Every once in a while my thinking comes back to taxes on gasoline.
North America has the lowest gasoline tax rates in the world - and the historically cheap price of gas here is why we also have sprawlurbia and mostly ignored public transit systems. Everyone knows that North American reliance on the automobile has caused a litany of different problems, including killer air pollution. So why do we not raise the tax on gasoline?
Ironically, the Americans (even Republicans) are talking about this more and more often. Meanwhile, here in Canada, there is no discussion of this at all. In fact, when oil and gas prices were high this past summer, a southern Ontario group was getting tons of TV coverage by lobbying for a reduction in the gas tax ("Mr Prime Minister, please help the poor struggling families" kind of thing).
My thought is that the gasoline tax should be raised - gradually but steadily, with nearly all of the money going straight into public transit.
By doing this, you wean people away from the automobile and all its various problems, and build bigger, better, faster public transit systems - transit systems which are so good that people will actually give up their car and rely on the bus.
Of all the opposing arguments, the two strongest ones are a) increasing the gas tax hurts rural Canadians who have no access to public transit, and b) raising the gas tax primarily hurts low-income Canadians.
Fine - if you're in a rural area with no public transit, you get a break on your income taxes. The same applies for low income earners. Everyone else though, pays perhaps 2cents / litre (at the beginning) to improve the public transit system in their city.
I really don't understand why this is such an accursed idea in Canada. The federal Conservative government took a step in this direction their very first year in office when they decided to encourage the use of public transit by giving transit users the right to claim money back for their monthly bus pass at tax time. Is it really such a jump to go from rewarding public transit use to penalizing automobile use?
P.S. I'm hoping to shoot a series of youtube videos about converting your bike to a freewheel singlespeed. The series will be aimed at complete beginners, and so far I've done one introductory episode. I actually shot it in high definition with a very good camcorder, but I had to keep converting and degrading the file to get it onto youtube, and now the quality is so bad that I'll probably have to reshoot this one. It's a start anyway.