State Rep. Reuven Carlyle (D-36th) makes some key points about the future of state and regional transportation funding in a Ballard News-Tribune op-ed.
After stressing funding shortfalls facing King County Metro’s bus service and declining gas tax revenues for road projects, Carlyle explores several important macro-level policy options for funding improved mobility.
…the long-term, big picture is important and we can’t let the battles over the tunnel, 520 bridge and other mega projects be a conversation killer about our broader structural challenges. Several ideas are on the front burner. Tolling is making a comeback, as evidenced by the Tacoma Narrows Bridge and soon on the 520 bridge. It makes sense for the people who use facilities the most to pay a greater share of the construction and maintenance costs for a specific facility or geographic area….comprehensive regional tolling – with e-tags and other solutions to help make it easy logistically – makes good economic sense so long as we have a real action plan….
Another, if controversial, idea is charging according to vehicle miles traveled (VMT), tracked by a transponder. This would take into account actual road usage, whether or not a vehicle uses gasoline, electricity or something else. It also opens up some interesting new policy ideas such as integrating car insurance, parking (no more parking meters!), tolls, etc., into one system that is able to charge drivers accordingly and accurately. Obviously, a concern about privacy is one major obstacle to this idea, so we’ll have to continue looking at innovative ways to address this very legitimate concern…..
A third option is the car-tab fee model and using the funds for direct transportation services so the money doesn’t disappear into the institutional bureaucracy of government but rather goes for real services on the ground.
Kudos to Rep. Carlyle for highlighting in a community forum the need to develop long-term surface transportation funding strategies. Regional (electronic, time-variable) tolling and further consideration of a vehicle mileage tax – along with a local-option motor vehicle excise tax applied at annual license renewal time – are all important options that our Cascadia Center and others have advocated.
More than that, Carlyle’s commentary is especially timely.