A Decision for Future Transportation Policy
At some point in our history, policymakers made a decision that our public transportation infrastructure should be funded through the revenue raised by gasoline taxes and other vehicle-related fees and taxes. Given that gasoline usage is a strong proxy for road usage the decision to dedicate revenues in this way is a pretty fair way to support the public infrastructure. The more you use roads, the more you pay for them.
In Kentucky, the structure is pretty strict: gas tax revenues and titling fees go to the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet and basically create its budget, combined with federal road funds that largely originate from federal gas taxes.
As gas prices have risen and the economy has cooled, these revenues have declined as less gasoline has been consumed, which has created a small challenge for Kentucky to continue to meet the demands of maintenance. However, there is a greater challenge looming.
In a recent editorial in the Courier-Journal, Stan Lampe with Kentuckians for Better Transportation eventually gets around to asking the perplexing question:
In a nation with 246 million internal-combustion engine vehicles, other automakers seem ready to roll out more "plug-in" or electric vehicles before the end of the year. In an attempt to attract average Americans, Nissan will roll out its $30,000 Leaf subcompact in October or November. General Motors will offer its Chevrolet Volt plug-in around the same time. The "plug-ins" are coming.
But these significant cost and climate obstacles aren't preventing automakers from jumping into the "plug-in" market. BMW also announced that its next electric car, called the ActiveE, will undergo consumer testing this fall and may be ready for mass production and the showroom in 2011.
And so, it is crystal clear: the "plug-ins" are coming. What remains unclear is this: how are they going to pay their fair share for the use of the city streets, county roads, and the highway system?
While there will be no shortage of gasoline consumers in the immediate future, we will face an increasing number of drivers of vehicles that aren't paying for the roads they drive on through this traditional system. And we may have to completely rethink transportation funding in this country,