In a Feb. 28 editorial [“A plan worth promoting”], The Post supported Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley’s proposal for a gas tax increase. I concur that an increase is necessary to fund highway projects needed to reduce Maryland’s traffic congestion and repair aging highway infrastructure. However, The Post cited the Purple Line in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties and the Red Line in Baltimore as two worthy transportation projects. These are rail projects, and I do not believe they should be funded from gasoline taxes.
Motorists pay nearly the full cost of automobile transportation. They purchase the car, buy the gasoline, pay for insurance and maintenance, provide the driver, sometimes pay for parking, and pay for the roads via the gas tax. Rail commuters, on the other hand, receive a fat subsidy. Twenty-one percent of Metrorail’s operating expenses are paid by subsidy. Bus commuters receive a 73 percent operations subsidy and ride on roads paid for via gas taxes on both cars and buses.
Rather than distorting the economics by having motorists subsidize rail investment, might it not be better to require rail and bus commuters to pay the full costs for their transportation? As gas taxes and fares rise to reflect the true costs of each mode of transportation, riders will adjust their commuting accordingly. This might result in the most efficient choices.
Alternately, if the objective is to achieve a social benefit, such as subsidizing the poor or infirm, should not the funding come from general tax revenues rather than solely from motorists?
Mark P. Scher, Potomac