What If Roads Really Did Have to Pay for Themselves?

pittsburgh_bus.jpgPittsburgh's bus system is far from the only subsidized transportation in Pennsylvania. Photo: Port Authority
Pittsburgh area residents are reeling from the news this week that their transit agency, the Port Authority of Allegheny County, may cut 35 percent of its total service in January -- and raise fares -- unless the state of Pennsylvania can come up with new funding for transportation. The massive amputation would come on top of a 15 percent cut three years ago, reducing the transit network to a shadow of its former self.

The funding crisis has intensified since April, when the feds rejected a bid from Governor Ed Rendell to raise money by tolling Interstate 80. The solutions Rendell is floating now, including a tax on oil company profits or raising the state gas tax a few cents, are meeting resistance from rural legislators who don't like the idea of spending part of the revenues on transit.

Streetsblog Network member the East Busway Blog says bring on the transportation starvation, as long as it cuts both ways:

I am 100% in support of pulling all state funding from the Port Authority (and SEPTA for that matter) with the caveat that the state no longer maintain any roads or fund any new roads. Counties and municipalities would be on the hook to maintain all existing roads and fund any new road construction or expansion, to include limited access highways without the help of state funds.

It’s hard to hypothesize what this would be like because it is unprecedented.  It's even harder to imagine how it would be all funded; not a pretty scenario given our auto-centric society.

The Busway blogger's thought experiment, which involves a look at Colorado's privately financed and managed highway, E-470, and an assortment of new tolls and taxes that motorists would have to absorb, leads him to this conclusion:

So, once again, anyone willing to trade privatized transit for privatized roads, I’m all for it.  That way everyone can finally see that no form of human transportation, be it automotive, rail, air, or bus is un-subsidized.

More from around the Network: The Congress for the New Urbanism's report on replacing New Orleans' Claiborne Expressway with an urban boulevard is generating a stir in St. Louis and Seattle, where the future of downtown freeways is a hot topic. Transit in Utah links back to an important Citiwire story about the benefits of mixed-use development for city tax revenues. And Transit Miami is watchdogging a Florida DOT project that should make a commercial corridor more walkable and bikeable.