Today’s Headlines

  • Larry Littlefield

    From the Wall Street Journal: states and localities are forcing Zipcar to pay car rental taxes.

    “As car-sharing companies have enjoyed skyrocketing growth in recent years, several state and city governments have ruled that car-sharing companies need to charge their members car-rental tax. The laws are affecting customers in places such as Seattle, Pittsburgh and Chicago — and are likely to spread to other areas soon.”

    The car rental companies, which are also rolling out less than one day rentals, are claiming they are discriminated against if the car sharing companies don’t have to pay the tax. They are already socked with extra taxes over and above sales tax.

    “Rental-car taxes are particularly popular among politicians because they believe the levies tend to target visitors, not voters. (Rental-car companies however, say that many of their customers are locals, noting that over half of their revenue comes from outposts away from airports.) Funds are used to pay for convention centers, public transportation or similar local projects. There are currently about 112 car-rental-tax laws around the U.S., compared with 14 in 1990”

    This brings up an issue in the “replace own car vs. rent as needed” decision upcoming for me in a few years. Is the tax higher on a series of car rentals than on a car I buy? And if so, what is the public policy message being sent by our overlords?

  • From NYT: White House Pushes for More Domestic Offshore Drilling…

    Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California said Wednesday, “We cannot drill our way to energy independence.”

    Well said.

  • “Rental-car taxes are particularly popular among politicians because they believe the levies tend to target visitors, not voters”

    Which wouldn’t apply to Zipcar, whose customers are local, but I wonder if the Assembly might see the action as affecting infrequent drivers, not voters as they have on past occasions. Hey, there’s plenty of time left this summer for the legislature to further equate car ownership to personhood and/or ability to vote, let’s get crackin’ Albany!

  • Shemp
  • Spud Spudly

    The SUV market has taken such a beating that General Motors has now announced that it’s postponing the redesign of SUVs and pick-up trucks:

    They’re also considering selling off or shutting down Hummer and another line of large vehicles. I can’t remember ever seeing an industry change so much so quickly.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Interesting that the article you cite takes driver hostility to bicyclists as a matter of fact.

    Frankly, I’ve run into much more hostility from drivers when driving my own car than on a bike. I think many drivers are just hostile in general — particularly those who do it all the time rather than just occasionally and not to work.

  • Jonathan L. Bing, a Manhattan Democrat who was the bill’s chief sponsor, said, “This is such a specific New York City issue, it’s one of the many things where you wonder why the State Legislature has any role at all.”

    Well said. Wish you felt the same way about congestion pricing Bing.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Gas prices influecing housing purchase decisions, forcing housing prices down harder in distant sururbs.

    Ironic that our mass transit system is heading for a fiscal followed by a physical collapse at this of all moments. But of course that decision was made, year after year, for 16 years up to now rather than now.

  • The CNN story linked in Headlines, above (“America’s Downward Trend in Miles Driven Continued in April”) overstates the point.

    The story says:

    “Americans drove 1.4 billion fewer highway miles in April than they did in April 2007, the Department of Transportation said Wednesday.”

    Wrong. The decline in driving was 4.4 billion miles (April 08 vs April 07). That’s a 1.8% drop. Nice.

    But it adds:

    “April’s drop is more than three times larger than the drop from March 2007 to March of this year, which was 400 million fewer highway miles.”

    Very wrong. The March 08 drop (vs. March 07) was 11.1 billion miles, or 4.3%.

    (To download the FHWA data, go here.)

    So the reported April drop was less than the reported March drop. (Actually, I’m even dubious about that — there’s no reason the decline should have been much steeper in March, except for the fact that March 08 had more Sundays than March 07, which might make a very small difference.)

    Points being: (i) driving is indeed declining. The reported average March-April drop of 3% seems about right; (ii) it’s amazing how an established news organization can blow a fairly simple story.

  • Why We Fight — from the Times: “Exxon Mobil, Shell, Total and BP — the original partners in the Iraq Petroleum Company — along with Chevron and a number of smaller oil companies, are in talks with Iraq’s Oil Ministry for no-bid contracts to service Iraq’s largest fields….”