Document Type

Technical Report

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Transportation finance, Fuel -- Taxation -- California, Transportation finance -- California -- Public opinion, Toll roads -- California, Transportation -- Planning -- Case studies


States around the nation are scrambling to find new sources of revenue to maintain and expand their transportation systems. The traditional major source of funds, state and federal fuel taxes, has rarely kept pace with inflation. In most cases state legislatures have been unwilling to raise fuel taxes high enough to cover desired levels of expenditure, thus pushing state and local governments to look for new sources such as sales taxes and tolls. Another outcome of legislative reluctance to raise fees and taxes that generate transportation revenues has been to put any potential revenue measure before the voters, as a ballot proposition. As a result of these new trends in how legislatures respond to proposals for raising transportation revenues, transportation agencies are more and more asked to choose revenue options that have strong public support. This paper investigates public opinion in California on support for a range of revenue options to fund transportation, including taxes and fees, bonds, and tolling. The analysis is based on results from two telephone surveys of California residents conducted in 2006. The survey revealed fairly strong public support for some tolling options. The most popular tax or fee option was to increase vehicle registration fees by a variable amount depending on the vehicle?s air pollutant emissions and gas mileage. Three tax options ? gas taxes, sales taxes, and the vehicle license fee ? had virtually the same levels of overall support, about 40%. The analysis of demographic and other factors provides further insights. People living in regions that have toll roads and HOT lanes were far more supportive of these concepts. Support for pricing options was not clearly related to income or ethnicity. Lower income respondents were about equally likely to support tolls roads, express toll lanes, and HOT lanes. Younger adults were more supportive of most tolling options, the mileage fee, and the registration fee that varied by emissions and gas mileage. The survey also revealed what many researchers have found ? that methodology, particularly question wording, is very important. Overall, the survey provides some optimism for implementing new options, such as tolling, and more traditional options of user fees. The positive reaction to linking fees with environmental objectives should be explored further by researchers and policy makers.


For presentation at the First International Conference on Transport Infrastructure Funding Banff, Alberta, Canada August 2-3, 2006. Please do not cite without permission

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