Tuesday, February 28, 2006

I Don't Hate You Ezra

Continuing the gas tax conversation, I think Ezra's basically right. If you put off the table having the gas tax actually raise money AND having it be large enough to actually impact behavior then there's really no point to raising the tax. It's hideously regressive tax which will really hurt the wrong people and I'm pretty sure you'd have to get the total price of gas up to $6 or more before you're really impacting behavior.

So, let's get rid of that stick and consider the carrot. The reason demand for gasoline is so inelastic is that people just don't have other options. If there were other modes of travel for them to switch to that'd be one thing but there just aren't. The real key to affecting gasoline reliance is to reduce automobile reliance. And that involves making different land use choices, increasing the quality of public transit, etc. For significant numbers of people public transit is Just Not An Option either for commuting or for day to day life. And, given the current patterns of suburban development it's very difficult to think about grafting a mass transit system onto it.

The thing is that in much of the country sensible land use violates against zoning codes. I'm sympathetic to the view that lots of people love them their suburbs and you can pry them from their cold dead hands, but that doesn't mean suburban development can't be tweaked a bit to improve things, to provide other options for the people who want them.