Friday, June 19, 2015

What will 7¢ a gallon save you?

On July 1, our state fuel tax will increase by 7¢ per gallon, and our annual vehicle registration fees will increase as well. In total, the increases are expected to raise nearly $95 million in additional transportation funding per year. That “new” money will be used to help address a $262 million backlog, statewide, in transportation maintenance.

I like low gas prices as much as the next person, but I’ll be glad to see the increase. While I understand that even small increases in fuel costs can be tough, especially when budgets are tight, we all will reap the benefits. You might even save some money!

Transportation delays, caused by everything from a lack of maintenance to a lack of capacity to a traffic wreck, have economic and social costs — to individuals, to businesses, and to the community. A poorly maintained or inefficient transportation system costs you time, and, quite literally, costs you money.

Time you lose with your friends and family can’t be replaced. While it’s hard to put a dollar value on missing your daughter’s first “at bat” in softball or your son’s band concert, because you were stuck in traffic, you know you’ll never get those moments back. They are truly priceless.

On the other end of your commute, if you and your coworkers are chronically late due to traffic, that can impact your employer’s bottom line, which can trickle down and affect you. Lower profits can lead to fewer raises, less benefits, and even layoffs. 

We all also pay for an inefficient transportation system in the goods we buy. If a trucking company must reroute its trucks to avoid a weight restricted bridge or plan for extra travel time to account for being stuck in traffic, they are going to charge more to haul their goods. That cost eventually works its way to us – the consumers. The more it costs to ship a loaf of bread from the bakery to the store, the more we pay for it.

In addition to costs of delay, we also all pay more to maintain our cars if we drive on poorly maintained roads. Have you ever hit a big pothole and knew immediately you just knocked your wheels out of alignment? That is a direct cost to you of a poorly maintained road. According to a national transportation research group, the average motorist pays about $377 per year in additional vehicle operating costs as a result of driving on bad roads. Tire wear, front end alignments, and other maintenance costs are accelerated and compounded when roads fall into disrepair. In addition, you also pay the cost of the fuel you burn when stuck in traffic, going nowhere.

So, while you will be paying more at the pump and when you register your car, you’ll also have savings in other areas. Unfortunately, those savings aren’t as easy to see. It’s hard to notice what you don’t pay – the loaf of bread that didn’t cost more because of extra transportation costs, the alignment you didn’t have to get because you didn’t hit that pothole, the family event you weren’t late for.

As you fill your tank for the first time after the tax increase in July, pause for a moment to consider what those extra few cents are buying you.

Don’t let the Treasure Valley fall through the cracks

Community Planning Association of Southwest Idaho

COMPASS is the designated Metropolitan Planning Organization responsible for transportation planning in Ada and Canyon Counties. The COMPASS Board comprises 39 members representing the cities, counties, highway districts, educational institutions, state agencies, and other entities within the two counties. COMPASS plays an important role in making decisions about future long-range transportation needs in the Treasure Valley, taking into consideration environmental and economic factors that affect the quality of life.