What Do Americans Think About Federal Tax Options to Support Transportation? Results from Year Nine of a National Survey

July 2, 2018
|
San José, CA

What Do Americans Think About Federal Tax Options to Support Transportation? Results from Year Nine of a National Survey

Annual Mineta Transportation Institute survey finds growing national support for raising new money for  transportation with higher gas taxes or a “green” mileage fee

June 28, 2017 | San José, CA

As the U.S. Congress considers raising the federal gas tax rate, a question underlying the discussion is whether Americans will support a tax increase. Researchers from the Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI) conducted their ninth annual public opinion survey on this topic: What Do Americans Think About Federal Tax Options To Support Transportation? Results From Year Nine of a National Survey. Results indicate that a majority of Americans would support higher taxes for transportation—given the right conditions. For instance, 72% of respondents supported a gas tax increase of 10 cents per gallon to improve road maintenance, whereas support dropped to just 34% if the revenues were to be used “for transportation” more generally.

The survey is the ninth in an annual series that asks the same questions each year. This year’s results continue the trend of gradually rising support for increase in the gas tax rate. Since 2010, support for each gas tax option has grown by 10 to 15 percentage points.

The survey also found support has grown for a “green” mileage fee option. Support has grown from 33% in 2010 to 46% this year. In this scenario, drivers would pay an average of a penny per mile driven, but the rate would be lower for vehicles that pollute less and higher for vehicles that pollute more.

“We face growing needs across our transportation system, but funding hasn’t kept pace,” says Dr. Asha Weinstein Agrawal, one of the study authors and Director of MTI’s National Transportation Finance Center. “To solve this dilemma, we must either lower our goals for system maintenance and improvements, or raise new revenues.”

The survey tested public support for ten different tax options: seven variants of a gas tax increase, two variants of a new mileage tax, and one new sales tax option. The figure shows how support varied across the ten tax options.

Support Levels for the Tax Options in 2018

(“Support” is the sum of those who “strongly” or “somewhat” supported the tax option)

Key 2018 findings include:

  • Six of the ten transportation options tested had majority support.
  • Linking tax increases to safety, maintenance, or environmental benefits increased support by at least ten percentage points among almost every sociodemographic group.
  • Since 2010, support for the taxes has increased.

 

ABOUT THE RESEARCH TEAM: 

ASHA WEINSTEIN AGRAWAL, Ph.D.

Dr. Agrawal is the Director of the MTI National Transportation Finance Center and also professor of Urban and Regional Planning at San José State University. Her research and teaching interests in transportation policy and planning include transportation finance, bicycle and pedestrian planning, and travel survey methods. She also works in the area of transportation history. She has a B.A. from Harvard University in Folklore and Mythology, an M.Sc. from the London School of Economics and Political Science in Urban and Regional Planning, and a Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley, in City and Regional Planning.

HILARY NIXON, Ph.D.

Dr. Nixon is professor of Urban and Regional Planning at San José State University. Her research and teaching interests in environmental planning and policy focus on the relationship between environmental attitudes and behavior, particularly with respect to waste management and linkages between transportation and the environment. She holds a B.A. from the University of Rochester in Environmental Management and a Ph.D. in Planning, Policy, and Design from the University of California, Irvine.

ABOUT THE MINETA TRANSPORTATION INSTITUTE

At the Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI) at San Jose State University (SJSU) our mission is to increase mobility for all by improving the safety, efficiency, accessibility, and convenience of our nation's’ transportation system through research, education, workforce development and technology transfer. We help create a connected world. MTI was founded in 1991 and is funded through the US Departments of Transportation and Homeland Security, the California Department of Transportation, and public and private grants. MTI is affiliated with SJSU’s Lucas College and Graduate School of Business.

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Contact:

Irma Garcia, MTI Communications & Workforce Development Coordinator

408.924.7560

irma.garcia@sjsu.edu