By on November 30, 2009

As I noted yesterday, the intersection of automobiles and politics is a difficult area of analysis. In the United States, where motorists don’t face the daily challenges they do in Russia, discussions of politics in an automotive forum too often gets overwhelmed by larger political battles. Before you know it, a conversation about the future of electric cars can turn into a debate on military and foreign policy, and an auto-industry bailout can be justified by virtue of its small size relative to the bank bailout. In short, everything happens within a context, and politics is all about context. TTAC has always waded into political issues based on their relevance to cars, motorists, consumers and the industry, and we’ve held some fascinating explorations of political topics ranging from red-light and speed cameras and foreign oil dependence to anthropogenic climate change, bailouts and pay-per-mile tax schemes. In the interest of providing the right balance of big-picture and street-level issues in our coverage, we’re curious: what car-related political issues fascinate, concern or perplex you most?

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40 Comments on “Ask The Best And Brightest: What Are The Most Important Car-Related Political Issues?...”


  • avatar
    Cammy Corrigan

    Oil companies scout for oil fields, place oil rigs & oil wells there, transport the oil to refineries to be distilled, then transport the distilled fuel to petrol stations to sold. All these processes make the petrol cost about £1 per litre ($3.00 per gallon for United Statesers) and remember, tax makes up some of that cost, too.

    Meanwhile, people buy huge SUV’s and thirsty sports cars which cost tens of thousands of pounds, hundreds of pounds in car tax and costs thousands to maintain.

    So, when petrol rises by 2p a litre or 50 cents a gallon, people freak out. Why? When you think about it, petrol is one of the last bargains left on earth. The price of fuel isn’t the problem, it’s the choice of car.

  • avatar

    My main political beef with cars, at least here in America is how our automotive marketplace is artificially restricted by regulations. Why not have a single first-world set of standards for safety and emissions? As it stands today there are so many wonderful machines which we can not have here in the USA  - from Euro-spec Fords to Japanese Kei cars, to my personal desire: a 2-seat drop-top commuter/sports car such as an Alfa Romeo Spider JTDM. I’m not talking cheap Chinese death-traps here… these are well-made, safety-engineered vehicles from major manufacturers. We can’t get them for any number of reasons, all of them political… dreamed up by CARB in Sacramento, or some underpaid bureaucrat in Washington D.C., or even because some marketing idiot in Detroit thinks “Americans won’t buy (sports cars, Diesel cars, 4-cylinders, [insert another lame Detroit excuse here.]” or worst of all to “protect American Jobs”… which are all gone already anyway, thanks to the bozos ate GM, the UAW, et. al.
     
    Let’s break down the political fiefdoms, destroy the trade tariffs, level the playing field, and open up the market. Then we’ll truly be the “Land of the Free.”
     

  • avatar
    jpcavanaugh

    The pending increases in CAFE standards is a huge issue.  So long as CAFE and fuel prices rise in tandem, it is a non-issue.  But I am old enough to remember when they diverged, and what miserable underpowered crap we had to drive while the manufacturers figured their way through the regulatory morass and the engineering learning curve.  

    The continuing story of the Chrysler and GM bailouts is also a big issue, to the extent that it affects the product they turn out for those of us who are consumers of cars.  The CAFE issue will tie in here, because this will be an awfully high expense that the US industry can ill afford right now.

    Finally, the issue of US safety and emission regs at odds with those of the rest of the world strikes me as an issue that ought to be taken up.  I believe that the separate sets of regs hurts US companies more than those offshore companies who want to sell here.  The US market is large enough to justify a US specific model.  However, the reverse is not often true.  Any US models that might find favor overseas are often popular only in small numbers.  However, this could be a source of revenue to US makers except for the need to re-engineer the cars for foreign markets.  It seems to me that some sort of negotiated safety and emission treaty would be a benefit to all of us.

  • avatar
    superbadd75

    The car-related issues that concern me the most are carbon emissions related legislation, and “pay per mile” taxes that may ultimately mean some sort of GPS unit being installed in my personal vehicle. These 2 means of government control have the potential to eliminate, or greatly reduce, my freedom to choose the vehicle I want to drive, and where I drive it. I don’t need the government to control me or make my decisions for me.

  • avatar

    Mass immigration. According to the Pew Research Center, the population, now officially 307 million (US Census) will rise to 438 million by 2050, 82% of that growth will be due to mass immigration. The implications for driving of having nearly 3 people for every two now in the United States should be obvious. Those who want to do something about it, with very little investment of time or money can join numbersUSA at numbersusa.com/.

    • 0 avatar
      superbadd75

      Damn it! Work’s got me blocked out!

      Mass immigration is something that is completely overlooked by so many, and it causes problems in nearly every aspect of our lives. For some reason I never once thought about it as a factor in my daily drive. The sad aprt is that I just don’t see anything ever being done about it. Most politicians seem to be too scared to confront it, and the ones that will never come forth with anything to get it done. It makes me crazy that it’s not addressed just in the interest of national security, let alone all of the other issues it causes.

  • avatar

    Beyond the mere slowing of traffic, there will be much more push to regulate traffic as the population grows, with the likes of pay per mile.

  • avatar

    I hadn’t thought about immigration as a car-related issue before, and I have to say it doesn’t strike me as hugely troubling… but then, I come from the generation who will support the Baby Boom’s social security and medicare payouts, so I tend to see immigrants as welcome help in the big picture.
    Regardless, the politics of traffic are always interesting. I think it’s safe to assume that America’s population will continue to grow, and that traffic will increasingly impact the automotive world. And not, I’m afraid, for the better. Apathy towards driving is, I believe, a leading cause of automotive “appliance-ification” and distracted driving… and nothing creates apathetic drivers quite like traffic.

  • avatar
    no_slushbox

    In order of most important/threatening:

    1) Per mile GPS based road taxes.  Along with this goes the selling of public roads to private companies.

    2) Private corporation red-light and speed cameras.

    3) Government mandated speed/performance limiters.

    Competing with China and India for oil will have global political implications, but enthusiasts will just have to downsize and go alternative.  I’m not that scared of a Honda Beat or Tesla Roadster.  This could become an issue though if a nuke hits one of my favorite roads.

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    My biggest concern revolves around privacy issues as related to tracking driver behavior.  Companies like Progressive offer “reduced rates” for those who allow monitoring.  Car computers track operating parameters that can be downloaded after an accident.  You can be tracked by Onstar. Seems to me that Big Business is just as much a threat as Big Government.  The Supreme Court is leaning toward favoring business over individual rights.  Sounds like a perfect storm for disaster to me.

  • avatar
    Jseis

    I see a rise in a significant sector of the population that will see cars as a utility (as opposed to a statement of self, and even then..utility is a statement) and at that point, a significant percentage of car or car-like mobility devices (whatever they are called) will be produced and dominate the car landscape by value. Technology will render human driving obsolete and an archaic statement. Given our tendancy at finding effiencies, what human wouldn’t what to give full attention to what they really want to do..which is not drive but do their nails or watch porn.

  • avatar
    Kendahl

    In the long run, population is the biggest issue. The more people there are, the less there is for each of us and the more our lives must be regulated to avoid social collapse.

    In the short run, I worry most about government regulation. That is, absurdly low speed limits enforced by roadside cameras and cars, designed to government specifications, that, despite what Obama thinks, I don’t want to buy.

  • avatar
    TrailerTrash

    Oil.
    The fact that our government restricts the production of oil, the way we power our vehicles, is the main issue.
    To think any other government policy effects consumer automobiles as much is naive.

    Government attempting to regulate consumer habits.
    From the government investment of taxpayer funds into specific developing energy, from electric vehicles, cow dung/algae eating fungi to entire counties being covered in metallic wind turbines, the government guiding hands is not allowing the consumer or markets decide what works and what does not.

    Bailouts.
    The government has found an opportunity to reward its own and at the same time grow itself and its ownership by using public funds to support/take over failing business models and allow selfish, blood sucking boards…be they company OR union, to continue.
    In doing so they remove the Darwin safety gene from capitalism.
    Now, GM and Chrysler have developed their own former Soviet styled (the first of many yet to come)5 year plans.

  • avatar
    210delray

    I’ve looked at that site (numbersusa) and I fail to see the problem.  We have plenty of room in this country; we’re not densely populated like England and parts of India or China.  The problem is that everyone seemingly wants to crowd into the metro areas of the Sunbelt and/or coasts.   Aren’t the Great Plains states all losing population if you leave out the cities?  I know we shouldn’t populate desert areas, but we’re doing that with abandon (Las Vegas, Phoenix).  At the same time, towns are drying up in the Dakotas.
    The “best case” scenario on that site (assuming we roll back immigration to pre-1965 levels) shows the US population declining over time.  This isn’t good because it means there will be too many older people having to be supported by shrinking younger generations.

  • avatar
    210delray

    I think the biggest problem is the unacceptable death toll on American roads.  Sure, the numbers are down to “only” 37,000 annually, but I bet they increase once the recession ends.  Some states know how to do it better than others — the New England states are among the best, while South Carolina, Alabama, Montana, and Wyoming have horrible records after taking population into account.
    The second issue is adequately funding the maintanence and where needed, expansion of our road and bridge system.
    The third is having a coherent energy policy, including concern for the environment.

  • avatar
    Monty

    CAFE – If anybody in Washington had any balls, there would be a fuel tax across the board. If a person wishes to drive a giant gas guzzling SUV, that’s their priviledge, and they should pay for it. CAFE regulations and the loopholes allowing trucks and SUVs to be exempt from CAFE rules penalizes every single car owner, even those who buy fuel efficient vehicles.

    Red-light cameras and speed cameras. All these do is satisfy governmental need for more and more cash. The cameras are not a deterrent to bad driving, nor do they assist in identifying bad drivers that could be taken off the road until they learned vehicular responsibility.

    And the most dangerous? Business and governments monitoring driving via GPS. This will lead to per-mile taxation, remote disabling of cars and other more unimaginable intrusions into our freedoms.

  • avatar
    newfdawg

    What this country really needs is a fuel tax hike across the board, that would probably eliminate the need for CAFE standards.  I see the growth of red light cameras due to the need of local and state governments for more revenue, and with the advent of GPS technologies some sort of pay my mile scheme, again for more revenue.  And don’t forget increasing privatization of highways in which private companies shake down motorists for the “privilege” of driving.

  • avatar

    @210delray
    The great plains is for practical purposes a desert. The water comes from the Ogallala aquifer, an underground lake that stretches from the Texas Panhandle to at least South Dakota. It’s been losing water for years, because the tiny population in the Great Plains uses more water than falls as rain. For more on how tight water is now with the current population, google “the future is drying up” which will bring up a cover story from the NYT  Mag (first hit).
    Moreover, even if there were enough water, are you going to make all the excess population move there? I dont think so.
    Every other environmental problem is made worse by greater population. Also, population growth drives up home prices, makes it so you have to drive farther to get out of the city, etc.
    Ed, one of the reasons you don’t see a population problem is because the state you live in doesn’t have one. Oregon is one of the least densely populated states in the country. In the east–Delray take note–we don’t have any place to put new roads, without uprooting a lot of people. Traffic is a way of life, etc. I drove to NYC for thanksgiving, on thanksgiving day. If I don’t hit any traffic, I can cover the 220 miles in about 3.5 hrs. Took me five hrs. Going anywhere on holidays is a big crapshoot, there are certain times of day you just do’nt get in the car if you don’t have to. You can drive the 460 miles from Boston to DC without ever getting out of urban sprawl. You can probably drive Boston-Chicago all the way in urban sprawl, and when there are 440 million in the US, you’ll probably be able to stay in urban sprawl all the way from Eugene to Vancouver BC. A lot of the wildlife will disappear as it has in the east.
    I live in the house I grew up in during the ’60s, and at that time, it was silent around here. Now, I can almost always hear the drone of the nearest highway, at 60 decibels.
    Silicon Valley used to be mostly orange groves. now it’s all built up. That’s what’s coming to Oregon over the next 40 years if we don’t stabilize the population.

  • avatar
    tnk479

    Belief in anthropogenic global warming, which has become a religion, currently the most profound (and misdirected) political influence on the automobile. That spurred all automakers from GM to Toyota to divert precious R&D funds into electric/hybrid cars and power trains as well as making investments into battery makers. In addition hundreds and hundreds of billions of tax dollars has been sunk into hydrogen, battery electrics, biofuels, etc. none of which are viable alternatives that can compete on performance and all of which are misdirected mistakes that have cost us the loss of an an entire generation of automobile advancement.
    After the global warming CO2 hoax falls apart we will look back and realize what was lost.

  • avatar
    tnk479

    Belief in anthropogenic global warming, which has become a religion, is currently the most profound (and misdirected) political influence on the automobile.
    The misdirected desire to eliminate CO2 emissions from the car (but not necessarily from the energy it takes to power the car) has spurred all automakers from GM to Toyota to divert precious R&D funds into electric/hybrid cars and power trains as well as making investments into battery makers. In addition countless hundreds of billions of tax dollars has been sunk into hydrogen, battery electrics, biofuels, etc. none of which are viable alternatives that can compete on performance and all of which are misdirected mistakes that have cost us the loss of an an entire generation of automobile advancement.
    After the global warming CO2 hoax falls apart we will look back and realize what was lost.

    • 0 avatar
      Jeff Puthuff

      The misdirected desire to eliminate CO2 emissions from the car (but not necessarily from the energy it takes to power the car) has spurred all automakers from GM to Toyota to divert precious R&D funds into electric/hybrid cars
      That’s not the only reason electric/hybrids are being developed. Remember, most of  our oil is controlled by a cartel. Oil is a finite resource. China wants oil and lots of it. That will only drive prices up in the future and, personally, I’d like to keep dollars in America instead of sending them to Iran or Iraq.

  • avatar
    baldheadeddork

    I think the number one car-related political issue is the cost of the infrastructure needed to support an automotive-centric society.
    The US population will continue to grow and the population shift to metropolitan areas is going to continue. Put those trends together and you’re going to see a lot more cities become like New York City and San Fransisco, where it is just too expensive and geographically impossible to add enough roads to support a growing population.
    Los Angeles is, for all practical purposes, already there, and their population is expected to increase by 25% between now and 2050. South Florida from Palm Beach to Miami has very little room left to expand. Same for the DC and Atlanta metroplex. In the coming twenty or thirty years it’s going to be hard to think of a major city where traffic congestion won’t be a huge factor. The next LA is going to be in Charlotte, Houston, Las Vegas, Portland, Seattle – and a couple of decades is the immediate future when you’re talking about freeway or mass transit planning. This is a critical issue in these cities right now.
    And unless we get incredibly lucky and have another economic run like we saw in the 90′s to erase some of the debt piled on in the last nine years, there will be a problem finding the money to pay for what expansion is available or mass transit to relieve some of the pressure. Cities with existing and substantial mass transit will fare better, but if Charlotte is on the way to becoming LA, then LA could be on the way to becoming Mexico City.
    The effect of this is going to stretch far beyond politics. It’s going to increase the economic disparity between states that are willing to invest in infrastructure and those who refuse to raise taxes for any reason. You think plug in hybrids are being crammed down our throat by liberal tree huggers? Spend five hours a day commuting and you’ll be begging for something that gets the equivalent of 70-80mpg.

  • avatar
    tedward

    1. CAFE vs. gas tax and associated regualtory battles. This goes directly to average power to weight and the character of the cars we’ll all be driving soon.
    2. Intrusive and/or inappropriate enforcement technologies. The usual suspects.
    3.  The subordination of DMV and DOT regulation to manufacturer inteterests (ahem…pickups on parkways, Bismark width family cars, driving tests that barely require literacy).
    4. Energy infrastructure and supply and how it MAY affect future vehicle trends.
    5. Bailouts etc…This shit is business as usual with politically important industries. How it affects future likely product is the saving grace.

  • avatar
    reclusive_in_nature

    1. The fact that the only ‘scientific’ solution for global warming/climate change/whatever-else-it-can-be-renamed-to-incite-panic is a political one (taxation, regulation, neutering vehicles). Guess it’s more profitable for scientists to spend their time and resources proving themselves right than, say, finding a have-your-cake-eat-it-too solution that’ll benefit everybody. Too capitalistic I guess….
    2. A loud, screeching/whining minority further divided into two smaller groups that believe: a) Government should dictate how efficient vehicles should be (CAFE) or, b) Government should tax fuel to steer sheople into underpowered, undersized common-goodmobiles. As a representative of the Fuck You majority, I propose government doing everything it can to keep fuel cheap to keep the tax revenue coming and not forcing us to lower our standard of living because the rest of the world might get their feelings hurt. Again, sounds too capitalistic.
    3. The lack of press for companies creating bio fuels. Again, something for the majority of us that DON’T want to be paying $4 a gallon for fuel. I salute the patriotism of those that want us to use less petrol for the detriment effects it’d have on our Middle Eastern enemies, but wouldn’t it be more fun to flood the market with U.S. made gasoline and diesel and watch our enemies economies crumble? If we use less Middle Eastern oil China and India would just fill the void anyway. So why not reap the profits of our own bacteria/algae/etc produced petroleum and watch Iran and Saudi Arabia degenerate back into the primitive states they were in before we transferred our wealth to them.

    • 0 avatar
      rpn453

      I’d like to see increased taxes to conserve fuel and lower the impact when oil production declines, not because I care about something beyond my own interests.  I couldn’t care less about global warming, whether it’s real or not.
       
      Of course, I’d also like for that tax money to be put toward the improvement and construction of roads, and the elimination of toll roads.

    • 0 avatar
      Banger

      Re: Item 2., Subsection b)
       
      I’d rather see a gas tax than CAFE. And truth be told, I’d rather see the gas tax increases than to see the stasis we’ve experienced for so long.
       
      Cheap fuel is nice, but if you want to wean the United States off the oil that keeps “our enemies,” as you call them, rich, waiting on the fragile biofuel industry or the automakers to pony up real, meaningful alternatives isn’t going to get results in your lifetime or mine.
       
      To me, it’s a carrot-and-stick situation: Sure, let’s offer “carrots,” in the form of tax incentives to domestic biofuel producers (or at least those who don’t have an impact on the food supply) or to companies who can produce a 50 mpg car by putting Americans to work in one of our many vacant factories. That’s all fine and good, but you’re not getting any tax revenue– and it does nothing to encourage consumers to use more fuel-efficient vehicles . That’s where the “sticks” come in. Those members of your “Fuck You” majority who think it’s their God-given right to drive, say, an International MXT to work everyday, will pay a greater share of the burden for highway upkeep.
       
      I’ll close by countering your “loud, screeching/whining minority” with the “loud, screeching/whining majority” of which you seem to be a part. A big part of living in civil society is that you get certain benefits. But the thing is, somebody’s got to pay for them.  That means taxes. Meaningful reform would not be “no CAFE, no taxes,” but would rather be a situation where fuel taxes both increase to modern levels (though probably not all the way up to Britain’s definition of “modern”) while codifying that all fuel tax revenues shall be used solely to pay for infrastructure improvements, to include highway modernization and (for crying out loud, it’s past time we had this in more places than just the Northeast:) real, usable mass transit along heavy commuter arteries.

    • 0 avatar
      rogertheshrubber

      Reclusive,
      You failed to mention the very real incremental source of funding that is current highway fuel taxes siphoned off to fuel public transit schemes that range from the merely worthless to hopelessly corrupt. They serve only two constituencies, those that build them, and the public sector employees that staff them. Liberating this truly is a free lunch solution to infrastructure expansion.
       

  • avatar
    Dynamic88

    The problem that concerns me the most is lack of mass transit and the attitude of many citizens that it must “pay for itself”.     Auto transportation is heavily subsidized by the taxpayer -who payed for the roads?  So, why not use our tax money for some improvement in efficiency.      Where I live, there used to be an interurban rail system, and that was when both population, and population density were lower.
    2nd, I’m concerned that I can’t drive a so called “urban vehicle” on my route to work because the speed limit on part of my route is greater than 35mph.   However, I can ride my slower, lighter, less crash worthy bicycle on the same route.

  • avatar
    Matt51

    The size of vehicles has become absurd in the US. Smaller vehicles though are more dangerous. Therefore
    Make trucks pay for their own highways. Then you can safely have smaller cars. Rail also would make a comeback if the trucking industry were not heavily subsidized by car drives gasoline taxes.
    So – fewer trucks, smaller cars, more rail.  US becomes more like the rest of the world. As someone stated above, have one set of safety/emissions standards worldwide.

    • 0 avatar
      Banger

      With a whole family (including me) working in the trucking industry, I can tell you the commercial tractor-trailers using our highways every day pay more than their share of highway taxes. Look up items like “Heavy Vehicle Use Tax” and “International Fuel Tax Agreement” sometime.
       
      Combine those taxes with the already high amount of regular fuel taxes paid (because these things can use tens of thousands of gallons of fuel per year while getting between five and seven miles per gallon), and trucks pay plenty for using the highways. It’s the common motorist who isn’t paying his fair share, if anything.

  • avatar
    Gottleib

    Our loss of personal freedom is the most significant political issue impacting cars and more importantly our “inalienable rights to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.”
    Whether population growth, taxation policies, or government mandated industry requirements matter little as their justification, the loss of individuals freedom can never be recovered.
    Case in point, after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center our freedom to travel by air has been restricted, our financial system went into overdrive to ease the trauma resulting in unrealistic financial products that produced an even greater economic recession and in some respect the bad guys won.

  • avatar
    Rod Panhard

    The biggest car/transportation issue is the lack of understanding how other people use cars to meet their transportation needs. I live in a suburb of New York City (not auto-centric) from suburban Atlanta (no car = no job, unless you live near MARTA and so does your job), and having moved there from Tampa (where, at that time, the bus system required almost $5000 per rider per year.)
    Folks here in the East Coast Megalopolis can’t fathom how people, as in “everyone in a downtow core” can and do drive 30 miles each way to get to work. It’s unfathomable.
    For them, it’s unfathomable that people actually need a large SUV for work. It’s even more unfathomable that people would get in a car or minivan and drive somplace, for fun, like “Vacation.” And yes, it’s even more unfathomable to them that people would drive to places like the Grand Canyon or Capitol Reef or Grand Staircase Escalante.
    And conversely, it’s unfathomable to my old neighbors in Atlanta that the New York subway system, built eons ago and serving millions of trips every day, loses money.
    And then there’s the folks like us who have at least one fun thing to drive, either daily or weekly. We’re a small group. We all know someone who has something that’s in the “fun to drive” category but lease or own said car because it’s a status symbol or fashion accessory.
    And therein lies the problem. It’s a complete lack of understanding of how other people live and then accepting or appreciating how they live. Until that lack of understanding can be comprehended by all parties, we’ll continue to fight over energy use and how public funds are spent.
     

  • avatar
    rogertheshrubber

    Dynamic,
    The worst of both worlds. Draining funds from a system of transport(highways, etc.) that maximizes personal freedom, and then complaining that the crowded result does not allow for “urban vehicle” usage. Higher capacity road systems could support dedicated slower lanes for your vehicle of preference, while not impeding the flow of traffic.

  • avatar
    TrailerTrash

    MORE TAX ON GAS USAGE!???
    More!?

    I can’t believe what I am reading above.
    It’s as if PAYING for your gas wasn’t enough!
    IF you want to use more, you must be taxed!
    As if giving the government more money as a form of punishment is rational.
    I know, let’s add more tax to everything people want to use more of than their (fair) share. like…
    Coffee.
    Beef.
    Booze.
    What about a tax on to much sex!  You know the cost of medical insurance can be linked to STD.
    What’s a fair share?  Who the hell knows…I guess it would be decided by those that use LESS then others.
    They would be the Holy and Wise.

    Anything paid for by its listed price isn’t enough; I guess…we gotta tax any extra purchases.
    We gotta add another value to it.
    And make over indulgence a sin.
    A taxable sin!
    Ya, that’s it!!!  Tax sins!
    We gotta make people pay for their sins!

    Tax Tax Tax Tax Tax Tax Tax Tax Tax.
    Hey, this tax shit is getting easy
     

  • avatar
    TrailerTrash

    Don’t you “pay per mile” now when you pay for your gas?
    I must be missing something here.
    When the demand forces up the cost, doesn’t paying more make a useage punishment?

    Isn’t that in itself the tax for use?

    So what’s with the bashing of those who drive, not only a lot…but BIG SUV monsters?  They pay their punishment in the extra cost for fuel.

    I am completely exhausted trying to explain the madness of arbitrary added value.
    Take the toll roads.
    If you pay your tolls, but use the tollway more than others, are you suddenly going to pay a higher toll?
    You over used the tollroad, so your tolls will be higher.
    You paid for your gas, but you filled up more often so you will pay more per gallon…?
    Isn’t that the same irrational thinking?

    • 0 avatar
      Banger

      The point isn’t to “punish” anyone here. You speak as if you think the idea is to “single out” SUV drivers. That’s not the idea at all. The idea behind raising the gas tax is to raise it to a level that pays for roads and the better planning and upkeep thereof.
       
      Bear in mind that our national gas tax rate, even when combined with the most expensive state-level gas tax, is far lower than other industrialized western powers’.
       
      Presently, gas tax revenues can’t keep up with infrastructure needs. If you raise it to meet the need– and keep those funds dedicated solely for transportation infrastructure improvement– you’ll have the funds to solve a lot of ills with our roads, launch or improve public transit where viable, reduce congestion, plan future roads better, etc.
       
      Having said all that, it remains a flat tax. In essence, you’re right: You use more gas because you drive a bigger vehicle? Well, then, you pay more of the tax. Your point about “who decides what is a fair share?” is valid. However, if you’re referencing my note about trucks paying more than their fair share, above, consider that their taxation is exactly what you’re railing against– they pay more fuel tax (because they use orders of magnitude more fuel,) but they ALSO pay a bevy of state and national taxes just because they’re commercial vehicles that are seen to have more impact on needed upkeep of the highways. Why not just raise fuel taxes (because let’s be honest, there are far more cars on the road than semis) to make it a true use tax and forego such unfair practices as a way to play “catch-up” because the fuel tax on regular motorists is artificially low compared to road expenses?

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    The biggest car/transportation issue is the lack of understanding how other people use cars to meet their transportation needs.

    That’s a very salient point, and one missed by the people screaming about “Freedom” on one side and “Conservation” on the other.   I’m glad you brought it up: what works for Podunk does not work for Metropolis, and vice versa.
     
    Now, that said, Agrestic works for no one except developers and tax gatherers.  The real problem isn’t so much the car as it is urban planning.  We’re building communities that don’t exactly work for people: they’re not walkable, they have no mix of commericial and residential space, they isolate people from their neighbours and they force the worst of transportation systems: gridlock for cars, and ineffective and expensive surface routes for public transit.
     
    To get back to your point: people who do urban planning have a hard time with this because mindless right-wingers scream about freedom without considering responsibility and sustainability, and mindless left-wingers see public transport and high-density housing as a panacea because it works in one isolated case.  What we really need to do is look at the way small cities that were established before the rise of the car: you had a sizable downtown, small lots (but not always small houses), nothing more than two or three stories, an industrial hub or two but a homogeneous mix of parks, commerce and residential use.
     
    There’s a need for sustainable development.  Yes, this will curtail freedom somewhat: the tax environment and development cash that make Big Box+McMansions work are not going to be there for much longer.  It also means that we’ll need to stop using public transit as a solution to problems it doesn’t work for (it was never meant to blanket a whole community) and acknowledge that you can’t just cram poor people into ghettoes (vertical or horizontal) and expect not to have problems.
     
    How does this relate to the car?  Well, if you want to keep the kind of stable, sustainable society that lets you afford and enjoy a car and it’s associated perks, you need to give people a place where they can live, earn a living wage and be secure.  Sane urban planning and local, self-sustaining economies nuture a healthy middle class.  What we’re doing now is trying to ape a viable middle class with credit and artificially low prices, but really we’re hollowing it out and replacing it with something that doesn’t work at all.

    • 0 avatar
      TrailerTrash

       
      Very good insights here and I am glad to read these.
      In fact, the planning of our communities has always been about corruption and money.
      To ever hear a politician or school official plead their desires for controlled growth is to hear lies.
      All involved need growth and it doesn’t matter how it comes…only the faster the better.
      It’s all about getting more tax base.

      And your right…our developments in the United States has been ad hoc, without any care for inter-travel or future environmental impact.
      There was no way for our children to visit friends in other developments while growing up.  To do so would have meant leaving the safety of 30 MPH streets to walk or bike along 55 PMH highways.
      So in the end, it was all about the car.

      And still this madness goes on.  If not for the God sent recession, the developments would have eaten up another half of the county last year.
      And none had the ability to connect to another.

      Dreadful.
       

  • avatar
    John_K

    Meanwhile, ALGore flies around in his private jet and laughs at all the idiots who believe in glowball warming.


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