[September update: Proposition 1 is set at $60, which means it's even easier to bike off those miles. Join me in supporting Proposition 1 for a faster transit, safer streets, more sidewalks and improved bike infrastructure. --M.J.]
Continuing on my blog post from yesterday, today I thought I’d figure out how to absorb the proposed $80 Vehicle License Fee (VLF) into my budget.
When CTAC III asked people how they wanted to fund transportation projects, citizens didn’t like adding it to sales tax or property tax. Instead, they supported adding a VLF. Some people have argued that the VLF is a regressive tax. We’d like to see a different revenue structure in place (perhaps connected to a vehicle’s value), but the state only allows a flat fee.
Based on citizen feedback, the committee has recommended an $80 VLF. I could break it down into number of lattés, but that’s been done so many times before. Besides, I don’t like lattés, and I’m not going to give up coffee.
But I could give up some car trips.
For me, the VLF is about getting the bike infrastructure to encourage me to bike more often. I calculated how many miles I need to bike — rather than drive — in order to recoup the $80 VLF, a portion of which will invest in the very projects I want.
It takes about 12 gallons to fill my car’s gas tank. At the rate of $3.89/gallon, a tank of gas costs $46.68. My car gets 21 MPG, so that means I drive 252 miles per tank.
At that rate, one $80 VLF charged against my car would equal 1.71 tanks of gas, for which I could drive 431 miles.
Or, instead of driving and paying $80 in gas, I could bike those 431 miles and earmark the $80.
My round-trip family bike commute is 14.2 miles. That’s just 31 roundtrip bike commutes per year that I need to do to save $80.
Since I’m biking with kids, I feel most comfortable riding during longer daylight months, let’s say the 32 weeks from mid-March through mid-October. At a rate of 31 commute trips needed per year, this fits with my goal to family bike commute at least once a week. Now throw in some trips to the park, grocery store, library and playdates… and Bike Month and the Commute Challenge in May…
And since I’m not even calculating the actual cost of driving AND all the externalities [positives from biking: health, fitness, happiness; negatives from driving: pollution, congestion, wear and tear], it looks like I can easily bike off the $80 fee and still come out ahead, with some money left over for lattés.
Or maybe mochas. I happen to like mochas.