A new survey by the Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI) found that a majority of Americans would support higher taxes for transportation, provided there were assurances the money be used for transportation purposes.
Additionally, the survey showed evidence of a continued trend over the past decade that more and more Americans are willing to support a hike in fuel taxes.
“We face growing needs across our transportation system, but funding hasn’t kept pace,” said Dr. Asha Weinstein Agrawal, one of the study’s 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 annual survey, which dates back to 2010, has posed the same five options for increasing fuel taxes each year. Co-author Dr. Hilary Nixon said in every case support has risen since 2010, with an increase for each of 13 percentage points or more.
“Support for raising the gas tax is largely dependent on how the revenue will be spent,” said Agrawal. “Seventy-five percent of respondents supported a 10 cent increase in the gas tax if the revenue raised is dedicated to maintenance projects, but only 40% support the same increase if the money is used more generally to maintain and improve the transportation system.”
The survey also found maintenance was a priority for the largest number of respondents (92%). Large majorities also supported road and public-transit related options, from building and widening local streets, roads, and highways, to adding more frequent transit service and subsidizing fares for low-income riders.
The two options with the lowest support both related to encouraging the use of electric vehicles, but even here clear majorities supported the options as at least a “medium” priority.
MTI also stated in its report that the public does not have an accurate understanding of how much they pay in federal gas taxes. For example, 19% of respondents thought the federal gas tax rate is at least 76 cents per gallon, far higher than the current rate of 18.4 cents per gallon. The federal diesel tax is 24.4 cents per gallon.