New Poll: Public Supports Congestion Tolling Over Gas Tax Hike by 2 to 1

InfoGraphics3.jpgGraphic: HNTB

The puzzle of how to pay for new federal investments in transportation is the single greatest stumbling block facing members of Congress — should a gas tax increase be combined with a vehicle miles traveled (VMT) tax? How about a national infrastructure bank that leverages private capital?

A poll released today by the engineering firm HNTB suggests that higher gas taxes could continue to face political headwinds from both sides of the aisle, even after the recession begins to ease.

A 10-cent gas tax increase that would be imposed only after two straight quarters of economic growth faced opposition from 64 percent of respondents, and just 16 percent said gas taxes should be raised to pay for "roads and bridges."

But the poll found strikingly strong support for tolling, particularly congestion tolling through HOT (high-occupancy toll) lanes. One-third of respondents said HOT lanes should be used for future transportation revenue, with 35 percent supporting the use of public tolling and 20 percent backing private tolls.

As with any poll, wording is everything; the above graphic depicts another poll question that referenced high-speed rail in addition to road investments. When the phrasing was changed, support for gas taxes climbed by 8 percent.

And when respondents were asked about "adding" HOT lanes with higher tolls "during rush hour," 68 percent were willing to support the move. As my colleague Ryan Avent has pointed out, however, new HOT lanes can be added without building more highway capacity by simply converting existing lanes.

If lawmakers are looking for data to jumpstart a discussion of broader toll use — particularly on the interstates, which would deliver a blow to the road lobby — today’s poll might be a good place to start.

(The source of polls can often be as noteworthy as their phrasing. Given that, one quick note on HNTB: The firm is currently embroiled in a debate over streetcars versus light rail in Kansas City, according to local media reports.)

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

The Gas Tax Versus a VMT Tax: Is ‘All of the Above’ an Option?

|
Gas tax revenues, already insufficient to pay for transportation infrastructure, will continue to be compromised by gains in fuel efficiency. Chart: Oregon DOT. The prospect of an eventual move away from the gas tax and towards a fee on vehicle miles traveled (VMT) has sparked consternation from some well-known bloggers this week, with Matt Yglesias […]
STREETSBLOG USA

Inside Obama’s Transpo Budget: “Historic Increase” in Transit Funding

|
A few more details about the Obama administration’s proposal for a new transportation bill surfaced today when the president unveiled his 2015 budget proposal. The topline numbers came out last week and look good for transit, biking, and walkability. The White House’s four-year, $302 billion surface transportation plan proposes an “historic increase” in transit funding — […]
STREETSBLOG USA

Ranking the Sad Parade of Federal Transpo Funding Ideas From Worst to Best

|
The problem seems simple enough: The federal transportation program is going broke because Washington has allowed the gas tax to be eroded by inflation for more than 20 years. As obvious as raising the gas tax may be, America’s political leaders won’t touch it. Yesterday, The Hill reported that Congressman Bill Shuster, chair of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, is ruling out […]
STREETSBLOG USA

The Last Thing Atlanta Needs Is a Billion Dollar Interchange Expansion

|
At $950 million, rebuilding and expanding the interchange of Georgia 400 and Interstate 285 in suburban Atlanta will be the costliest road project in the state’s history. Project proponents argue it will relieve congestion for the 365,000 vehicles that pass through the nexus of these two highways each day. But they’re fooling themselves if they believe that, writes […]