Friday, July 13, 2007

Facing Reality

A couple of days ago an article appeared in the Los Angeles Times titled Needed by 2050: decked freeways, tunnels, tolls, trains citing studies which calculate that $140 billion needs to be spent in six Southern California counties in the next 30 years to keep congestion in check. It also cites the state Department of Finance which forecasts that California's population will increase to 60 million by 2050 and Southern California's population will increase to 31.6 million.

"Many say boosting the gas tax would be the most logical way to collect more revenue. But it is politically unpopular with prices at the pump so high. California and the federal government each impose a gasoline tax of 18 cents a gallon, a rate that has not changed since the early 1990s despite a sharp rise in gas prices. Because the tax has not been adjusted for inflation, California has struggled merely to maintain its existing roads."

What should be discussed is that increasing the gasoline tax has the potential to stabilize gasoline prices by reducing demand for gasoline if enough of the revenues are invested in mass transit. Funding mass transit will give millions of Californians the option of not consuming gasoline or driving at all. This will improve the economy as well as reduce greenhouse gas emissions. How is it that California with a population of 38 million consumes more gasoline than the modern industrialized nation of Germany with a population of 82 million? The Germans rely on alternative fuels to a greater degree than Californians, but the huge difference is mass transit.

The article also mentions that several Southern California counties have a sales tax that is dedicated to transportation. In Los Angeles county the 1 cent per $1 tax goes to funding mass transit mostly. Increasing such a tax for the purpose of funding mass transit would increase the financially beleaguered local mass transit agency's budget by nearly 25%.

The mainstream media and the society are beginning to consider solutions, which only a couple of years ago, were not even mentioned. Californians can no longer afford the car as the primary mode of transportation. This is a reality we must face. Taxes, for the purpose of funding mass transit, are good.

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