Trending – Autonomous Vehicles and Loss of Municipal Revenue

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Trending – Autonomous Vehicles and Loss of Municipal Revenue

In Parknew’s Trending column, the lead article deals with autonomous vehicles, ie driverless cars. The author sounds the alarm that the natural extension of this phenomena is that a tremendous amount of money is going to be taken from local government coffers. Parking fees and citations will no longer bring in tens of millions. Driving citations (red lights, speeding, and DUI) will be nonexistent. We in the parking industry understand these numbers. We deal with them every day.

The inference is that many of the services provided by cities will go away because this lucrative funding pot is gone. Balderdash.

That irrepressible maw known as government won’t be stopped so easily. Fees and the like will replace parking revenue. Driverless car — Super — there will be a fee for allowing it to use the city streets. Autonomous Vehicle? How about a fee per mile. That is already being discussed in places where automobile usage is down and where high mileage vehicles are prevalent. Those two pesky facts mean that less gas is being used so there is less gas tax collected. The law of unintended consequences. We want people to drive high mileage vehicles so we bribe them to do so (with tax credits and the like) but when the revenues go down, we reach in their other pocket and pull out a fee per mile.

I don’t know that this is such a bad thing. Shouldn’t the fee for usage come from the people who actual use the service. When we subsidize parking, as we do virtually everywhere, bicyclists and bus riders pay to let you park your car a little cheaper. Why not charge enough for the right to use the roads so they can be properly built and maintained and the people using them pay for them.

In my neighborhood the city wouldn’t repair the streets because the curbs were in such bad repair. We had to form a district and assess everyone living in the area so the curbs could be repaired and then the streets replaced. People who don’t own cars or seldom use the streets are being charged the same as those who have three cars and pummel the asphalt daily.

People who benefit from the sale and use of automobiles lobby for low or hidden charges (like the gas tax) so folks will buy the newest Belchfire V12 and drive it proudly in front of their neighbor’s noses. I wonder how many people would forgo a new car or maybe that extra trip to the corner market if they had to pay so much per actual mile driven.

It becomes a viscous circle.  We do away with fees to park, but charge more for the right to use the roads. In a perfect world, properly taxes would go down and user fees go up so those who use the service pay for it.

In the good old days of firemarks, the insurance companies provided the fire departments. If your house caught fire, you called the proper fire department and they came out and put out the fire. They checked to see if you had the proper “Firemark” on your wall and if so, you got the service. If not, let her burn. You had paid for that service through your insurance policy. Now I pay a goodly sum in taxes for firemen and their modern house a block away, and hopefully. like most of my neighbors, will never use their service.

If all streets were treated like toll roads and (gasp) run by private entities, then good business would demand that the monies paid to use the streets be used to keep them in proper repair. If not, the company running, say, Venice Boulevard in Los Angeles, would lose its franchise and some other entrepreneur would take over and make things right.

Who knows, maybe autonomous vehicles could start a trend. Most likely, however, the bureaucracies we call local governments will simply find ways to take more and more and deliver less and less.

JVH

 

John Van Horn

John Van Horn

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