Road Funding

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Eric Lundgren
Participant
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I’ve just gotten my second comment from co-workers about the fact that cyclists don’t pay gas tax so they shouldn’t be on the road. I tried googling PA state road funding but didn’t come up with anything. Does anyone have the info that states where state and federals road funding comes from?


rsprake
Participant
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There are a number of articles that talk about it, The League of American Bicyclists has a response.

$200 billion was spent in 2006 on transportation at all levels of government; only just over half of that generated by fuel and vehicle taxes and tolls. The remaining amount comes from property taxes, general fund allocations, bond issues, and fare boxes of transit systems.


Erica
Participant
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this is a good one, I think it was originally posted here somewhere (I found it in my bookmarks)

http://grist.org/cities/2010-09-27-why-an-additional-road-tax-for-bicyclists-would-be-unfair/


rsprake
Participant
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It’s starting to get a little odd that people still believe that a $36 registration fee and small tax on gasoline is what pays for the roads in full. The gas tax hasn’t been raised to match inflation, vehicles have become far more efficient and our roads and bridges are disintegrating.


Eric Lundgren
Participant
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Thanks so much for the articles. I’ve been getting frusturated by these comments that I knew were not true. I do wonder if my co-workers will even take the time to read these though?


WillB
Participant
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RubberFactory’s article nails it: local roads are paid for by local governments using (in PA) income and property taxes, which we all pay in one way or another. It’s that simple.

The gas tax thing is a red herring. At the state level, it’s true that roads are largely funded with gas taxes and license and registration fees, but that’s almost entirely for highways, which bikes don’t use.


Eric Lundgren
Participant
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I also should point out these comments have only been coming up since the major press coverage of the 4′ rule. I definitely like the rule but at least for the short term its bringing out the bike haters around me.


HiddenVariable
Participant
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if they would just stop letting cars on the roads, they wouldn’t need repaved every year!


fjordan
Participant
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I found this regarding funding of roads in PA:

Municipalities spent $1.309 billion for road construction and maintenance in 2004 and, in contrast to mass transit, local governments shouldered 78 percent of this expense through local sources, including property and income taxes. State funding for local roads amounted to only $294 million. Source: http://www.pacounties.org/…/TransportationFunding032807.pdf


StuInMcCandless
Participant
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AtLeastMyKidsLoveMe
Participant
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Didn’t Scott cite a survey recently that 93% of cyclists have driver’s licenses? And so are presumably registered, have an automobile (which they fuel and drive at least sometime), insurance, etc.

(I can’t recall if that was a front-page-of-BikePgh survey, or something with a bigger sample…)


jamesk
Participant
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Even if we grant — incorrectly — that cyclists are paying just half as much in road maintenance taxes, a fully loaded bicycle weighs about 1/16 as much as a normally loaded car. That suggests pretty strongly to me that the bike puts 1/16 as much wear and tear on the road as the car.

So even under this wild understatement of taxes paid, a cyclist is paying 8x as much in taxes as he or she ought to. The true number is undoubtedly much higher.


HiddenVariable
Participant
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much higher, indeed, jamesk. that was essentially my point with my glib statement. i’ve heard it stated that road wear is proportional to the weight of a vehicle to the 4th power, so that would mean that a bicycle does about 1/65000 as much damage to roads as an automobile, if it weighs 16 times less.


Mick
Participant
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@ hiddenvariable i’ve heard it stated that road wear is proportional to the weight of a vehicle to the 4th power

I’ve heard that too. Any of the civil engineer types around here want to comment?


jonawebb
Participant
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From New Scientist 11 July 1998, “Beastly behemoths”:

“Heavy lorries are responsible for the overwhelming majority of damage to roads, causing them to rut and eventually break up. The formula used in the consultation document is that the harm a vehicle does to a road is proportional to its axle load to the power of four. This means that a 10-tonne lorry axle does roughly 160 000 times more damage than a 0.5-tonne car axle? and that a 44-tonne lorry does about a million times more damage than a car.”

So unless there is no truck traffic on a road, all significant damage is due to trucks, not cars, and let alone bikes. It would take 10^8 200 pound bicycles + rider to do as much damage as one 10 ton truck.


StuInMcCandless
Participant
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Those numbers are about wear and tear caused by usage. The other side of that same coin is increasing capacity due to demand.

With the same number of travelers, the capacity of the same road can be increased by replacing mode of travel by car with that of by bicycle.

Every traveler you put out there by bike is actually saving the town/county/state money by not having to add lanes, lights, etc.

Beyond that, as more people use bicycles, they will adjust where they live to be closer to where they go, making it less necessary to expand capacity in the farther reaches of an area. Again, reducing the need to spend money on road infrastructure.


jonawebb
Participant
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Yes, but I think we’ll still need trucks to get stuff to stores and for when we order stuff off the Internet. So, probably, there won’t be that much difference to the roads. Unless we go to a bicycle delivery system, which would be awesome.


Mick
Participant
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When I first ran into the 4th power stuff, I quickly calculated taht a fully loaded truck damages as much 160,000 cars.

This is incorrect, however.

The 80,000 lb truck has 18 wheels, so if the weight is spread evenly, each truck wheel only (“only”? ha!) has a little over 4 times as much weight as a car wheel.

That means each wheel does about 390 times the damage of a car wheel. Then there are 4 1/2 times as many wheels for about 1750 times the damage.

Still substantial, but a tiny fraction of my initial estimate of 160,000 times the damage.

I recall having heard a fully loaded truck does about as much damage as 10,000 cars. I guess this could be right (or even way conservative) if you consider average miles driven per year.

(sorry, I just had to geek out here)


Benzo
Participant
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I’m curious as to whether streets with integrated trolley tracks (but not busses) require less maintenance than streets frequented by commuter busses.


HiddenVariable
Participant
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The 80,000 lb truck has 18 wheels, so if the weight is spread evenly, each truck wheel only (“only”? ha!) has a little over 4 times as much weight as a car wheel.

actually, an 18-wheeler has only 5 axles, which is how they seem to be coming up with the damage measurements.


jonawebb
Participant
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@mick, ^ the NS article refers to axle load.


Mick
Participant
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Oh, my bad. I was assuming that pdamage per tire was proportional to the 4th power of weight.

Yeah, If I use axels instead of tires, I come very close to the traditonal 80,000 lb, 5 axel truck doing as much damage as 10,000 cars weighing 2 tons each. (and two tons is a pretty hefty car).

Comparing a Ford Explorer with a Morris Mini Using curb weight (4509 lbs vs 1500 lbs) + 350 lbs load, The Explorer does about 50 times as much damage to the road as the Morris. Hmmm… Just who is it that isn’t paying for the road?


Mick
Participant
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Cool super geeky paper on the subject:

http://www.richardcbjohnsson.net/pdf/costofrelying.pdf


jonawebb
Participant
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Yeah, as to who isn’t paying:

EZ-Pass toll for PA Turnpike Pittsburgh->Donegal for a car: $3.60

Same toll for an 80,000 pound truck w/5 axles: $19.23

The truck does 160,000 times as much damage and pays 6 times as much.


mboyd
Participant
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So that you can state your case accurately, some portion of the state’s Liquid Fuel Tax is distributed to municipalities based on census data and road mileage (more funding to municipalities with more people and more miles of road). For my township, this amount is significant but much less than what is generated through real estate property taxes and Act 511 taxes (earned income, mercantile, etc.). Thus the exact monetary impact of the Liquid Fuel share would vary from one community to the next based on these factors (and any of myriad other budgetary issues).


Anonymous #

In addition to weight (load per axle) there is a problem with speed.

if I ran into road engineer again (I have one among my acquaintances but he is in Lithuania) then I’ll ask him about more detailed explanation. But if my memory serves me correctly… there is sort of waves created per axle. And if axles are too close (18 wheeler rear axles) then it causes much more damage then distant axles. And length and amplitude depends on a vehicle speed. BTW if you watch Ice Road Truckers on Discovery you can notice that there is a speed limit about 25 kph (15 mph) due to this reason.


wojty
Participant
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Absolutely mikhail. If you ever look at tracking roads that are just dirt, they are often very rippled in the length of travel due to this. I had a hard time wrapping my head around that when my father explained that to a 7 year old me.

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