"Diversion" is a popular word right now among the highway lobby. Groups like the AAA make it sound like the Highway Trust Fund is being sucked dry by deadbeat bicyclists, pedestrians, and transit users. But the truth is something quite different. Consider the following chart:
|General Revenue "Diverted" to Highway Projects||Amount|
|State and local general fund appropriations||$10.841 billion|
|Local property taxes||$4.673 billion|
|Other taxes and fees||$4.007 billion|
|Investment income and other receipts||$6.107 billion|
|Bond issue proceeds||$7.718|
|Highway Taxes "Diverted" to Non-Highway Projects||Amount|
|Direct federal payments for mass transit||$1.993 billion|
|Federal funds to transit at local option||$0.609 billion|
|Accumulation in the Highway Trust Fund||$3.597 billion|
|Federal deficit reduction||$9.170 billion|
|Transportation enhancement projects||$0.265 billion|
|CMAQ projects (other than transit)||$0.497 billion|
|State and local mass transit assistance||$2.526 billion|
|General government (state and local)||$7.268 billion|
This chart doesn't even count the "hidden" costs that we all pay whether we drive or not --- things like the health effects of breathing polluted air, the medical costs we pay for medicare recipients hurt in car crashes, the water pollution produced by oil washed from parking lots, and the time consumed by people delayed by traffic congestion.
Consider, too, that the Federal tax code allows employees up to $155 per month as an income tax exemption for free parking supplied by their employers. On the other hand, those who take transit are allowed to deduct up to $60 per month for employer-paid transit passes. That amounts to a $95 per month tax-free advantage for drivers over those who take the bus. And it's a $155 per month tax-free advantage over pedestrians or bicyclists.
Finally, if gas tax payed the REAL costs imposed by our car-dependent lifestyles, we'd be paying between $4.00 and $8.00 per gallon for gasoline!
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