What's wrong with taxing car owners?


It's almost as if we need a full-time blogger to monitor the backwards ideas coming from the Chron's C.W. Nevius. Today's case in point: Nevius thinks the idea of charging for Sunday parking is "the dumbest idea since the imitation crab meat cocktail." 

His brilliant investigative observation:

For all the talk about the fees on Sunday turning over parking spaces, you never read very far into one of these parking enforcement stories before you get to the bottom line — an estimated $2.8 million a year in this case if the Sunday-charge system was implemented citywide.

That's exactly right, Chuck: This is a way to bring in money for Muni. And I don't get what's wrong with that. People who drive cars (and I admit, I'm one of them) have an outsized impact on the city; they take up a huge amount of space (San Francisco devotes more urban land to streets than parks), they pollute the air, they increase the nation's reliance on fossil fuels and they contribute to global warming. And they don't pay anywhere near enough taxes and fees to mitigate the impacts of their behavior.

I'm all for higher gas taxes, for example; taxes should not just be a source of revenue but should, when possible, be targeted to discourage socially detrimental behavoir. And charging people a little money to drive their cars to Sunday brunch instead of walking or taking public transit isn't a terribly radical, unusual or disturbing idea. (In fact, we ought to charge the churches for the right to turn the streets into private parking lots on Sunday mornings).

Nevius complains that car drivers aren't bad:

But c'mon. These aren't evil people. They aren't trying to scam the city, pee on the street, or break car windows and steal backpacks. We could fine the aggressive panhandler and the petty break-in artists, but they don't have any money.

And I agree: They aren't bad. But the same way taxes on cigarettes both defray the social cost of tobacco use and discourage the dangerous and noxious habit, a modest little fee for parking your car helps pay for public transit and might just encourage a few people not to drive their cars. That's something everyone in the city should support.

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