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Study finds that linking increased transportation tax to environmental or other specific benefits increases American’s support for higher transportation taxes

A national phone survey by the Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI) found that a majority of Americans would support higher taxes for transportation, under certain conditions. The survey results show that very low support levels for a one-time gas-tax increase or a new mileage tax can be raised by modifying how the tax is structured and the way it is described.

Dedicating the revenue to purposes popular with the public, spreading out the increase over several years, and providing information about how much the increase will cost drivers annually are all options for improving support levels, the findings suggest. Linking a transportation tax to environmental benefits can strongly increase support. As an example, support for the mileage tax rose significantly when a flat-rate tax was converted to a tax with a rate that varied according to the vehicle’s pollution level.

The 24% support for a $0.10 per gallon gas tax hike with no information given rose to 45% if the incremental revenue was to be spent on reducing global warming and 48% if the revenue was to be spent on reducing local air pollution.

As another example, 62% of respondents would support a gas tax increase of $0.10 per gallon to improve road maintenance. However, support levels dropped to 24% if the revenues were to be used more generally to maintain and improve the transportation system. For tax options where the revenues were to be spent for undefined transportation purposes, support levels varied considerably by what kind of tax would be imposed, with a sales tax much more popular than either a gas tax increase or a new mileage tax.

This survey is the second year of a project to assess how public support for federal transportation taxes may change over time; most of the questions asked are identical to ones included in a 2010 survey.

Comparing the results from 2010 and 2011 shows that American public opinion about the taxes polled has changed little in the past year. The 2011 survey found Americans just as willing to support tax increases for transportation as they were in 2010.

The survey compared public support for alternative versions of the mileage and gas taxes. The base cases tested against alternatives were a flat-rate mileage tax of $0.01 per mile and a $0.10 per gallon gas-tax increase with no additional information given. All variants of these base cases increased the level of support significantly.

Click to enlarge.

The survey was conducted because policy makers are investigating possible methods for raising new revenues for transportation. Revenues currently available from state and federal gas taxes have fallen significantly over the past decades, especially in terms of inflation-adjusted dollars per mile traveled.

Taxes are levied on a per-gallon basis rather than per dollar spent. With more fuel-efficient vehicles, less revenue is generated per gallon. At the same time, the US transportation system requires critical and expensive system upgrades. We wanted to explore what funding options Americans might support in a time when new taxes are generally unpopular.

—Dr. Hilary Nixon, co-author

The poll also asked respondents about their priorities for government spending on transportation in their states. Close to two-thirds of respondents felt that governments should make it a high priority to maintain streets, roads, and highways, and more than half said the same about reducing accidents and improving safety. Also, almost half of respondents placed a high priority on reducing traffic congestion and expanding public transit service.

The Survey and Policy Research Institute at San Jose State University conducted the national, random-digit-dial telephone survey of 1,519 adults from 1 March to 6 April 2011, on behalf of MTI's National Transportation Finance Center. Interviews were conducted in either English or Spanish, and respondents were reached on both land-line and cell phone numbers.




We already pay $1 per gallon "tax" in the form of higher prices to OPEC and others we import oil from, that does not go to roads and bridges creating jobs here however.


This is very good news for America. We are starting to see the light.

USA's gas taxes are way too low. Price paid to crude producer countries are NOT taxes but fair market value for an essential product. Just because we got away with extremely low prices for decades does not mean that we should not pay more now and for years ahead.

1. It seems that 6+ specialized/dedicated untouchable (for other expenses) transportation FUNDS is where people want their extra fuel taxes to go. External auditions are a must to make sure that politicians do not get their hands on those funds..

2. People also want the new fuel taxes to be applied progressively.

3. Some compensation should be done to low wage earners. Could be in the form of lower income taxes and/or higher subsidies for the purchase of higher efficient vehicles, specially for electrified vehicles.


Now that the sheeple have finally been brainwashed it's time to fleece them once more. They are even going to enjoy it.


If there is any substance to this Phone survey by MTI.

"The Institute is funded by Congress through the US DOT’s Research and Innovative Technology Administration, by the California Legislature through the Department of Transportation (Caltrans), and by other public and private grants and donations, including the U.S. Department of Homeland Security."

I would expect them to say that people WANT to pay more taxes.


Been done in the UK and Europe already. But in the UK fuel tax, VAT (sales tax 17.5%), road tax, and Insurance Premium Tax all fall into a deep black hole. Only 1/6 goes back on transport.

The government's already screwed accounts would be screwed even more if we didn't drive, because the 25m or so motorists contribute $80bn in tax. We're a cash cow!



It's a popular tune you are singing there... Daily Mail territory.

In reality, you forget about the money spent by municipalities on road maintenance, which does not appear on national government budgets as such. Futhermore society subsidizes car owners by 3 free parking spots per car, roads paid for by HOUSE owners in newly built housing estates, paying for casualties from traffic accidents or pollution through NHS, etc etc. The list of hidden costs is long, so a compensation through a fuel tax is justified.


Freedom from government intrusion, freedom from excessive taxation, freedom TO trade at "market" prices. That's the ideal of America and the secret behind it's prosperity. Even the simple "consideration" of additional energy taxation, no matter what kind of spin is put on it, is absurd.

Better to use the government to reasonably regulate the auto industry, to encourage and to promote responsible use and, of course, ensure freedom.

Clearly, the government's out of control spending is against most of our wishes. An additional tax won't help.


American prosperity in the 20th century had more to do with resources and location. World wars were not fought on our shores, we made profits from them.


America is the most successful nation and has the least intrusive government and the most individualistic culture. That is no coincidence. That is cause and effect.

The world wars were not fought on our shores because they were not started on our shores. And they were started WITHOUT US. We were pulled in (or joined; whatever conspiracy theory you like, it makes no difference) later.


Empires come and go. Good one used to last for centuries but lately, their average duration is much shorter. History will keep on repeating itself. Men are still predators and still like to fight wars.

Thomas Lankester

'That's the ideal of America and the secret behind it's prosperity.'

14 trillion USD in debt?

That must be the Webster's definition of 'prosperity' then.
I'll stick to the English one in OED.

Roger Pham

At the peak of America's prosperity in the 50's to the 70's, the income tax rates were a lot higher than now. Supply-side economy and individualistic culture work only up to a point, after that, they will be detrimental to the economy and to the society.

Taxation is like the power diverted from a car's engine to power the alternator and the AC compressor. Ideally, you would want highly efficient alternator and AC compressor to reduce parasite loads. But, if you wanna enjoy high-wattage sound system and super cool AC system, plus the electrical power to run all sorts of electrical gadgets like laptops computers and DVD players, then be willing to settle for higher parasitic load off the engine.

Cujet has a point. The law has become too complicated and too numerous, a real invasion into personal freedom, especially with the recent and unconstitutional 2400-page health care "deform" laws. It appears that the gov. is alternatively hijacked by a Big Business Party for a while, and then taken over the remaining of the time by an anti-business-big interest group party bend on making the laws real complicated for their own gains, making small businesses more and more frustrated to remain in compliance to the more and onerous laws in the books that no one can possibly fathom nor remember. Even the l*wyers have problem keeping track of the laws. The poorer and more desperate average citizens are left suffering from the fall-outs from those giants.


We do not seem able to keep the free enterprise party from favoring (selling out to) Big Business (over true free enterprise for all sized businesses) nor keep the labor party from favoring (selling out to) unions and just plain underachievers.

I only hope we have better games than the Roman Empire did.


Do productive people, big businesses, small businesses or good governing system create sustainable prosperity?

Big business can be very productive until such time as it starts killing competition and starts riding on acquired fat and over pay their administrators $$B. That's what is happening is USA, Japan and EU. BB often corrupts politicians to get want they need/want to continue to operate and kill more competition.

Multiple small businesses rely on productive people to prosper and compete. It worked very well in Japan, China and other places. Unfortunately, they are not supported enough by governments because they cannot afford to buy enough politicians.

Good government is a necessity but will eventually fall in the hands of Big Business. That's is where the system starts to fall apart. Corruption starts to rule mostly everywhere. That's what happened under the previous Administration. Such economic unbalance is very difficult to fix. Governments(and people) can go deeper and deeper in debt but embezzlers will rake it in. Unless we find the collective will to properly tax the speculators and embezzlers, we are heading into a wall or a very long economic depression.

Good government is needed now to impose adequate fixes and to convince the majority that such actions are required.


@ Anne

Quick enough to stress the hidden costs yes, as those in Guardian land tend to do (and I don't read the Daily Wail) and often out of context. Remember there are benefits as well as costs to consider, so its a two way street. If this mentality was applied to all things that had hidden costs we would have taxes on ladders, skateboards, fatty foods, sugary foods and so on...

Anyway, my point is that little of this money that goes to government is not re-invested in what, in a true sense, is an integrated transport system which encourages people to walk, bike, bus and train when it offers the best choice in terms of conveneience and costs, but crucually understands the fact that cars have a role to fill the accessibility gap when these other modes cannot fill them.

Policy and debate needs to get over the 'us' and 'them' mentality: a divide that Guardian types and the Campaign for Better [as long as it excludes cars] Transport try to widen as much as possible. All modes can be complementary with a bit of careful thought and planning. As soon as this is recognised, we may get somewhere and feel that we're getting better value.


HarvyD, I believe you are quite right;
- about special interests (businesses and unions) buying the government (politicians/parties)
– and our increasing debt.

But the abuses “under the previous Administration” have expanded greatly under the present one.

I think the answer is our demand for integrity, our culture.

On what basis we elect politicians.

The speculators are not the problem.
And embezzlers are always around.

Putting those with a poor (or no) record in office has proven unwise.

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