Monday, February 15, 2010

Taxing Districts

More and more I think we're going to see assessments on property owners to pay for infrastructure. This specific example comes from a Grand Boulevard in Salt Lake City moving from downtown towards the airport:
The street beautification, intended to blend with the planned airport TRAX line, would include new lighting, landscaping, multipurpose sidewalks, decorative walkways, bicycle paths and public art.
Of course people are going to complain about another tax, but I wish people didn't feel that everything should be provided for free. Improvements cost money.


Faith said...

I would agree on the general trend toward assessments. That said, it is a rather unequal playing field if the businesses in one area seek to improve level of service for bicycling and walking infrastructure and have to pay for it with additional (very local) taxes while another businesses in another area seek to improve the automobile level of service and have 20% of the cost paid by the state and the other 80% of the cost paid by the federal government.

Maybe the landscaping, lighting and public art make sense to be paid locally, but transportation improvements should have a more equal playing field. Perhaps local businesses should also have a special assessment could pay for 20-50% of all improvements from freeway interchange to sidewalk with the state and federal government picking up the remainder?

Pantograph Trolleypole said...

Well if it were like it was back in the late 19th century, many of the public works projects were born from property owners and franchises such as the street railways. It wasn't until the automobile that we had so much need to finance infrastructure with other means. However currently I believe you're probably correct Faith that local as well as national infrastructure needs help in order to be funded. Though it begs the question what should who pay for...

Faith said...

Interestingly, I have heard Hennepin County decided to start paying for 50% of sidewalks, up from 0%, on county roads, with the municipality covering the rest. That said, I wondered why not 100%? Especially if they really want to fulfill their recently passed complete streets policy?

And when the federal government decides to invest in walking and biking infrastructure, such as Bike Walk Twin Cities, which is paid for by a federal initiative, the Non-Motorized Transportation Pilot Program, projects happen at a much higher rate.

In this century, municipal revenue is focused on other services and typically does not go toward new transportation infrastructure. Transportation revenue is raised at the federal, state and county levels but is then subject to those "higher" level priorities, rather than shorter local trips that can be made by bicycling or walking. Yet if we want to reduce the impact on overused county arterial roads (that receive funding and typically enhanced by intersection widening), then completing street networks and adding the "last mile" sidewalk for regional transit service should be considered a regional, not local, priority.