should end even if one gets a benefit from it. The problem with the subsidies is not that the money is wasted or goes to someone else (i.e., your implicit argument about one’s personal benefit), it’s that it hides costs and externalities, and thus distorts the market. By ending subsidies for harmful practices, it creates direct, tangible incentives to reduce the harmful practice or find alternatives.

Fred
Guest
Fred

Comment of the week?

The Dude
Guest
The Dude

Well-said. If I seem dismissive it’s because people keep setting up straw men. Thankfully, we have Gary B to show that.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

With something like roads, for example, does any money derived from the general populace constitute a subsidy? Or could you consider that direct payment for indirect services received, such as emergency services access to your location, access to walking ways, and other benefits from the street that are not specific to driving?

Since everyone benefits, shouldn’t everyone pay? And if the roads were paid for purely by vehicle users, wouldn’t they in fact be subsidizing non-vehicle users who benefit from having roads?

I think the question is hardly as straightforward as some would suggest.

turnips
Guest
turnips

“And if the roads were paid for purely by vehicle users, wouldn’t they in fact be subsidizing non-vehicle users who benefit from having roads?”

no they would not. if I’m benefiting from having roads–say because goods were delivered to me over those roads–I’m still paying for the roads in the price of those goods. if I’m benefiting because of emergency access, I’m still paying, either directly with a bill for services like a ride in an ambulance, or indirectly through public funding of emergency services.

Middle of The Road Guy
Guest
Middle of The Road Guy

Redistribution of taxes to provide services IS providing a subsidy. Our society is pretty much based on that model. How do you feel about Universal healthcare?

turnips
Guest
turnips

“Redistribution of taxes to provide services IS providing a subsidy.”

obviously. I mentioned emergency services, which I’m much more comfortable subsidizing–though not without plenty of caveats (giant fire trucks, I’m looking at you)–than I am with roads. believing that no things should be subsidized does not follow from believing that some things should not be subsidized.

universal healthcare? gonna leave that alone here.

turnips
Guest
turnips

people are blind to their contributions in large part because the true costs of roads and transport are hidden. the argument I see being made here is that those costs should not be hidden so that everybody is more aware of their direct and indirect impacts.

Middle of The Road Guy
Guest
Middle of The Road Guy

Turnips,

I completely agree.

Having more (and assumed “better”) information allows one to make a more informed, objective decision.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

To me it sounds like framing the committee the way they are is setting it up for failure. If it proposes anything interesting, it will be hugely controversial, so it would be far wiser to frame it in the most conservative manner possible to make its recommendations seem more palatable. If it sounds like the radical left is behind the proposals, they will be harder to sell to Portlanders than if the committee appeared to be more establishment.

For example, I wish they would change the name to something like “Task Force to Reduce the Social Cost of Driving”, or something else that doesn’t contain the absurd notion that “equity” means making things worse for people to “even the score”.

I wish them success, but this appears to be another example of Eudaly taking a good idea and destroying any prospect of success by approaching it in precisely the wrong way.

middle of the road guy
Guest
middle of the road guy

Well stated.

middle of the road guy
Guest
middle of the road guy

How are they going to combine equity and fairness? Different rates for different income brackets, race and fitness levels?

David Hampsten
Guest

I agree. Fat lazy SUV trucks should be charged higher fees, while fit lean Uber Prius cars that are on the road constantly should be charged far less, given how much exercise they get and how little CO2 they add to the atmosphere, relatively speaking. Not sure about diesel semis and muscle trucks.

middle of the road guy
Guest
middle of the road guy

What if a poor person happens to own a fat lazy SUV?

The Dude
Guest
The Dude

If fossil fuels were not so heavily subsidized, and the new transportation plan implemented, it would be far less expensive for the poor person to use other forms of transportation than to drive around a SUV. This seems obvious.

middle of the road guy
Guest
middle of the road guy

But they are still choosing the SUV even though it currently costs more. Isn’t that obvious?

Matt S.
Guest
Matt S.

In my hometown Albany, you’re perceived as being poor if seen riding a
bike. Makes since people do whatever they can not to ride a
bike, even drive cars they can’t afford.

David Hampsten
Guest

Sigh. Yeah, we have the same issues here in Greensboro NC. Anyone “forced” to ride a bike or use public transit is widely perceived, even by the public agency staff involved, as being either too poor to own a car or too criminal to be allowed to drive. According to the census and other sources, in 2010 before Lime, 55% of our cyclists and 90% of our bus users were black. It also won’t surprise you that most of our cyclists and bus users live in cheap student housing near our 2 public universities and 5 private colleges, housing that is also available for ex-cons.

Lime has helped us get more white middle-class “choice riders” to use public transit and to ride bikes and scooters to and from work, so we expect the 2020 census numbers to change a bit.

The Dude
Guest
The Dude

No. The current system means that their choice is very limited.

Johnny Bye Carter
Subscriber
Johnny Bye Carter

When I get a huge pill shoved down my mouth I like to know that it’s coming. I hate when people give their group some cutesy name that sounds like it’s doing one thing when the goal is the opposite. The citizens need their medicine and they don’t have to like the taste of it.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

You’ll go far in politics.

David Hampsten
Guest

Idea #1: A citywide parking permit program.

It was suggested by the leading PBOT Director candidate who turned us down (we hired #2 Treat afterwards) as a way to give a value on the public right-of-way. SF and Chicago apparently already do it. For poorer residents and those paying higher property taxes (especially in East Portland), the permit cost could be reduced, reducing equity concerns.

Matt S.
Guest
Matt S.

What would be done about people living in their cars? Presumably without permits? Not very equitable.

David Hampsten
Guest

Not to mention pitching a tent in the public right of way, such as along I-205 and the East Bank Esplanade…

You are right, a city-wide parking permit program will have a direct impact or conflict with the city’s homeless issues and one’s basic human right to occupy public space versus one’s basic human right for everyone to enjoy that same space equally.

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

I’m sure a nonprofit would step up and provide permits.

David Hampsten
Guest

I wonder, if there was a citywide permit system, and various donors made tax deductible cash donations to purchase street parking permits through a registered and legitimate 501c3 nonprofit, who would be held liable for non-permitted uses by said users? Would it reduce harassment of homeless by neighbors and authorities, since they would be legally permitted to be there? Would a permit be allowed to be used anywhere in the city, or just in the neighborhood where a person has a home (or a mailing address for the homeless?) What uses would be allowed or not allowed? Who would responsible to enforce the law, the police or PBOT? Could a homeless permit holder order a POD for a parking space (as is now allowed by residents?) Could permits be traded on the open market rather than just the black or gray markets?

At the very least, each parking spot would have a definite real-market value based on the permits.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

If you want parking spots to have a real, market based value, auction them off. I would love to have the chance to bid on the spot in front of my house. Let the market decide what I should pay.

Matt S.
Guest
Matt S.

There’s have to be a limit placed on how many spots you could own. If not, theoretically a person could buy the whole block…

Bikeninja
Guest
Bikeninja

If they really make automobile drivers pay the true cost of road use it will blow most peoples minds. Once you take away the subsidies for road construction, maintenance and parking then add back in the costs of pollution related to cars, runoff from impervious surfaces created to serve cars, cost of sprawl created by auto commuting then the costs of foreign wars to keep the oil flowing, then add in the added costs to the healthcare system of car crashes and sedentary drivers car use would end immediately as no one could afford it.

Fred
Guest
Fred

You forgot the cost of policing: what percentage of police time is spent on motor-vehicle-caused mishaps, as well as enforcement of laws? How much does it cost PPB to run the “major crash team,” which has been deployed something like 55 times already this year?

I would love to see a fee – call it the “Transportation Enforcement Services Fee” – added to everyone’s vehicle registration and/or driver license (yes, cyclists would also pay an annual fee). It would go up or down every year, depending on how well or how badly people use the transportation system (how many accidents, etc). Then people would start to see how much transportation-related policing really costs. Right now they have no idea – it’s just a service the gummint provides.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

You are theorizing that the cost of policing would go down without a street network. This may be true, or it may not. Costs might go up if we needed more police because they could only serve areas withing walking or biking distance, so we needed more police. It may be that our current transportation system reduces the costs of policing, even after you add in accident investigators.

Johnny Bye Carter
Subscriber
Johnny Bye Carter

Health and safety aren’t free.

idlebytes
Guest
idlebytes

You can have roads that are for commercial and governmental vehicle use but not for people commuting alone in their personal vehicle. Most of our road costs are for SOV commuters. So policing costs would go down. They spend a lot of time on accidents. Also we’ve always had a street network it just wasn’t primarily used for people driving alone in their cars.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

Most road costs are for SOVs? How do you figure that? If no one is paying gas taxes, who will pay for the roads? Or will they somehow just maintain themselves?

Fred
Guest
Fred

I didn’t say anything about a street network, Kitty. I simply said, or meant to say, that if people had to bear the actual costs of policing the streets, they might be motivated to reduce those costs. Right no one knows what any of these services cost, allowing most drivers to think that driving is “free,” when it is in fact wildly subsidized on every level.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

I’m still not seeing the wild subsidies on every level. You could equally argue that by paying for roads, users of the system are subsidizing those who use the system more indirectly by consuming emergency services, riding their bike, and using transit.

I don’t think that’s a super strong argument either, but it kind of feels like you are defining your terms to get the outcome you want.

There are much stronger, cleaner arguments for increasing the cost of driving, such as focusing on externalities.

9watts
Subscriber

“You could equally argue that by paying for roads, users of the system are subsidizing those who use the system more indirectly by consuming emergency services, riding their bike, and using transit.”

No you could not.
I mean you could say those words, but they would not accurately capture how this works.

To ride my bike the network of roads I/you/we would need would cost 1%(?) of the current infrastructure? With proper tires I/we/bikey folk really don’t need more than a gravel strip.

Emergency services. First off a lot of those are necessitated by cars… Those that aren’t are in my view not a good reason to keep subsidizing oil, roads, cars. Let’s not let the emergency tail wag the oil subsidy dog.

David Hampsten
Guest

Idea #2: Maximize any tax or fees based on the Blue Book value for every car registered in Oregon. If there isn’t a tax, create one.

My city in NC charges up to $40 per car owned, the maximum allowed by our state laws. Washington state has a much higher tax. This tax is charged throughout much of the USA, so there shouldn’t be a lot of opposition to it; in fact I believe Oregon already has such a fee or tax, but they need to maximize it.

gilly
Guest
gilly

@David Hampsten – Washington state has a sales tax when the car is purchased or brought into the state. There has been at least one ballot referendum limiting the amount that can be charged for annual registration and tags.

I’m sure Oregon would similarly have ballot measures written to prevent maximizing fees unless it is limited to Portland.

David Hampsten
Guest

Idea #3: Increase the Utility License Fee (ULF) to reflect modern costs for street maintenance and rebuilds.

This fee is charged to utilities (and ultimately to their customers) for cutting up city streets, to periodically repave city streets. Almost right after it was approved by Council in 1988 to pay for repaving, Council decided to move a majority of the fees collected to the general fund, to pay for police, fire, etc. Today only 2-3% of the fee goes to PBOT for repaving, the rest to the general fund.

Jim Lee
Guest
Jim Lee

Another “task force?”

J_R
Guest
J_R

Look for the task force, or at least the city staffers who are assigned, to take trips to other cities or, better yet, countries to see how they do it. Then, they can make presentations at equity, inclusion, and transportation conferences across the country or around the world ala Vision Zero!

maccoinnich
Subscriber

What happened to performance based parking? City Council approved it last year and I haven’t heard anything about it since.

Mark Riskedahl
Guest
Mark Riskedahl

Studded tire surcharge!

The City of Portland could require local tire centers to assess a surcharge on installation of studded tires. There are numerous fees, surcharges, excises and taxes that can be levied consistent with state Constitutional restrictions. AAA and other lobbying interests have been successful scaring local governments into believing they don’t have authority to assess these types of fees.

maxD
Guest
maxD

I think Portland could require a sticker to be purchased to drive within City Limits with studded tires. It could operate like Snow Park passes. Fines for not having the sticker could be very high. Stickers could be for a season, a month, a week or a day to accommodate visitors.

Mark smith
Guest
Mark smith

Everyone needs tires. Even hipsters in Tesla’s . Tax tires. It would also keep tires with any tread out of landfills.

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

People would drive to other jurisdictions to purchase tires, if the tax is enough.

resopmok
Guest
resopmok

An idea to address the equity issue, though perhaps not solve, is a pay-by-mile solution which taxes shorter car trips more heavily. Pay-by-mile would continue to be good policy even after we solve global climate change and electrify transportation, since SOV is still a highly inefficient and dangerous mode of transit. Taxing shorter trips more heavily would discourage people from driving simply because it is convenient to do so, yet not penalize those whose short-term transportation needs (before we can fully build-out public and human-powered transit networks) can only be met by longer driving commutes. As better infrastructure is installed and people become more accustomed to using their feet, bicycles, or public transit, the scale can shift to further discourage driving, until we can manage to price it out completely and achieve transportation nirvana.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

Is there any mechanism by which Portland could impose a differential fee based on trip length?

resopmok
Guest
resopmok

Well, I didn’t think through a lot details, but most cars have a diagnostics port (OBD) which can accept a wireless device that transmits real-time data. My insurance company has used that data to analyze more than trip milage to determine if I’m a “safe” driver and adjust my rate accordingly. Linking such a device to a car’s registration would allow fees to be levied based on the length of a trip. What constitutes a “trip” would clearly need to be defined; how we insure that devices remain installed, regulated, and untampered would need to be examined; how we tax older cars and vehicles without ports needs debate; and there are likely a number of other technical hurdles I didn’t anticipate. Ultimately, I think it can be done, and it looks to me like a much more equitable way to implement pay-per-mile. Also, it would work much better at the state level, yes, but it might be possible to levy only cars registered to addresses within the city limits.

resopmok
Guest
resopmok

I’d like to add that creating a simple app which allows users to see their own trip history and the associated taxes could provide the sort of real-time feedback to motivate quicker changes in transportation choices.

9watts
Subscriber

Apps? OBD? What is wrong with phasing in a stiff but steady hike to the good old gas tax? I think it was pioneered in Oregon a hundred years ago. Set a goal of, e.g., a 20% hike every year going foreward (compounding, obviously) and in five years let’s check in, see if we still have this problem.

X
Guest
X

You beat me to it. A gas tax has the benefit of not requiring additional bureaucracy. Plus, a parking fee (levied at the time of license plate renewal?) to pay the costs not associated with mileage.

I’ve argued that e-vehicles are no panacea and mass adoption would be a poor use of resources. Not to mention that when the grid goes down, California, your e-whatsit is bricked in short order. Nevertheless it wouldn’t bother me to put in a stiff gas tax that little EVs don’t have to pay.

resopmok
Guest
resopmok

I understood the thought exercise was to find more ways to raise money for road maintenance. We should definitely be taxing gas more in an effort to discourage the use of fossil fuels, but we should also tax per mile to similarly discourage driving, itself an inefficient and dangerous form of transport. Otherwise, we are simply looking to electrify the status quo instead of reducing our overall energy consumption.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

We already have a way to pay for road maintenance — the idea is to impose additional fees to help account for the externalized costs of driving.

Fred
Guest
Fred

The State of Oregon created a pilot program to do this very thing (motorists pay by the mile), but it hasn’t been very successful: https://www.thenewstribune.com/news/local/article233435497.html

The reason it hasn’t been successful, I would argue, is that it seemed like a way of getting EV and HV drivers to pay MORE, not to get drivers of more resource-depleting vehicles to pay their fair share. That is, the program seemed motivated by a need to recover funds, since EVs use no gasoline and therefore pay no gas tax. You had people arguing that a Bolt had just as much impact as a Hummer, and should therefore pay the same per-mile fee, which is ludicrous. Any program that incentivizes the wrong behavior should be avoided, which is what smart people concluded about Oregon’s pilot program.

resopmok
Guest
resopmok

My thought is that the tax would be compulsory, not voluntary like the pilot program was. Certainly a coefficient representing a vehicle’s size should be part of a pay-per-mile formula since larger vehicles create more wear on the infrastructure; was that part of the pilot program? Also, why would we replace the gas tax with scaled pay-per-mile? Leave the gas tax in place, and redirect the funds towards mitigating climate change while the pay-per-mile fees goes to road maintenance. I would argue that the pilot program was designed to fail politically, but I’m curious how well it worked technically. How well were devices able to accurately gauge vehicle mileage? How difficult was administration of the program, and how would it look when scaled up to larger populations?

Fred
Guest
Fred

The program was a technical success: You’d get a monthly statement showing every trip you took in Oregon. The device even provided advice on how to accelerate and brake, to use fuel with maximum efficiency! But there were lots of yahoos arguing that a Hummer H4 (4900 lbs) has the same impact on the road as a Bolt EV (3600 lbs), so they should pay the same per-mile rate. And you are correct: any per-mile charge has to be mandatory for all vehicles. I like the idea of paying a gas tax, which penalizes the guzzlers, and also a per-mile tax, which means everyone pays something (bikes could even pay by the mile). But imagine how that would go down in rural Oregon: How dare the gummint tax me twice!

gilly
Guest
gilly

There are a probably a variety of reasons to charge a hummer more but you can’t really argue about weight. The wear and tear of a 3000 lb vs 5000 lb vehicle is about the same. Especially when you consider the road is built to handle the 19000 lb UPS van, 30,000 lb bus and 70,000 lb truck.

maxD
Guest
maxD

why doesn’t Oregon just charge a fee/mile when you bring your car in for a DEQ test or when you buy/sell/register?

gilly
Guest
gilly

The mileage fee at renewal was considered at one point but would be a financial burden on a lot of people. Especially those that can least afford it. That’s why they have been looking at the other pay per mile options.
One issue seems to be the lack of advertising/promotion of the new system. There were originally a lot of concerns about privacy, having to pay out of state mileage and overall cost of the system. It looks like a lot of that has been worked through.

J_R
Guest
J_R

Wouldn’t taxing shorter trips more heavily would encourage longer commutes? If it applies only within Portland, wouldn’t it also encourage people outside Portland to avoid all travel into Portland and encourage Portland residents to travel outside of Portland for their shopping and work trips? Would taxing shorter trips more heavily discourage trip-chaining (trips with multiple stops)? If the trip is defined by shutting off the engine (or battery power dropping to zero), would it encourage leaving the engine running or driver circulating while the passenger performs the errands? There are serious unintended consequences and lots to work out with this proposal.

David Hampsten
Guest

Further along those lines, if Portland was widely perceived by the Oregon legislature as being blatantly “anti-car”, would they work with Washington state to build an outer bypass beyond the city boundaries, a project long advocated for by Portland’s suburbs?

And if so, where would they get the money to do so?

Fred
Guest
Fred

Don’t we already have this, and isn’t it called I-205??

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

I think he’s thinking of something even further out, maybe like an I-405.

resopmok
Guest
resopmok

I think you are right that there are considerations to make in the details of the fee formula that would address some of these points. Any proposal which makes driving more expensive is going to be politically unpopular, especially if done so only in Portland. The goal of scaling a fee is to avoid hitting everyone directly in the gut with the real cost of our roads, especially the most economically vulnerable. If electrification of transportation is really the future, though, we need to find some significant source of revenue other than the gas tax to fund road infrastructure.

Rudi V
Guest
Rudi V

“new pricing strategies could potentially be used to improve mobility, address the climate crisis and advance equity for people historically underserved by the transportation system in Portland.”

Hmm… only one of those three goals isn’t pure fantasy. The other 2 are avenues for giveaways to leftest constituencies.

The Dude
Guest
The Dude

Middle of The Road Guy
Redistribution of taxes to provide services IS providing a subsidy. Our society is pretty much based on that model. How do you feel about Universal healthcare?Recommended 0

Ah, yes, the great myth that so-called moderates believe. In fact, taxes in the US are not “redistributed” since billionaires pay a lower effective tax rate than people like me, the waning “middle class.” Aint nothing in the middle of the road but yellow lines and roadkill.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

I believe in progressive tax rates, and think the rich should pay at higher rates than they do, but even under the current system it’s probably worth noting that billionaires are paying way more in taxes than you or I.

X
Guest
X

*or nothing. Evident wealth, houses/yacht/plane/art/sports team/etc, can coexist with a paper loss which means no money going into the general fund for that year and perhaps years to come. Some business endeavors, particularly real estate, are heavily favored. Unscrupulous people–oh never mind.

Jim Lee
Guest
Jim Lee

Can we get Greta on the “force?”

May the “force” be not against us!

Scott Kocher
Guest

+1. Street parking city-wide needs to be priced at the city’s true cost of the private automobile storage and transportation services being provided (thus fee not tax). That will make the price high enough that private garages would–and driveway curb cuts may–need to be priced as well. Plenty of options for sliding scale based on what vehicle is being parked, the owner’s income, etc. Use the revenue to help low income Portlanders escape spending half their income on cars. No wasting time on concern trolling for this one. Do it now.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

What is the city’s “true cost” for on-street parking on, for example, a residential street?

I am guessing it would be far more expensive to remove the parking than to leave it in place, so the cost may be negative. Alternatively, if the city needs to maintain it in order to allow for deliveries and other temporary or emergency stops, or to prevent the degradation of the rest of the roadway, the cost of allowing people to park on that part of the street may effectively be zero.

This idea comes up a lot, but never with any numbers attached. What is the cost to PBOT of on street parking?

X
Guest
X

A good question. A first approximation would be the PBOT budget, times the area covered by parking space(s), divided by total street area.

9watts
Subscriber

Hello, Kitty
From https://www.oregon.gov/ODOT/About/Pages/Transportation-Funding.aspx:>>> T
…when almost everyone benefits from a good road network even if they never drive….Recommended 4

You are focusing on the social enjoyment, practical dimensions of having a ‘good road network. ‘ What your focus elides is the climate cost associated with this so-called public good. Roads which encourage and allow overuse of motor vehicles hurt us all, will make life as we know it impossible. We didn’t always recognize this, but we do now. Or we should.

9watts
Subscriber

middle of the road guy
No need to be dismissive. But the goods you use arrive somehow, right? That’s an indirect benefit, no?If you are going to be a Holy Roller on climate change, at least admit you benefit from it as well.Recommended 8

You accusing others of being dismissive. Rich.

Goods. Always goods. I love it how the last refuge of the climate scoundrels, the gotcha opportunity, is always the transport of goods. Most of the crap that fills the trucks we don’t need, will find a way to do without when we price things more fairly. The reason we order, buy, consume, throw away so much is because much of it is (still) so unbelievably cheap, and it is so cheap because oil and highways and cars still are massively SUBSIDIZED. Yes, subsidized. You and Hello, Kitty’s attempts to suggest otherwise notwithstanding.

Mark Smith
Guest
Mark Smith

Chris I
People would drive to other jurisdictions to purchase tires, if the tax is enough.Recommended 2

Sure some would, like any tax. Most don’t. Laziness is a human trait. Capitalize on it.

Mark Smith
Guest
Mark Smith

resopmok
An idea to address the equity issue, though perhaps not solve, is a pay-by-mile solution which taxes shorter car trips more heavily. Pay-by-mile would continue to be good policy even after we solve global climate change and electrify transportation, since SOV is still a highly inefficient and dangerous mode of transit. Taxing shorter trips more heavily would discourage people from driving simply because it is convenient to do so, yet not penalize those whose short-term transportation needs (before we can fully build-out public and human-powered transit networks) can only be met by longer driving commutes. As better infrastructure is installed and people become more accustomed to using their feet, bicycles, or public transit, the scale can shift to further discourage driving, until we can manage to price it out completely and achieve transportation nirvana.Recommended 1

If only a taxing system existed already…if only….