NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

TOLLS BEAT TAXES

December 18, 2006

Using toll financing to pay for improved transportation infrastructure was the overwhelming top choice of motorists, ranking dramatically higher than increasing or indexing fuel taxes, according to a new survey.

Overall, according to the American Automobile Association (AAA):

  • Sixty-four percent of motorists judged traffic congestion to have worsened over the past three years.
  • Seventy percent think more money is needed to maintain and improve the system to keep pace with demands.

Further, when asked specifically:

  • The top choice among motorists for financing was tolling, with 52 percent supporting it.
  • Within that broad category, the most popular option -- at 39 percent -- was to toll only new capacity.
  • By contrast, only 21 percent favored increasing the gas tax, and only 15 percent supported increasing other taxes (such as sales, income or property taxes).

The data suggest that most Americans continue to support the user-pays principle of highway funding, which was once represented by "highway user taxes" on fuel, whose proceeds were dedicated to the highway system.  As that connection has been weakened over the last several decades, support for increasing fuel taxes has waned.  But now that tolling has evolved into a 21st century technique that no longer requires toll booths or toll plazas, Americans are coming to see it as a more "pure" form of user-pay. 

Source: "AAA Survey Finds Tolls Beat Taxes," Surface Transportation Innovations, Reason Foundation, Issue No. 38, December 2006.

 

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