States Are Rushing To Raise Gas Taxes. Will That Be A Federal Solution, Too?

Atlanta’s crumbling freeways. Photo via ABC News.

America’s infrastructure is crumbling, sending states scrambling for ways to fund the rebuilding of their worn highway systems. Increasing the gas tax is a perennial solution, and now, it is getting attention from the White House.

The federal government levies an excise tax of 18.4 cents per gallon of unleaded fuel and 24 cents on diesel fuel. States gas taxes vary from state to state, but range from a fraction of a cent to more than 50 cents on each gallon.

The federal gas tax is not indexed to reflect inflation. It has not gone up since 1993, although inflation has risen by 64.6 percent.

On May 2, President Donald Trump suggested the possibility of a federal gas tax increase in an interview with Bloomberg.

“(I’ve) had the truckers come to see me, that if we earmarked money toward the highways that they would — that they would not mind a tax — you know, gas tax or some form of tax,” Trump told Bloomberg.

According to the Federal Highway Administration, the U.S. has $836 billion in needed repairs and improvements to roads and bridges, plus an additional $90 billion needed to fix public transit systems, the AP reported.

A dozen states join the push

On Jan. 1, six states implemented higher gas taxes, including Pennsylvania, which raised its state tax on gas by about 8 cents per callon to 58.3 cents per gallon, and Michigan, which raised its state gas tax 7.3 cents to 26.3 cents per gallon. Nebraska, Georgia, North Carolina and Florida, also raised their state gas taxes, according to Forbes.

Michigan also increased registration fees on electric cars, to counter for their lower gas consumption. California will implement a similar measure in November, along with a higher gas tax.

So far this year, five more states have raised gas taxes, and increases are up for debate in more state legislatures.

The gas tax isn’t generally a divided issue; in many states, bipartisan support is garnered for the proposals. Traditionally red states, such as Tennessee and South Carolina, have passed gas tax increases since Jan. 1. Continue reading

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Filed under cars, infrastructure, Uncategorized

Public Transportation Is A Mess. How Can It Be Fixed?

New York. Toronto. San Francisco. Chicago. Great cities, with one thing in common. Their public transportation systems are a mess.

You probably know Richard Florida’s name. And if you don’t, you certain know the phrase he popularized: the Creative Class. In his 2002 book, The Rise of the Creative Class, Florida said that cities’ fortunes could be revived by appealing to smart, talented people — entrepreneurs, technology experts, artists, and creators of all kinds. These innovators could lead the way in putting cities back on their feet.

His idea worked. The only problem was, it left a lot of people behind. Now, Florida is back with his latest book, The New Urban Crisis.

In it, he says that by ignoring the working class, service class and essentially the middle class in general, America’s cities are in big, big trouble. Some of them could be headed for confrontation well beyond what the Occupy movement generated.

Florida appeared before Ann Arbor SPARK, an conomic development group in Ann Arbor, Mich., last week, where I got a chance to catch up with him.

He says one of the biggest problems that cities face is the deterioration of the ways people get around. “Once a metropolitan area gets above 5 million people, the old way of growing, with single family homes and cars, seizes up. That platform of economic innovation will no longer work,” Florida says.

He went on, “We need to invest in transit. Lord God, come visit me in Toronto and try to get anywhere. It is gridlock. I go to Atlanta, it’s gridlock, Miami, it’s gridlock, Washington, it’s gridlock, Boston, it’s gridlock. New York, the whole thing is falling apart. Every day, the transit system is a nightmare.” Continue reading

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We’re Coming Back! Curbing Cars Returns With Our Newsletter And More

Curbing Cars is getting back on the road. Beginning Monday, May 1, we’ll publish a weekly newsletter with original journalism about the future of transportation. We pick up where the internal combustion engine leaves off — unless that engine is in a self-driving vehicle.

Sign up for the Curbing Cars Newsletter now so you won’t miss anything. Email us with tips or ideas at curbingcars@gmail.com.

We especially want to hear personal stories about the way you’re using all types of transportation. And, tell us if there’s a transportation debate going on where you live. We may come and cover it!

We’d also love it if you’d follow us on Twitter @curbingcars and on Facebook at Curbing Cars.

We recently completed our second successful Kickstarter. But, we’d welcome your contributions. They all go to support our independent journalism. See the donation link in the sidebar.

Be sure to check our site often for updated information and resources about all the ways we get around. And come back Monday to see us get back on the road.

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The Best American Cities For Bicycle Commutes

Best Bicycling Cities

I’ll bet you’ve notice more people commuting to work by bicycle over the past few years.

I just moved away from one of America’s best cities for bicycle commutes — Ann Arbor, Mich. — but I now live next to another one of the best, Tempe, Ariz. They’ve both college towns and that seems to be an attribute of many of the nation’s leading bicycling cities.

Take a look at this wonderful Bloomberg graphic on the top places where people get to work on two wheels. Is your town on it? What will it take to land your town on it?

 

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Your Guide To Sounding Like A Native, Anywhere

It always seems like everyone else has an accent, but no matter where you’re from, culture has a way of influencing its development. One of the clearest ways to tell that someone is a transplant from somewhere else is by the way they speak.

These recent graphs below not only show where particular dialects are geographically located, but also help teach us a little about ourselves and why we say the things we say. They could also provide a nice reference for native terminology and accents in various parts of the U.S.

I  personally found out exactly why I had never heard of the term “bubbler,” which is the inspiration behind Milwaukee’s new bike share program called the Bublr, as Micki and I discussed on the first edition of the Curbing Cars Podcast.

If you’d like to explore your own accent further, take this NY Times quiz. Continue reading

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Filed under cities, public transportation, urban planning

Presenting: The Curbing Cars Podcast

From Tucson to Kansas City, Denver to Detroit, it’s been a busy summer for transportation news.

Here, in our inaugural Curbing Cars podcast, Mark Remillard and I look at some of the stories he’s covered. They include:

Tucson’s new light-rail system, the Sun Link.

The Denver-based study showing that more bikes can actually be good for city safety.

The challenge posed to cities by parking craters.

Take a listen, and share it with  your friends.

Would you like to hear more episodes of the Curbing Cars Podcast? Take our survey.

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Filed under bicycling, bike sharing, cars, cities, Curbing Cars, public transportation, Rail, urban planning

Americans Optimistic Yet Skeptical About Self-Driving Cars

A new study from the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute shows Americans seem optimistic  about, yet are skeptical of autonomous cars.

The study surveyed more than 1,500 people who are 18 years or older in the United States, United Kingdom and Australia and found that Americans had a much more positive view on self-driving cars than those in the U.K. or Australia.

Respondents in the U.S. came back with a 22 percent “very positive” outlook on the possibly of self-driving cars, while in the U.K. that number was much lower, only 13.9 percent, and Australia came in at 16.2. The rest of the responses fell relatively evenly between the three countries as the outlook continued downward all the way to “very negative.”

So while the United States might have a population of people who are very excited about self-driving cars, it also seems to be the most skeptical about their benefits.

When asked whether respondents thought self-driving cars would reduce crashes, 10 percent of U.S. respondents said it was very unlikely, while only 7.2 percent felt that way in the U.K. and 6.3 in Australia. Furthermore, U.S. respondents also had more skeptics on whether self-driving cars would reduce the severity of crashes. 10.4 percent of Americans found it very unlikely the cars would reduce severity, versus 6.5 and 6.3 percent in the U.K. and Australian respectively.

Americans were also more skeptical about how much cost benefit self-driving cars would provide, finding that 18.6 percent felt autonomous cars would drive up insurance rates. Only 14 percent in the U.K. felt self-driving cars wouldn’t lower rates and 16.4 percent agreed in Australia.

While the technology for self-driving cars continues to develop and may soon be seen on roadway, Americans might have difficulty relinquishing full control to computers  as 60.1 percent of respondents they were very concerned about riding in a vehicle with no driver controls.

Further, more than 50 percent said they were very concerned about self-driving vehicles getting confused by unexpected situations and about safety consequences of equipment or system failures.

 

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A Guide To The World’s Top 10 Public Transportation Cities

singapore

Courtesy of Jalopnik

Of all the cities across the U.S., only one has landed in the top 10 of the world’s best transportation cities, according to Jalopnik. New York grabbed the final spot on the list for its historic subway system that, despite its age, has been able to stand up to quite a lot. An example: it quickly returning to service after being flooded during Hurricane Sandy.

Germany has a strong grasp on quality transportation systems. Jalopnik put three of the country’s cities on the list: Berlin, Munich and Frankfurt. Berlin claimed ninth because it’s punctual and has quiet rail lines, and because the city is seemingly saturated with transportation.

Frankfurt took seventh for its interesting system where riders pay for a ticket to their final destination, allowing riders to “take all day to get to that destination if you choose by getting on and off the transit as often as you like. You’ve paid for the whole day until you’ve reached the final destination.”

Finally, Munich reached number three in part for its incredibly fast service, which, according to Jalopnik, has the city providing trains every two minutes during peak hours in its central corridor.A few other European hubs made the list including Paris and London. Continue reading

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See Tucson’s Light Rail System In Action

Our Mark Remillard recently told you about Tucson’s new light rail line — the second such system in Arizona. (Phoenix also has light rail.)

Based on your reaction via Twitter, we know that came as a surprise.

So here’s a look at the new Sun Link in action, via the Arizona Daily Star. Ride the entire route in three minutes. We’re definitely looking forward to hopping on board.

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Tucson’s ‘Sun Link’ Light Rail System Is Open For Business

Tucson, Arizona is the latest city in the country, and second in Arizona, to open a light rail transit system. sunlink_2

The 18 stop, four-mile surface rail line has been in the works for 10 years, according to Sun Link Project Manager Shellie Genn. As the downtown core of Tucson has continued to grow, she said the need for light rail and an effective transit system has become increasingly important to keep the city connected.

“This has allowed us to connect areas that were previously divided by physical barriers,” Genn said. Some include the I-10 freeway and Santa Cruz River, which run through Tucson’s downtown.

Largely funded through a $63 million grant from the Federal Transit Administration, Genn said Sun Link has already created more than $800 million in economic development around the line.

“There’s a real interest in developing along this line, opening up business, housing (and) grocery stores,” she said. “It’s really turning into a place where you want to be versus what it used to be like five to 10 years ago.”

The light rail line is the latest in what Genn called a national demand for more convenient public transportation as more people are migrating to downtowns and embracing urban living. Continue reading

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