This past week President Obama has signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, allocating $60 billion out of $790 billion dollars to be spent on alternative and clean energy, scientific research, and various environmental projects. Out of this $60 billion dollars close to $36 billion dollars will be spent on transportation maintenance and fuel-efficient mass transit. While Obama has paid billions of dollars for fuel-efficient public transportation developments and current transportation infrastructure rehabilitation, transit systems across the United States will soon be dropping service routes and laying off employees due to the lack of revenue created by sales and gas taxes. The revenues created by sales and gas taxes directly supports the Federal Highway Trust Fund, which funds the United States transit systems, roads, and underground gas storage. With our nation’s current recession, revenue created from sale tax has decreased, while the increasing amount of hybrid cars on the road and the recent hike in mass transit ridership has been decreasing the revenue created by the gas tax. Due to the fact that no money from the $36 billion transportation stimulus can be spent on current public transportation operating costs, the United States needs to find new solutions in order to maintain the public transit systems that are in place today while increasing public transit ridership in car-oriented societies (Los Angeles).
In order to find a transportation policy that would not only save the public transit systems currently in use, but also increase mass transit ridership, I decided to search the blogosphere for the most viable options. One blog post titled, A Mileage Tax in Question from the blog titled Transportpolitic suggests that more transportation revenue can be generated if the gas tax was shifted to a vehicle mileage tax system. Under this tax system, people would pay taxes based on the number of miles they drive, rather than how much gas they purchase. Another post titled, $60 Billion for Green in the Stimulus Bill: Where the Money Will Go Found on the blog Treehugger suggests that Obama’s stimulus bill will not be enough to create a sustainable country that utilizes mass transit, and therefore will need strict transportation planning before the United States will see any improvements in its car-oriented societies. My insight about these articles can be found on their websites, and below.
A Mileage Tax in Question
I agree with your post that the Obama Administration should look further into adopting the VMT system in order to generate a steady source of income for the United States transportation system. Even with President Obama’s near $40 billion dollars allocated to the rehabilitation of current transportation infrastructure and to new developments for energy-efficient transit systems, without a steady source of income the current public transportation systems across the US will continue to drop service routes and layoff employees due to a lack of funding.
I personally feel that the VMT system, which has successfully been implemented in Oregon, is a perfect solution for our transportation funding problems. Not only will the VMT system create a reliable source of income, but the VMT system is also a policy that will promote the use of public transit. With the VMT system enacted, drivers will be more conscious about the amount of miles that they drive, for they will be forced to pay more accordingly. Americans will therefore start becoming more conscious about driving their cars to destinations that they can easily get to by more sustainable means of transportation.
While one draw back of the VMT system may be that there will be no incentives to drive fuel-efficient cars, the government can pay out refunds to those who own fuel-efficient cars in order to promote further sustainability. If the government does not offer these refunds to fuel-efficient car owners, than hybrid-owners will pay the same amount of taxes that a Hummer-owner will pay if these two drivers travel the same distance, which would contradict the governments plan to promote sustainable living.
$60 Billion for Green in the Stimulus Bill: Where the Money Will Go
This post is very insightful and answers many questions about where the proposed $40 billion dollars will be spent regarding public transportation. As an environmentalist and an advocate of sustainable living, it was very exciting to see President Obama’s stimulus package for it solidified the United States commitment to sustainability. However now that Mayor Pat Mccrory has explained that politicans do not share the same sustainable goals as the Obama administration, I am afraid that President Obama’s transportation stimulus plans will not be as successful as he planned.
While Obama has allocated a near $40 billion dollars to the United States’ transportation system, currently transit systems across the US are dropping service routes and laying off employees due to the lack of transportation income created by sales and gas taxes. According to this post, Obama's stimulus package may not ensure that the money allocated to state governments will be spent in the most sustainable and most useful way. I feel that if President Obama’s stimulus package is to be successful than President Obama will have to create a Master Plan , as suggested by Mayor McCrory, to serve as a guideline for our future transportation systems and growth models to ensure that the United States and its car-oriented societies become more sustainable and environmentally responsible.