Myth versus Fact on the Gas Tax Increase

Special Report Jan 30, 2012

MYTH:  The money raised through the higher gas tax would only be used for transportation projects.

FACT: As Delegate Herb McMillan wrote in The Baltimore Sun, in the past three years, Maryland has diverted $1 billion from the Transportation Trust Fund to pay for other projects. Absent a constitutional ban on doing so, ongoing deficits make it likely legislators will be tempted to take more money from the Transportation Trust Fund in the future.

MYTH:  A higher gas tax will improve the state economy by creating more jobs.

FACT: The higher gas tax would remove $491 million per year from the Maryland economy. Combined with other proposed transportation fees and taxes, $810 million would be removed. As such, whatever jobs would be created through higher spending would be offset by the $810 million lost in other spending.

Also, higher gas taxes disproportionately hurt the poor and those with lower incomes as they spend a higher percentage of their income on transportation than other people.

MYTH:  Money from the Transportation Trust Fund would only be used to reduce road congestion and increase mobility on roads.

FACT: This Fiscal Year the Maryland Department of Transportation will spend 54 percent of total highway and transportation money on transit projects. Over the past five years, 50 percent of transportation spending has been focused on transit. In 2009, 48 percent of transportation funding went to transit - 20 times the statewide transit share of 4 percent of passenger movement. At 55 percent, the imbalance would reach 25 times.

MYTH: Transit could be the easiest way to reach work for all commuters.

FACT: There is virtually no potential for transit to carry a material share of travel to the 80 or 90 percent of the jobs outside major metropolitan areas since the concentration of destinations needed to compete with cars exists nowhere else.

MYTH:  More people ride transit than ever before.

FACT: Even with a big increase in MARC train service and the addition of light rail in Baltimore, about the same share of Marylanders get to work by transit today as in 1980.

MYTH: Transit is convenient.

FACT: The average transit trip is much longer than one by car. In the Baltimore metropolitan area, the average one-way transit commute is 53 minutes, while the average car commute is 28 minutes.  In the Washington metropolitan area, the average one-way transit commute is 47 minutes, while the average car commute is 32 minutes.

Of note, the Brookings Institution found that, on average, fewer than 10 percent of jobs in Washington and Baltimore can be reached by transit within 45 minutes.