77 Percent of Americans Oppose Gas Tax Increase, 58 Percent Favor Tolls Instead

As the number of people using roads and highways steadily increases, cars have also become more fuel-efficient, thus reducing the amount of gas purchased per person. This is good news for consumers; however, transportation spending is largely funded from gasoline taxes, and those receipts are decreasing. The recent Reason-Rupe poll asked Americans how they would prefer to fund transit going forward.

Gas Tax

Policymakers have considered increasing the federal gas tax, currently 18.4 cents per gallon in efforts to close the spending-funding gap. Yet 77 percent of Americans oppose raising the federal gas tax. Part of the aversion may be a concern that the government will not spend the tax dollars effectively—65 percent of Americans think the government generally spends transportation funding ineffectively.

Toll Roads and Toll Lanes

Rather than tax increases, the poll found that 58 percent prefer paying for new roads and highways by paying tolls when they drive on the roads. Interestingly, another 58 percent of Americans also report there are not toll roads in their area, but 59 percent say they would pay to use a toll lane if governments constructed them and if these lanes would save them time in traffic. This indicates governments are failing to meet demand for toll roads while focusing efforts on other ways to raise revenue and reduce congestion. These findings suggest that policymakers’ attention may need to shift to meet demand for toll roads.

Public-Private Partnerships

Governments are also considering partnering with private companies to build and expand highways, airports, and other infrastructure projects that they might not be able to afford without the efficiency and expertise of the private sector. Thus in addition to raising revenues, governments are also seeking opportunities to reduce costs for roads. However, some are uneasy with private companies building and operating transportation, as they believe this is a role for government. Nevertheless, 55 percent of Americans favor private-public partnerships while 35 percent oppose.

Opening HOV Lanes

Another opportunity to raise revenue and potentially reduce congestion is to open high occupancy vehicle lanes (HOV), previously reserved for carpools, to single drivers who pay a toll. Some point out that this not only can raise revenue, but also offer drivers a faster trip when they need it. However, others point out that lower-income families would be less able or willing to pay the tolls, making this policy unfair. The Reason-Rupe poll found that 57 percent favor opening HOV lanes to toll-paying drivers and 35 percent oppose.

Adjustable Toll Lanes

Another plan governments are considering is to charge adjustable tolls on new toll roads and lanes. Instead of charging the same fee, the tolls would be higher during rush hours and lower when traffic is light. However, 50 percent of Americans oppose this proposal and 39 percent favor it.

Policy Proposals to Reduce Transportation’s Spending-Funding Gap

Find full Reason-Rupe Q4 2011 poll results, question wording, and methodology here.

The Reason-Rupe Q4 2011 poll collected a nationally representative sample of 1,200 respondents, aged 18 and older from all 50 states and the District of Columbia using live telephone interviews from December 1-13. Interviews were conducted on both landline and mobile phones. The margin of sampling error for this poll is +/- 3 percent.

Follow Emily Ekins on Twitter @emilyekins

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • rather||

    onetime I made a robot and we had adventures. My dad was mad when he got home because I broke the vacuum machine.

  • o3||

    when the suburban fatties move closer to work & lose weight, they can fit into smaller cars, climb steps into buses, & actually walk or ride a bike to work. remember, just one iranian missle can double or triple gas prices overnight none of which is worth even one moar dead american soldier.

  • ||

    "moar"? Why would you post with such a simple misspelling? Do you want people to think you are an imbecile? It is working.

  • o3||

    "moar" is regular useage on this site. do try to keep up

  • Sparky||

    "moar" is regular useage on this site the Internet.

    FTFY. And you're still an idiot.

  • o3||

    thx...cretin

  • Sparky||

    Welcome douchebag.

  • ||

    "moar" is acceptable only when used in all caps, in a two or three word demand:

    MOAR WAR! MOAR FREEBIES!

  • Not Amused||

    The moar I read teh internet teh less I undertood.

  • Lolcat||

    I Can Has Cheezburger?

  • Live Free or Diet||

    Gee, feel the love in that comment.

    As a suburban fatty, let me introduce a few facts:
    I can fit into a Civic easily.
    I climb flights of steps many times daily in my home.
    Buses suck.
    My bike is for exercise; I exercise an hour each day.
    Want to win a war while minimizing loss of soldiers? Use the same method used to end WWII. If something isn't worth nuking them for, it isn't worth going to war for.
    As for losing weight, I've lost and kept off enough weight in the last seven years to make another adult human being.
    Finally, ThInK YoU CaN FiNd ThE ShIfT KeY?
    Moron.

  • o3||

    absurd. explain what workers extract oil from radioactive sand. keep up the exercise. ur gonna need it after gas doubles in price.

  • Sparky||

    ...
    I almost ...
    ...
    Your statements ...
    ...
    ...
    ...

  • o3||

    sparky's fingers wouldnt slip so much after wiping the santorium from the keyboard

  • Tom Tonity||

    It's "Santorum". Do try to keep it up.

  • o3||

    sparky's was extra frothy so moar letters were needed

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    However, others point out that lower-income families would be less able or willing to pay the tolls, making this policy unfair.

    Someone could point out to those "others" that lower-income families would still benefit as toll-payers would be thinned from congesting non-toll lanes. Or, how is an HOV lane policy not similarly unfair to singles?

  • Zeb||

    Also, rich people get to do all sorts of things that poor people don't get to do. That's why there are separate words for rich and poor and why being rich is desirable and being poor is not.

  • Idiot||

    But it's not fair. We need to make it fair.

  • EDG reppin' LBC||

    I watch pretty much every Lakers game, and I am always sad that those rich people get those awesome seats to every home game. It's so unfair! I want a pair of Lakers season tickets, too.

  • Idiot||

    Attending a Lakers game is not a right.
    Don't get me started on overpaid athletes.
    But the ability to get to work or to the grocery store should not be based on your ability to pay.

  • Jersey Girl||

    But the ability to get to work or to the grocery store should not be based on your ability to pay.

    But I wanna work in Hollywood.

  • EDG reppin' LBC||

    Attending a Lakers game is not a right.

    Driving is not a right either.

    Don't get me started on overpaid athletes.

    Athletes are paid by negotiating mutually beneficial terms with their employer. They earn what their employer thinks they are worth, based on the athlete's potential to sell tickets.

    But the ability to get to work or to the grocery store should not be based on your ability to pay.

    There would be many alternatives to toll roads. I thought that was why we subsidize public transportation? It was convenient for people with a lower ability to pay to get to work or the grocery store.

  • Life||

    Walk. And by the way, sidewalks aren't free either.

    You want free, walk on a dirt trail to work or the grocery. Enjoy that in the rain or snow.

  • ||

    Or, everything involving money is discriminatory against people who have less of it. They need to grow up.

  • Gilbert Martin||

    Well the first thing that they can do before higher gas taxes or tolls is to stop stealing about 25% of the federal highway trust fund to pay for mass transit boodoggles, bike paths and community centers, etc.

    And the second thing that they can do is get rid of the Davis Bacon Act that forces taxppayers to pay for overpriced union labor.

    That should make the current gas taxes collected go farther toward actual road construction and maintenance.

  • ||

    It's probably the same all over, but they have been going fucking nuts with bike lanes around DC. They're on all of the new construction, in the burbs, where I've never seen a single bike ridden in the first place. You barely see any pedestrians along these routes. Needless to say, no bikes seen since building the lanes, either.

    Money well spent.

  • Obama Karen||

    Biking will soon be mandatory.

  • bubba||

    I think this means that people do not want to pay new taxes to fund their existing roads, and instead want to shift the burden to the users of new roads, elsewhere. Especially since most of those surveyed don't currently use toll roads. That's a fee paid by "others."

  • EDG reppin' LBC||

    That's a fee paid by "others."

    That may be the spirit of those answering. Hopefully, they are thinking of a pay-as-you-go model. That is, you pay directly for your personal commute to downtown LA, to your in-laws house on Sunday, and to Angel Stadium without having to subsidize a street repair in Modesto. I still think we should just privatize the whole system.

  • ||

    So 58% of the American public has yet to get fucked over with the toll road scam.

    Growing up in Taxachusetts I remember Mike Dukakis and other hacks swearing up and down that the Mass Pike tolls were coming down as soon as the Pike was paid for.

    It's been paid for a few times over now. The newly jacked tolls now pay for the Big Dig construction - which is of no benefit at all to Pike commuters. But the state transferred in millions of debt to keep the Pike toll business going.

    Jersey did the same thing. When the Jersey Turnpike and Parkway was in danger of paying off their debts, the state just transferred in hundreds of millions in unrelated debt.

    Where else would every politician get a hack job for his retarded nephews?

  • Sparky||

    Well they did shut down the tolls in western MA at least. Their answer to make up for that mistake is most likely going to be building new tolls on the borders.

  • ||

    Thanksgiving weekend the Mass Pike was a parking lot from Boston to Sturbridge. They used to open the tolls on holiday weekends - not anymore.

    I'd rather take Route 20. At least then I don't have to pay for the privilege of sitting in traffic.

  • ||

    Same thing for the toll roads in Illinois. They were installed when I was a kid (30 years ago or so) with the promise that once the construction was paid for, the toll booths would come down. Well the roads were paid for a long time ago and the toll booths are still there, with yet another rate increase on the way this year. Politicians just can't stand to lose a revenue stream.

  • SIV||

    There's no need to build toll roads. Just take the existing roads and charge people to drive on them. Frees up all those fuel taxes for light rail and bike lanes and speed humps and bulb-outs and rumble strips and speed cameras and...

  • mad libertarian guy||

    KY actually HAS a good history of shutting down tolls once the the roads have been paid for.

    But now the parkways are in such ill shape that I feel like I need to get an alignment every time I roll on one.

  • Rick||

    The 58% that want to create toll roads have never lived in a city where toll roads cause massive congestion and traffic problems. A toll road is the most inefficient and frustrating way to pay for a road.

  • EDG reppin' LBC||

    I think most modern toll systems would use an RFID system. No toll booth, no toll collector, no lines, no backups. just a friendly e-bill at the end of each month. It's modern world.

  • EDG reppin' LBC||

  • Invisible Finger||

    That is STILL a shitload more administration than is necessary. And you're STILL going to have to pay gas taxes for the non-toll roads anyway.

    I can accept toll roads as a solution ONLY if they are 100% private. But since all the US toll roads I know of are government commissions, they're basically the corrupt equivalent of public transit. Two corrupt government systems instead of one is a really fucking stupid idea.

  • ||

    ""I can accept toll roads as a solution ONLY if they are 100% private.""

    Private, what does that mean anymore? I doubt as an "owner" of the road you would get to exercise any property rights. It would be highly government regulated.

  • ||

    True. It's getting real easy to collect tolls. But those systems have their own problem. IIRC, with EZPass, the RFID device must be the one registered to the license plate. So if you borrowed someone's car, the owner of the car would be charged. That probably could be changed, but they do it for a reason.

    However I doubt that gas tax would go away and we would get hit twice.

  • ||

    So on a Libertarian blog you are suggesting we all voluntarily put a government tracking device on our person or in our cars?

    Really?

  • EDG reppin' LBC||

    No, I'm for privatization of the whole thing. Private toll roads. Private company tracking device. Private company convenience device for easily paying tolls on private roads?

  • SIV||

    Robert Poole is.

  • ||

    however, transportation spending is largely funded from gasoline taxes,

    WOW, in your first paragraph you are totally wrong and misinforming people, which changes the entire argument.

    Interstates and many highways are paid mainly from transportation taxes, but your local roads are 85% or so paid for out of GENERAL taxes.

    Yes I know this link is to Grist which is full of socialists, but read the studies linked to from here.

    http://www.grist.org/article/2.....-be-unfair

    Also if you don't believe it, just try and find citations for your statement that "most roads are paid for out of gasoline taxes" you will NOT be able to find support for it.

    Please if we're going to talk about problems and solutions, try and start with the correct data.

  • ||

    however, transportation spending is largely funded from gasoline taxes,

    WOW, in your first paragraph you are totally wrong and misinforming people, which changes the entire argument.

    Interstates and many highways are paid mainly from transportation taxes, but your local roads are 85% or so paid for out of GENERAL taxes.

    Yes I know this link is to Grist which is full of socialists, but read the studies linked to from here.

    http://www.grist.org/article/2.....-be-unfair

    Also if you don't believe it, just try and find citations for your statement that "most roads are paid for out of gasoline taxes" you will NOT be able to find support for it.

    Please if we're going to talk about problems and solutions, try and start with the correct data.

  • ||

    You're spoiling it!!!

    It's only palatable if people think it's a fair trade off.

  • Mo||

    So people think gas taxes won't be used wisely and instead would prefer to have the money should be collected by tolls.

    Wouldn't a better headline be, "58% of people don't realize money is Fungible"?

    Also, how is it not wasteful to spend money building a bunch of toll plazas and slow down traffic instead of raising gas taxes, which hass virtually zero implementation cost.

  • seguin||

    I haven't seen an operating toll plaza in months. All of the toll roads in Texas afaik use tolltags.

  • ||

    ""how is it not wasteful to spend money building a bunch of toll plazas and slow down traffic ""

    Because those are not necessary anymore for a toll road.

    Just sayin.

  • ||

    They could bill you from you phone's GPS data.

    The future, bitches!!!!

  • Mo||

    That doesn't require the build out a massive IT infrastructure? If only we knew that we could build a whole tolling, tracking, billing, audit and dispute resolution system for free when I worked at IBM, we could have made billions!

  • Doug A||

    Singapore implements adjustable tolls. The result? Reckless driving and accidents spike during the fifteen minutes leading up to rush hour rates kicking in.

  • SIV||

    Push polling are we Emily?

    Tell Robert Poole to go fuck himself.

  • Colonel_Angus||

    Allow me at this time to once again chime in and say that any transportation proposal other than total privatization is fucking stupid.

  • Infoteknik||

    Remember, just one iranian missle can double or triple gas prices overnight none of which is worth even one moar dead american soldier.

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Progressive Puritans: From e-cigs to sex classifieds, the once transgressive left wants to criminalize fun.
  • Port Authoritarians: Chris Christie’s Bridgegate scandal
  • The Menace of Secret Government: Obama’s proposed intelligence reforms don’t safeguard civil liberties

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement