Today’s Headlines

  • A Backgrounder on Acting Mayor London Breed (Fox2)
  • SF Reaches Deal on Haight McDonald’s Site (SFExaminer)
  • Plans for Excelsior District Dollar Store (Socketsite)
  • More on Second Bay Bridge Proposals (SFGate)
  • More on Variable Parking Pricing (Quartz)
  • California Moves Towards Mileage Tax (CBSLocal)
  • More on BART Renewable Energy Plans (WindPowerMonthly)
  • Another Bad Crash on Upper Market (Hoodline)
  • Man Fatally Struck by VTA Train (EastBayTimes)
  • San Mateo to Discuss Last-Mile Shuttle Services (Patch)
  • SF’s Best Light Art (Curbed)
  • Commentary: Officials Need to Step up on Homelessness (SFExaminer)

Get state headlines at Streetsblog CA, national headlines at Streetsblog USA

Join us tomorrow, Thursday, Dec. 14, from 7-9 p.m., at Dalva, near the 16th and Mission BART station, for the annual Streetsblog holiday party.

  • Mileage tax? Let’s see..many folks drive long distances each day because the cost of living forces them to live 90+ minutes away from their jobs. So, let’s charge them more. Oh, okay.
    Hey, Wiener…we are still waiting for your master subway plan for SF. It’s really up to you to produce something credible that will get people out of their cars for good, but we’re not seeing you do much.

  • Jeffrey Baker

    We have too much traffic. If you want less of something, you tax it. Simple.

  • John Murphy

    Letting the roads fall into disrepair isn’t really going to “charge them less” when their tires last less time, when their transmission goes, when bad pavement cause an accident.

    Who exactly do you think we should charge to maintain the road? The people who don’t drive long distances? What are you, some sort of socialist?

  • No, it’s not that simple. Taxing isn’t going to stop people from owning cars especially when the alternatives to getting around either suck or simply don’t exist. Also, have you asked yourself the reasons WHY there is so much traffic? Didn’t think so.

  • Jeffrey Baker

    I’ve studied the question of why there is so much traffic, quite extensively in fact. Ask me anything.

    Mileage tax is basically equivalent to per-gallon tax in a world without electric cars. With electric cars we need a different solution. Also keep in mind that user fees on cars are currently near historic lows. In 1953 the gas tax was 6 cents per gallon, that’s 56 cents in today’s money. We just raised the tax from 30 to 42 cents, so it has been very low and continues to be below historical norms.

    Consider further that 50 years ago a typical driver would be lucky to get 15 MPG while today a new car can expect 32 MPG in mixed driving. So the tax collected per mile driven in California stands at about 35% of what it was half a century ago. This is obviously a problem, because the low price encourages more driving and underfunds maintenance activities.

    To get back to historical norms, we have to base the charges on miles driven and approximately triple them. 5 cents per mile would be just about right. In most civilized countries the taxes are closer to 10 cents per mile.

  • Most civilized countries also have amazing mass transit systems in place too. You forgot to add in the fact that today more people need to drive longer distances per day, especially in the uber-expensive Bay Area. You can’t disagree that 50 years ago the typical driver in the Bay Area drove far fewer miles than he would today.

  • joechoj

    Yes, but we also want less gasoline burnt. Seems like using both taxes would accomplish the twin objectives of reducing gas consumption and sprawl/congestion.

  • joechoj

    This makes some sense as it comes down to a usage fee that helps fund road maintenance, and charges heaviest users most. This is fair.

    Yet, the penalty for burning gas shouldn’t go away, since we’re trying to address carbon emissions.

    For me, we should start the VMT price to match current gas tax revenue levels (or actually increase it slightly, since it’s overdue for an increase); and the gas tax should start at zero but ratchet up annually in line with our 2030 & 2040 climate goals.

  • joechoj

    I agree with your larger point, but on this point you’re oversimplifying to the point of error:

    “Mileage tax is basically equivalent to per-gallon tax in a world without electric cars.”

    You’re missing the penalty that the gas tax imposes on those who buy inefficient cars, and the effect of driving the market toward more efficient consumption. Replacing the gas tax with a VMT-only system removes the biggest disincentive for people to buy gas guzzlers.

  • joechoj

    Your thinking doesn’t seem to account for where the money *should* come from to maintain the roads.

    No one likes paying for things, but if the drivers don’t pay for the roads, then who does? And why?

  • joechoj

    Your comments (here and below) don’t seem to account for where the money *should* come from to maintain the roads.

    No one likes paying for things, but if the drivers don’t pay for the roads, then who does? And why?

  • Jeffrey Baker

    I don’t care that people have chosen to drive further. Most of these people have done so in order to satisfy their lifestyle preference. You are proposing that the subsidy we current slather upon drivers, about five billion dollars a year in California, is a form of welfare. That opens up the question of whether that is the most efficient form of welfare for our society. For example you could make every transit service in California free of charge at a cost of only about 3 billion dollars. Would that be a better use of our money? I suspect it would be.

  • mx

    You’re not wrong when it comes to transportation, but for both political and moral reasons, yeah, I do care about people who have been forced into very long commutes by car for economic reasons, where “satisfy[ing] their lifestyle preference” means keeping a roof over their head. For everyone with a 5 bedroom McMansion in the suburbs driving a Tesla into the city, there are entirely too many people commuting from Stockton out of economic necessity.

    The people who will be most deterred by a higher cost of driving are inherently those living closest to the economic margins. If transit was a good option for them, they’d be riding it already. If they could live closer, they would. Every decision has trade-offs, but it’s just callous to declare you simply don’t care about the impact on these people.

  • Jeffrey Baker

    With the five billion dollars you could build 20000 homes in the inner Bay Area and literally just give them away. That would be a much better use of the money.

  • John Murphy

    That penalty mostly is imposed on the poor. An $80,000 Tesla is probably more efficient than a poorly maintained 1997 Toyota Celica for $1000, but if all you have is $1000, you buy the Celica.

    It can be argued that a gas tax is regressive. Because of the increased value of housing closer to jobs, a mileage tax is probably regressive too, but not at the same degree.

  • John Murphy

    The gas tax is 40 cents a gallon. A gallon of gas is over $3 right now. To tax gasoline enough to send a realistic price signal would probably be over the top. I’d go for it, but I doubt we hit it. The cost of the gas itself is incentive enough.

  • jonobate

    Gas in most of Europe is around $7/gallon, and somehow the sky has not fallen.

  • Indigo

    Distances there are shorter, vehicles are smaller and transit alternatives are much better.

    You can’t get there from here.

  • Indigo

    Actually no, the purpose of taxation is to raise taxes in as broad and neutral a way as possible, and not to manipulate behavior or punish classes of people.

  • jonobate

    All of those things are a consequence of the higher gas tax. Increasing the gas tax is *how* you get there from here.

  • Kevin Withers

    “To get back to historical norms, we have to base the charges on miles driven and approximately triple them”

    As long as we also return to the pace of actually building new roads at the level we did in the 50’s, perhaps this is viable. Otherwise, nope.