On this blog we’ve talked a lot about how driving is undertaxed and overused. An aspect of this that we haven’t addressed yet is the funding mechanism for roads in New Zealand. At present, government spending on roading exceeds the revenue gained from road taxes. Essentially this means that road use is subsidised by all taxpayers. As a consequence, road use is inefficiently cheap for all road users even when congestion and carbon emissions are disregarded. Megan McArdle’s right when she says
We clearly need to institute comprehensive road tolls combined with a congestion pricing scheme. Plus, of course, a carbon tax to compensate for the negative externalities drivers are imposing on those of us who use primarily mass transit.
The road tolls she speaks of could be in the form of higher fuel prices, higher licensing costs for vehicles or toll booths on roads. If the government is serious about reducing congestion and decreasing our carbon emissions then ending the subsidy on road use might be a good place to start.