Before posting another item on my current project, the sight of shrink wrapped ads on MARTA trains got me thinking again about transportation funding – the 700 pound gorilla in our midst. The fact that I am working part time as an Internet Marketing Analyst for Capture Commerce has me thinking more about ads and how people view them.
With the low output of tax revenue from gasoline tax – due to low rates and/or inflation and/or conservation – and the uncertainty of other tax revenue (Maybe in 2012 someone in GA will vote themselves a regional tax that can begin to provide work and relief by mid-decade.), Transportation agencies are looking elsewhere to collect the funding they need to pay for what is an ever increasing list of traffic-relief measures. Atlanta’s MARTA trains and buses have ads, private firms are being invited to enter the toll lane business (both HOV/HOT and truck/TOT). Even the the Georgia DOT (GDOT) Highway Emergency Response Operator (HERO) program has gone the way of the Florida’s Turnpike and garnered a sponsorship from State Farm Insurance. MARTA funding levels are so low there is a plan to cut service. It hasn’t happened in Georgia but some states are looking to a Vehicle Miles-traveled Tax (VMT) as a replacement for the gasoline tax.
None of these things in themselves is wrong or bad – just disturbing. It is disturbing that we have so much need and so much talented engineers with creative solutions, yet these two have so much trouble meeting unless we turn to alternative means of funding.
These are issue I think about a lot as I look to the future and consider my career in Transportation. Our profession has been so tied to the gasoline consumption tax that it is reeling it its lack of revenue. Consulting agencies are overly leveraged in providing services to state and local departments of transportation who are feeling the pinch. Even so, I do not believe, nor to studies suggest, that Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) or ads are going to be the panacea for the funding gorilla in our midst, much like the use of solar, wind and geothermal energy is not going to be the same for the energy crisis.
However, I am glad to see some effort made to help with the funding crisis. This type of creativity in my opinion trumps the status quo of demanding more taxes be raised. Although it might be worthy to consider indexing the gas tax to inflation (not the price of gas) I would prefer we try other options and see what works the best while not over-burdening the consumer, the automobile driver in excess.