Car Subsidy as a Cost-Recovery Measure for St. Paul: Time to CARPe Diem

The Climate Action and Resilience Plan (CARP) recently passed by the St. Paul City Council is an excellent, and necessary, first step to move St. Paul toward a sustainable future. You can read the plan here.

Making the plan’s vision a reality will require developing many specifics that the plan does not flesh out. It’s also going to require going beyond our usual ways of solving problems and moving through our community. I have a suggestion about one specific target for change identified in the report — reducing single-occupancy motor vehicle travel demand. For simplicity, let’s just call that reducing car use.

As the report notes, travel is currently the single largest, and growing, contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in the city (and the state). The plan includes nine “Key Initiatives” under the objective of reducing travel-based emissions; all are valuable. Yet I’m concerned that those initiatives alone won’t create the kind of culture change necessary to truly shift away from our dependence on cars.

One of the key initiatives in addressing transportation emissions is to “provide a stable funding source” to implement the recommendations of the city’s 2040 Comprehensive Plan. I agree that identifying the money necessary to support the work of the plan — which calls for more transportation options, more electric vehicles and fewer vehicle miles traveled — will be vital to its success.

Jmd Smooth Traffic 0057

I-94 traffic looking east from Western Avenue during a Monday morning commute. (Pioneer Press: John Doman)

Following are some inter-related facts that lead to my suggestion:

Fact: Car use contributes the majority of travel-related emissions in the city.

Fact: Car use is the most significant contributor to non-tailpipe emissions of asthma-causing atmospheric particulate matter (PM) with diameters of less than 2.5 micrometers, through brake and tire wear; this is as much a problem with electric cars as with combustion-engine cars.

Fact: Car use, particularly that of light-duty passenger vehicles and heavy-duty vehicles, add significantly to wear and tear on city streets, yet costs for repair and maintenance of our streets do not directly confront or differentiate drivers of those vehicles.

Fact: Car use is one of the most, if not the most, heavily subsidized activities in which residents of our city engage on a daily basis, and those subsidies are a key part of travel demand by car.

Fact: Many residents of St. Paul complain incessantly about potholes and road maintenance in the city but fail to recognize their car use as a contributing factor to road damage and maintenance costs.

Fact: Many homeowners in St. Paul complain incessantly about their property taxes, but they often fail to recognize that their property tax, based on the value of their property, reflects wealth they have accumulated.

Fact: Homeowners, who make up only about 50 percent of city residents but who hold the majority of property wealth in the city, are also more likely than renters to own cars, and to own more of them. For the record, I am a homeowner, too.

Fact: Although not all of the subsidies to car use are readily quantifiable and under the city’s jurisdiction, many are and should be quantified.

Here’s my idea: In order to create an equitable funding source to support some of the needed efforts identified in the Climate Action and Resilience Plan, the city should quantify the subsidies promoting car use that currently are under city jurisdiction.

The city then should develop a fee structure to charge residents, based on the number of motor vehicles registered to them, as a way to recover those costs currently borne by the city. Light-duty passenger and heavy-duty vehicles should be assessed at a higher rate, for several reasons:

  1. Their greater wear and tear to our streets.
  2. To compensate for federal tax loopholes going back as far as 1986 that encourage purchases of such vehicles.
  3. The more severe injuries and higher fatality rates that result when drivers of such vehicles hit pedestrians or cyclists.

A two-way split should designate one portion of these fees for directly supporting actions identified in the climate action plan and designate the other portion to provide property-tax relief to households with no vehicles registered in a given year.

Making the current subsidies to car use more apparent, and recovering some of the costs to the city that are reflected in those subsidies, has the potential to substantially change the car-dominant culture that is making the planet — and our community — uninhabitable. The climate crisis is urgent. Our actions to address it must be equally so.

For the future livability of our city and our planet, I sincerely hope that all of us will CARPe diem!

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61 Responses to Car Subsidy as a Cost-Recovery Measure for St. Paul: Time to CARPe Diem

  1. Bill Lindeke
    Bill Lindeke December 30, 2019 at 10:32 am #

    This would be amazing, but I don’t really trust the City Attorneys to pull it off. They also need to figure out a way to assess non-profits for road maintenance, and cannot seem to do it.

    • Brian December 30, 2019 at 10:57 am #

      I doubt charging non-profits for streets is going to ever happen without state and/or federal law changes.

      Why single out streets and not the myriad of other services non-profits use? It seems they either pay their full share or not at all.

      • Bill Lindeke
        Bill Lindeke December 30, 2019 at 11:25 am #

        Because Saint Paul’s streets are very badly underfunded… They city needs a few dozen million dollars a year to just keep things from getting far worse.

        • Brian December 31, 2019 at 6:47 am #

          I thought most of the folks here are against street repair as it benefits car owners?

          If non-profits are allowed to be taxed for streets then it will be just a slippery slope to charge them for other services. Plenty of people think more money needs to be spent on public safety in St. Paul. The city council could see charging non-profits a public safety fee as a way to not raise property taxes for more public safety.

  2. Elizabeth Larey December 30, 2019 at 10:33 am #

    it doesn’t seem fair to me that only St Paul residents would pay the new tax. Lots of people, and lots of commercial vehicles use St Paul streets everyday. Wouldn’t it be better to have to be a metro wide tax? I’m sure you realize Minnesota is one of the highest taxed states in the country.
    Raising the gas tax makes far more sense.
    Instead of penalizing certain vehicles, might you consider rewarding electric and hybrid vehicles?
    It seems like the left always wants to tax what it wants to reduce/eliminate. My personal opinion is you get more cooperation by rewarding good behavior than penalizing bad.
    Taxing cars per household is insane. Two parents with 2 kids who drive. Tax times 4? Either it’s a metro wide tax or forget it. People do move for many reasons, this would cause a lot of people to move. That makes no sense.

    • Pat Thompson
      Pat Thompson December 30, 2019 at 11:13 am #

      I believe it is a common public policy guideline to tax the behavior you do not want. It’s not just the left.

    • Brian C. Martinson
      Brian C. Martinson December 30, 2019 at 7:01 pm #

      I’m interested in reducing vehicle miles traveled overall, so while I would maybe be in favor of incentives to get people to switch from full fossil to electric or hybrids, that won’t bring about the culture shift truly needed to break our dependency on cars.

      Gas tax? We’ve tried that. Nothing like that seems passable as the current state legislature is configured.

      I agree with you that a regional approach (metro wide as you say) would be better than a city-based approach, but I’m trying to speak to the leaders who came up with a Plan, and that’s not Metropolitan Council.

      • Paul Nelson December 31, 2019 at 4:12 pm #

        One idea that I think has some application on the larger motorway only roads like I-94 and 35-W, are more MN pass lanes. These structures no one can use unless they use motor vehicles, and within the regions of cities and metro areas, I think that is a big mistake. The MN pass electronic technology is a fee for service system.

    • Monte Castleman December 30, 2019 at 9:29 pm #

      And a metrowide tax is not going to happen. Imagine the outrage from the suburbs if a proposal was made to try to strip suburbanites of the freedom that only cars can provide. There would be enough of a firestorm that the proposal would be quickly rescinded, and it might even mean the demise of the Met Council or whatever agency implemented it.

      • Stuart December 31, 2019 at 10:40 am #

        No one is suggesting that we “strip suburbanites of the freedom that only cars can provide”. At least not in this post. The suggestion was to increase taxes on that car use to better offset the costs to society associated with that car use.

        • Brian December 31, 2019 at 11:36 am #

          How many suburbanites are simply going to move away if a car tax was enacted? We could end up with suburbs that look like some areas with a bunch of abandoned houses.

          • Adam Miller
            Adam Miller December 31, 2019 at 10:34 pm #

            So what? How much blackmail is too much to expect of cities?

      • Adam Miller
        Adam Miller December 31, 2019 at 10:33 pm #

        By “strip” you mean stop subsidizing and asking people to carry their own costs. You’re right it won’t happen, but the “freedom” you reference is, in fact, forcing other people to pay for you.

    • Adam Miller
      Adam Miller December 31, 2019 at 6:57 am #

      Taxing what you want to reduce/eliminate is not a left idea. It’s a technocratic one that’s proven to work.

      Also, electric and hybrid vehicles are less bad, but they are not “good.”

  3. Brian December 30, 2019 at 10:51 am #

    If car owners are to pay the costs of city streets then non-owners shouldn’t get any use of city streets that requires a motorized vehicle.

    No Emergency services
    No Uber/Lyft/taxis
    No utility repairs
    No tradespeople except by walk/bike
    No trash pickup
    No moving van if moving
    No deliveries and no mail except by walk/bike

    • Pat Thompson
      Pat Thompson December 30, 2019 at 11:15 am #

      This would only pay part of the cost of the streets. Everyone is still paying through the levy and all other taxes, rest assured.

    • Pat Thompson
      Pat Thompson December 30, 2019 at 11:17 am #

      Actually, let me take that back: Brian specifically said the new tax would be allocated to fund climate action plan implementation and to lower property taxes on people without cars, not to pay for the streets.

      • Brian December 31, 2019 at 2:31 pm #

        How many years would it take all the lawsuits to wind their way up to the US Supreme Court? Lawyers would love if St. Paul tried this as they could make many millions on the lawsuits.

        I would take bets that the first lawsuit would be filed within a week if St. Paul tried this. Heck, the courier(s) might be waiting at the courthouse to file the lawsuit as soon as the council voted yes.

        I don’t know if refunding city property taxes based on car ownership is legal or not. I can guarantee there is a whole list of organizations that would claim it is not legal. The list of plaintiffs would go on for dozens of pages

        Car manufacturers and suppliers to car manufacturers
        Pro car organizations
        Auto parts retailers
        Road construction and engineering trade organizations
        Construction unions
        Street rod and hot rod organizations
        Local auto dealers
        Local and national auto dealer associations
        Suppliers of road building supplies
        Local road construction companies
        RV manufacturers, trade associations, and dealers (If RVs are also included,)
        Local, national, and national Chambers of Commerce

        Whichever body of government tries this first will probably see easily tens or hundreds of million spent on lobbying and lawsuits to stop this. Plaintiffs could experience a revenue drop of tens or hundreds of billions per year if a precedent was set and it spread nationwide.

        I’m sure there are more examples of plaintiffs, but I am running out of ideas at the moment.

        • Adam Miller
          Adam Miller December 31, 2019 at 10:39 pm #

          Do you think that “I don’t like this” is a ground for a suit? Because it’s isn’t. Exactly none for your plaintiffs have a facially viable claim.

          They might bring a frivolous claim, but nothing you’ve mentions passes a motion to dismiss. The city/state can tax more or less whatever they want. “I don’t want to be taxed” is not an argument.

  4. Brian December 30, 2019 at 11:00 am #

    Isn’t every car a light duty passenger vehicle?

    How is a car doing more damage to the streets than buses, box trucks, semis, and the like?

    • Brian C. Martinson
      Brian C. Martinson December 30, 2019 at 7:04 pm #

      I wouldn’t necessarily be opposed to some sort of fee-structure, based on estimates of damage from large, commercial vehicles. But unlike cars, most of these vehicles are providing some sort of public service, and not just benefiting the person driving the vehicle.

      • Jerome Guettler December 30, 2019 at 11:02 pm #

        Jerome,
        First and foremost there is no relationship between your property value going up and your ability to pay a higher and often unlimited increase in your property taxes. My average property tax increase for the last 30 years was almost 7%.
        All while Working class wages hardly go up maybe 1% annually.

        There is no limit to the density that the elected officials can force on our city’s.

        The roads in the metro area were over capacity 15 years ago.
        The pollution is mainly caused by gridlock. There absolutely no money spent on 21st century traffic control to keep vehicles moving. It’s ridiculous that in this age of technology we have to stop at every traffic light.

        They build a light rail with no system to verify all riders paid to ride. Now it has turn into a homeless shelter, and personal transportation for thugs. Metro transit had to raise the ticket price and now it’s not cost effective to use . If you have more than 2 people going to an event you might as well drive to Mpls. The last time I used the light rail to go to the US bank stadium there was a homeless person trying sleep under a sleeping bag, and was taking up 5 seats
        Bicycling in one of my favorite ways to exercise , and when I was younger I would I commute to work. The reality is the millions they spend on designated bike trails comes out of what they should use for road maintenance. Bike riders don’t pay a dime. This doesn’t seem cost effective to build a system so elaborate that can only be used barley 6 months out the year. These trails are dangerous almost impassable during the winter.
        The main cause for rapidly deteriorating roads is because the previous Mayor stopped the seal coating program, that was in place for over 60 years.
        They underfund Street maintenance because they have a 600 million dollar pothole in there pension plan, and out of control employee wage and benefit cost.
        Largely due to failed Government policy on healthcare.

        It’s disgusting to drive by a city maintenance vehicle, and the city employee is sleeping on the job. If not sleeping they are looking at their phone I’ve personally witnessed this. With public employee’s Protected by unions, taxpayers with never receive the quality and quantity of services taxpayers deserve. Job security has to be earned not Guaranteed !

  5. Mark December 30, 2019 at 11:33 am #

    To ensure that we can easily determine if a car is current on its fee we should come up with a tracking mechanism. Ideally it would be easily visible for enforcement purposes, maybe something like a color coded sticker that could easily be affixed to a license plate. And since we know the original value of the vehicle, which gives insight into the owners wealth, we can assign a specific value that is slowly depreciated over the life of the vehicle, call it a registration tax if you will that gets you the above mentioned sticker.

  6. karen alane Nelson December 30, 2019 at 12:45 pm #

    St. Paul pays for a ton of thru traffic, commuters from suburbs to downtown, etc.

    Would prefer every use of car reflect the costs of that use ( doesn’t have to be direct cost but some ratio so as to provide proper incentives).

    We have tech to do this but it would have to be all levels of govt agreeing:

    Charge per-use fees of cars for: mileage, use during peak/congested times, public street parking, with factors that increase these per-use costs for more harmful, more costly types of vehicles: heavier weight/more road damaging wheel weights, worse pollution/emissions, more dangerous vehicle design when its in crash harming other people (hitting pedestrians etc).

    Have no idea how city alone could do anything along these lines.

    • Brian C. Martinson
      Brian C. Martinson December 30, 2019 at 7:08 pm #

      Would love to see this kind of nuance, but I just want us to get started with something, somewhere, that starts making all these currently hidden and therefore unaccounted for costs more readily apparent. I don’t think any one city could accomplish what you’ve proposed, but I think courageous leadership in any given city could put something in place to start us down a path in that direction.

  7. Isaac December 30, 2019 at 2:18 pm #

    Toll roads! Toll roads! Toll roads! (And urban congestion pricing!)

    Maybe I’m in the minority, but I am all for user-oriented taxes and fees. Without going into specifics, you could carve out exceptions for all sorts of users based on income, or types of vehicle (electric/hybrid/carpool at a reduced rate, etc.). This forces heavy users to pay their share and encourages people to use alternative modes of transportation like public transit or to reduce and consolidate vehicle trips. It also frees up state transportation dollars to be redirected to public transit or LGA to assist cities and counties with maintaining their local infrastructure.

    Toll roads! Toll roads! Toll roads!

    • Brian C. Martinson
      Brian C. Martinson December 30, 2019 at 7:27 pm #

      Toll roads definitely have a part to play. I was looking for something that would bridge and tie together the idea of user-fees and property-taxes, in a way that might help the city develop revenue streams that were on the one hand less tied to fixed property, and on the other hand, would incentivize less car use.

  8. Greg Pratt December 30, 2019 at 4:09 pm #

    Here are a couple pieces of supporting information:
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4454972/
    http://www.cts.umn.edu/sites/default/files/files/sessions/13pratt.pdf

    • Brian C. Martinson
      Brian C. Martinson December 30, 2019 at 7:19 pm #

      Thanks for these references, Greg. Public health costs (and inequities) are definitely some of the currently hidden costs that drivers aren’t confronted with directly, so these studies are an important part of bringing that to light. As I’m sure you know, quantifying those costs is…challenging. Have you or anyone you know done work converting the exposures you’ve documented into something like decrements in QALYs?

  9. Fred December 30, 2019 at 4:14 pm #

    Sounds like pure BS just another tax who cares I owe 1 or 10…I can only drive one car at a time

    • David December 31, 2019 at 7:20 am #

      I also have 2 vehicles, small car and an old small pickup. I use each for differing purposes and not at same time. I was thinking a millage tax, but that does not take into account the huge number of suburban vehicles using our roads.
      “Tolls” would be a great place to start. Ayd Mill, Freeway exit ramps, would address the visitors and collect a goodly amount.
      But it is not just a tax thing though. There needs to be incentives to change behavior. Use the tax collected to make mass transit free to residence city might just start using more.

      • Daniel Choma
        Daniel Choma December 31, 2019 at 1:15 pm #

        I don’t think this idea makes sense to execute at the municipal level. The city just doesn’t have the ability to assure compliance with this, what happens when someone lives one the border of Saint Paul and Falcon Heights? Saint Paul and Maplewood?

        Besides, so much of how we regulate autos is based on state agency, expecting the city to pick up the responsibility of a state agency is just cuckoo banana pants to me.

        If you want to do this, talk to the state. Implement mandatory safety and emissions checks on automobiles when reissuing tabs like PA does. That would work.

        Asking a broke city to take on a huge personal compliance project that it really doesn’t have an infrastructure to actually execute just makes us all look like crazy people.

        Find the jurisdiction where the project would actually work and start there.

  10. Pete Barrett December 30, 2019 at 9:39 pm #

    “Light-duty passenger and heavy-duty vehicles should be assessed at a higher rate, for several reasons…”

    Uh, higher than what?

  11. Pete Barrett December 30, 2019 at 9:42 pm #

    But we’re still going to re-build the RiverCentre ramp and the larger-than-it-needs-to-be Kellogg bridge, right?

    • Brian December 31, 2019 at 6:39 am #

      People outside of Minneapolis/St. Paul won’t come downtown to the Xcel and Rivercenter without parking. More than likely a lot of events would simply not come to St. Paul without parking for event attendees. Tearing down the parking ramp and not rebuilding is not going to help suburban event attendees get downtown on transit.

      I have taken transit from the northern suburbs to Rivercenter, but it was for an all day event on a weekday. Transit would not work for me for a typical event as they are usually nights or weekends.

      • Adam Miller
        Adam Miller December 31, 2019 at 7:02 am #

        Or maybe St Paul should stop shooting itself in the foot in the name of attracting people from the ‘burbs.

        • Monte Castleman December 31, 2019 at 9:15 am #

          If we’re not going to accommodate suburbanites in the downtown (see also the perception of safety) we should have built the X on the site of the Met Center where there was plenty of parking for the 4/5th of the metro that live in the suburbs.

          • Adam Miller
            Adam Miller December 31, 2019 at 10:42 pm #

            Here’s the thing: y’all will scream that we need downtown to be as white and car-accommodating as Lakeville but will still go where the action is regardless. Which is why the city just needs to realize that we don’t need to cater to scared suburbanites.

            They will come if there’s a reason to. Or they won’t and it will be fine.

      • Pete Barrett December 31, 2019 at 7:37 am #

        Dude, there will be plenty of parking lots & ramps for Xcel (it’s an arena, not a spread sheet) & RiverCentre events without that ramp.

        It is highly illuminating that I restrict my comment to the idea of tearing down the ramp, but you make an illogical leap and infer without evidence that I advocated that every Wild fan take transit. In the future, please parse my words more carefully.

        When the NHL owners, in an effort to limit player salaries, locked out the players (with the support of Wild owner Craig Leopold, who’d just signed two players to $99M contracts), the joints on West 7th got just as much business as when there were Wild games. Why? The operators of those establishments found that a lot of folks avoid the area to avoid large Xcel event crowds. In fact, I’m one of them.

        • Brian December 31, 2019 at 2:08 pm #

          Why the snooty remark about the spelling of Xcel Energy Center? I searched this entire web page and I didn’t find anyone spelling it as Excel.

          Isn’t the reason all the bars and restaurants built in close proximity to the Xcel and RiverCentre is to capture business from the hundreds of thousands that attend events there? Erik the Red’s next to US Bank Stadium is closing tomorrow. They aren’t saying why, but speculation is not enough business out of Vikings games. I love how the City Councilperson for the new location is touting the several million spent on the new Erik the Red bar while ignoring the fact that another downtown building will be empty.

          There may be enough parking in downtown St. Paul even if the RiverCentre ramp was gone, but the average suburbanite doesn’t want to walk to the other side of downtown for parking. Parking shuttles may work for some events, but how much pollution is caused by having a few dozen buses idling ready to go as soon as thousands pour out of a concert or sporting event?

          • Pete Barrett January 1, 2020 at 10:48 am #

            You really need to read way less into my comments.

            It’s very common for locals to misspell the X as the “Excel” or the “Excell.” I use a little humor that may stick in people’s minds, and it’s somehow “snooty”.

            Please, continue to comment here on this site.

            The Fuse Box has 43 Wild games a year, in addition to I’d guess 20 – 25 major concerts. The Pohlad’s Taxpayer Park has 81 games a year. The Wilf Welfare Palace has only 10 Viking games a year, and just a handful of other concerts or major events. The building is dark most of the time. It’s just not good business to base your business on the Bird Killer.

      • Andrew Evans January 3, 2020 at 11:32 am #

        Brian mostly agree.

        I’d argue it’s not Excel center ( =) ) parking that’s the issue. Those going to larger events there or Wild games would more than likely be willing to put up with extra parking and traffic BS.

        The issue is the lesser venues and businesses. Are people willing to put up with that to go to concerts, or to the Roy, or is the convention center risking losing business. That’s what I’d be more worried about.

        Maybe that’s a trade off the city wants to make or a risk it’s willing to take. Nothing says any of us are being forced to go to an event somewhere or patron those local businesses.

  12. Mike December 31, 2019 at 7:56 am #

    So you think I should have to pay more for owning 3 vehicles when I choose to drive the smallest one 99% of the time? I drive a compact car every day. I have a full size pickup drive for the times I need to haul things. And I have a offroad truck, that I take it 2 or 3 times a year.

    And in my opinion many of your facts are opinions. I feel the bigger problem with many of our streets comes down to the fact that they were built to handle much less traffic than what they see these days. And when we do expand our freeways, it is never expanded enough.

    • Daunte Holiday December 31, 2019 at 10:13 am #

      I’m with you here Mike. Although I only own a silverado. I do plan on making a small car my every day driver soon. I think what was said about # of owned/registered vehicles and their size should be up for a KFAN proposterous statement award. Hopefully not going too far off the rails here but I’d be interested to see how many times small/compact cars need to be towed, pulled out of ditches, etc when the 6 months of winter happen in the cities. I drive from Maplewood to Hopkins everyday and can firmly say well over 75% of vehicles that are being towed/stuck are mid to small vehicles. Then you call on large tow trucks, emergency responders, etc to clean up the mess.

      That rant aside, I’m not against some sort of tolling. I’m also all for taking public transit but I’m not about to wake up at 4 AM to get to work in Hopkins at 6:30 AM. Dont tell me to move closer to work. I’m 25 miles away which is not that crazy. I also love where I live. The reality is (across the nation) we refuse to pony up the real dollar amounts needed to invest in worth while public transportation that gets you places in a timely manner at a respectable price. Not saying we shouldn’t invest in the smaller things, but in reality its all just a band-aid until high speed respectably priced public transit is built.

      • Brian December 31, 2019 at 1:36 pm #

        Why do you consider 25 miles a reasonable commute? That is most of the way from the northern edge of Anoka county to downtown Minneapolis. The average one way commute in the Twin Cities is supposedly around 10 miles. I did Google searches to find this information and most of the sites only have average commutes in minutes, not miles.

        I have a commute somewhat over 25 miles each way and I don’t consider it reasonable. I do the long commute because I live in the the closest suburb on the north side of the Twin Cities that allows me to maintain my hobby on my own property. Yes, I absolutely wish I was closer, but I take a express bus about 2/3 of the way which helps keep my sanity,

        This isn’t Southern California where 25 miles is considered a short one way commute and 50 miles (and three hours plus) is not out of the question.

      • Adam Miller
        Adam Miller December 31, 2019 at 10:49 pm #

        Move closer to work.

        It’s a huge policy failure that you think 25 miles is a reasonable commute. There are almost no (no?) places in the world where 25 miles is a reasonable commute by transit. Certainly none where the destination isn’t a city center.

    • John December 31, 2019 at 10:20 am #

      Mike, I agree. This is an “ivory tower” proposition, and I hope this is nothing more than internet blabber.

      I have a compact car for daily use during appropriate weather, a 4wd wagon for winter (like today), and two classic cars which are barely driven. To suggest I create more “wear and tear” on the streets because I have 4 vehicles — that’s patently false. I can only drive one at a time, and 75% of the time, the one I choose to drive is the smallest and cleanest of the fleet.

      I would challenge any number of daily driver 1990-2010 vehicles to an emissions comparison with my 50-year old classic car (with a nifty-thrifty inline six in very good tune).

      Not to mention motorcycles. Are they included in this discussion, too? How much street damage does my motorcycle create? How much will my registration increase for that? How about my motorcycle compared to a scooter? My motorcycle can comfortably carry 2 people, but a typical scooter can only effectively haul one. Shouldn’t scooters be taxed at a greater rate for their inherent inability to be used as MPVs?

      • Brian December 31, 2019 at 1:08 pm #

        How many passenger vehicles do you see during rush hour with multiple passengers in them (other than buses and the like)? I don’t think the lack of MPVs is an issue during the times when cars tend to cause the most issues.

    • Bryan Noyes December 31, 2019 at 12:17 pm #

      Well put.

    • Nicole Salica
      Nicole Salica December 31, 2019 at 12:21 pm #

      pretty sure that if you can afford to maintain three vehicles you can afford a per-vehicle fee. don’t wanna pay it? sell your spare cars and save all kinds of money!

      • Brian December 31, 2019 at 1:20 pm #

        An unused vehicle can cost essentially nothing if it is not actively being used. Some cities require cars stored outside to have valid registration, but I don’t know about St. Paul. Registration for most of these “extra” cars is likely at the lowest level of about $40 (plus wheelage fees).

        Nobody has said how much these fees might be. There are liberals in charge of St. Paul so I would guess they would set the fees to at least $100 per month or $1,200 per year. That could easily be a 20X increase in what residents pay to keep an “extra” vehicle around.

        If someone chooses to drive an older vehicle they may keep a spare vehicle around for when the other vehicle breaks down so they don’t miss work due to a broken vehicle. Sure, we have Uber/Lyft now, but I expect the city would want rid of those services too.

        • Adam Miller
          Adam Miller December 31, 2019 at 10:52 pm #

          BS. An unused vehicles still needs insurance.

          • Brian January 1, 2020 at 1:52 pm #

            Why do you think an unused vehicle that is not actively being used requires insurance? There is no requirement for collision and comprehensive insurance if no loan on vehicle. Liability insurance is only required if the vehicle is driven off private property.

          • Mark January 1, 2020 at 6:09 pm #

            No, an unused vehicle does not require insurance. Only if it’s being used on city streets. There is absolutely no law or requirement that a vehicle parked on personal property that is not being used requires insurance.

      • Mark December 31, 2019 at 3:04 pm #

        If you own three cars the use is distributed amongst them as is the maintenance costs. If a car isn’t seeing much use then realistically all that needs to be done is an oil change, which is considerably less than the cost of buying new tabs each year.

        • Brian December 31, 2019 at 3:53 pm #

          Some cities require vehicles parked outside to have current registration to be parked outside of a garage or other building which is why I mentioned yearly registration as a cost. I am making an assumption that anyone with two or three cars likely isn’t parking them all inside.

          If I didn’t drive a car for a year I would be a lot more worried about issues with fuel than changing the oil yearly. A huge number of issues with small equipment engines are gas left in them during the off season. Not changing the oil in small equipment for a few years if not used doesn’t seem to cause issues

        • Andrew Evans January 3, 2020 at 12:50 pm #

          Mark, as Brian said you’d want to stable the fuel or run the vehicle through a tank or two every so many years. I’ve also heard stories about cooling systems having issues after sitting for years. That said, with ordaniances limiting the number of cars being parked in a yard/pad, and street parking limitations (if nothing other than plowing and sweeping), I really doubt that many vehicles (aside from collectors) are sitting around in the metro that will encounter fuel issues.

          Tabs are another thing. I’m at the minimum for my convertable, and it seems silly for all involved to only do it over $40 or whatever the fee is. Either give collector plates to vehicles that reach the minimum, or make the fee something higher and worth it. Right now it’s not worth my time to go anywhere, or even go online, and the manual process involved on the states side can hardly be worth it. I doubt they are paying for much more than the busy work to deal with them.

    • Adam Miller
      Adam Miller December 31, 2019 at 10:45 pm #

      We can’t expand our streets enough, trying to do so is counter productive and claiming on the internet that you drive your smallest vehicle the least, even if true, isn’t conservation.

  13. Ken December 31, 2019 at 5:51 pm #

    I think all the comments are possibly overlooking that some white collar jobs can be done from home or a business park outside of St. Paul. I do not need to drive into downtown for an in person meeting.Building up your IT infrastructure may help carve out a chunk of the congestion.

    Not all work out there can be done remotely; obviously. In addition to that, anyone working construction knows that you have to go where the job is. Sure it would be great if you worked for a company that carpools workers to and from the job site. But, that may be the exception to the rule.

    If you are going to push emission standards or whatnot; you have to bring back yearly inspections probably. Anyone knows that the cost varies between registering a new vehicle versus a 10 year old car. If you are going to stick it to locals do it there. But you know that might just mean that I am going to drive my old fuel inefficient clunker longer.

    • Andrew Evans January 3, 2020 at 10:37 am #

      I’m not sure what emissions tests are going to catch.

      Most cars in decent working order made since the 90’s should be able to pass an emissions test or at least come close. Most cars in decent working order in the past 10 years should easily be able to pass the test. Maybe you’d catch some sports cars or trucks that have been tuned, but it’s not like they couldn’t put the old chip back in or bolt on the old exhaust, it turns into a game at that point. It’s a coin flip really which is better for the environment, running a older car until it dies or replacing a vehicle every 10 years or so regardless of it’s condition.

      To find those handful of cars the state is going to have to spend a bunch of money on testing centers, staff, and equipment. It’s just not worth it in the end and that money could be spent in better places.

  14. Bill Olbrisch January 2, 2020 at 12:21 pm #

    I understand it elsewhere, but to have comments on this website that unironically go on about how they just don’t build enough lanes just boggles my mind.

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