Saturday, January 03, 2009

This day in DUH

Now here's a stupid idea if ever I heard one. And I'm a blogger in the Dubya administration, so I've trafficked in stupid ideas for many years now.

Oregon, among other states, claims it is losing highway revenue to the point that it will soon no longer be able to keep up with road-maintenance costs. There are presumably numerous reasons for this, among them the constant yo-yoing of gas prices, rising asphalt costs, solid-gold Steve Prefontaine statues, etc. Typically, legislators address this sort of thing with an increase in fuel taxes. But in this age of soaring gas prices of, um, $3 less per gallon than a few months ago, working families can't afford such a tax hike. And the federal government can't afford to make up the difference, given that the cause of the shortfall isn't incredibly crass corporate greed.

So what are Oregon officials promoting? They want each person to pay an individual tax based on how many miles they drive. Well, that's fair. After all, my insurance company bases my coverage on an estimated yearly mileage, and -

Oh, wait. They want to install Big Brother devices in every car that track your mileage and adjust prices accordingly when you drive up to the pump. And God forbid you fill up during rush hour, which (where I live) is apparently every daytime hour. Officials - and keep in mind, this is Oregon, where I would be Rush Limbaugh - blame fuel-efficient vehicles for the shortfall, saying that better cars just don't burn enough gas to make the enterprise worthwhile.

It doesn't take a genius to see that the people who suffer most from this approach are those with green vehicles. Screw the environment, screw penalizing those who burn the most fossil fuel, screw privacy - if anyone's not pulling their weight around here, it's those damn dirty hippies with their expensive hybrids and hypermiling and recycling and whatnot!

When I was in college, we paid $25 each semester for a parking space on top of tuition. That is, if we wanted it. I liked this approach, because for the first few semesters, I either didn't have a vehicle or rode my bike to school. After a few years, however, people began complaining en masse that our shuttle-bus system just wasn't doing it for them. And I didn't blame them for saying that. But they began demanding a five-story parking garage on campus, along a two-lane road that was already clogged, just so they didn't have to mingle among the rabble or otherwise deviate from their activity-free lifestyle in any way. Fittingly, the thing was built on a field where we often played pick-up softball and football games. Years after anyone who demanded it could ever possibly use it.

Funding for this behemoth came from a mandatory levy of $25 on every student per semester. At the same time, they rescinded parking permits for the shuttle parking lot, to make it seem awesome: "You don't need permits anymore! Yay!" As I put it at the time, "You also bought a $25 parking space, even if you have no car, driver’s license or eyesight." This Oregon mileage proposal reminds me very much of that.

It's a testament to these not-over-enough times that we're still seeking solutions to every problem that penalize diligence and conservation in the name of excess and profits. Typical retarded, amoral supply-side logic.

I particularly like this quote from the story:

Lynda Williams, also of Portland, was not immediately sold on the idea but said it was worth consideration.

"We all have to be open-minded," she said. "Our current system just isn't working."

Yes, we all have to be open-minded. That's what they told us in high school when they started making us wear our IDs on our shirts. They never tell you that when it comes to racial and gender equity or making sure all Americans have decent health care. Or when it comes to not wasting precious resources in a time of economic crisis.

I think my next car will be my bicycle. That is, assuming they don't start taxing air at 50 cents per square inch.


E.J. said...

At my college we paid $300-400 a year for parking, and that was 10 years ago! I don't even want to know what it costs now. That was in Atlanta, Queen of Urban Sprawl, and I don't think those prices did anything to stop it.

Ian McGibboney said...

I should clarify. The $25 permits were the cheapo ones that enabled us to park a mile away from campus and ride a shuttle bus back and forth (and park in certain spots on campus after 3 p.m.) Campus spaces were at a premium not that different than what you paid, E.J.

But there was a loophole that has since been closed: If you didn't register your car and parked on campus, all they could do was give you a (non-police) ticket of $10. They couldn't even put a hold on your record because they couldn't match the car to you, meaning these tickets often never got paid. A lot of people parked this way for years at a time.

Parking really brings out the slimy side of college students.

Jones said...

I can remember those days in college paying to park in the parking lot a mile a way except there was no shuttle bus for us at MTU. The whole system has been corrupted to the point of not being anywhere close to how the original system was suppose to work. If government didn't allocate funds for items other than what it was intended for, things might be very different. If you would like to know how to increase your MPG so you don't have to rely on a Hybrid, then log onto

Chris said...

I'm still proud to be an Oregonian! (even though I'd rather live juuuuuust across the river from Portland to avoid all the Oregon ridiculous taxes including this one)