Colorado temporary vehicle registration plate

Car Registrations pay for Roads? Nope.

This old nugget came up on social media again. At least here in Boulder County there is a belief that the number of unlicensed vehicles are the reason that the roads are in such a poor state of repair. Boulder County Clerk and Recorder office pointed to the following data for registrations and said they “do not not keep stats on unregistered vehicles” and said to check with the state (Dept of Revenue) if they do they( I don’t plan to).

The Boulder County population has grown some 11.7% since 2010 [1] The Boulder County vehicle registrations [2] shows a 15.25% growth from 2010, and a 20.54% since 2006.

I can’t draw a conclusion about unregistered vehicles from this, but given there has been no noticeable growth in public transport in the county, and no major density growth, the number of registered vehicles seems consistent with the growth in population. It is reported that Boulder averages 2-cars per household [3]

Boulder County Vehicle Registrations since 2006 – data from Boulder County Clerk and Recorder office.

Car registrations and gas tax don’t pay for roads, they never have. Car led suburbia, bedroom communities which is what Louisville is becoming, where people sleep one place and work somewhere else are the most subsidized communities anywhere [4]

No one pays enough for car journeys, everyone pays. People who’ve never owned cars, people who live and work at home, people who cycle all pay for the roads, through property taxes. Property taxes, bond issues, and federal dollars through tax and gas tax(minimally) pay for roads.

Don’t look at that hand, look at this one.

Cities and counties operate repairs as a slight of hand. You can only resurface roads a couple of times over 20-years. they have a useful life of 25-30 years max. As a road approaches that age, it is to the city or counties benefit to let the roads degrade to the point of public outcry.

At that point they’ll add a bond measure to the ballot to repave the road, often using “specious” justifications.

For example 96th Street aka CO42 aka Courtesy Rd. They’ll say its for safer pedestrian and multi-modal improvements. Those cost next to nothing given the road needs ripping up from Arapahoe to where Empire /CO42 splits at Lock St in Louisville and the subsurface relaying etc.

It’s perfectly OK to want car registration enforced. It’s perfectly OK for no car users to pay some tax for roads because that’s how they get the majority of what they need in the way of food, clothes etc.

We need to stop thinking that gas tax and car registrations pay for anything, they really don’t.

Ten years on, I wonder how road conversions are going in Texas?

Sept. 18th, 2023 13:09 – rewrote section with data from Boulder County
Sept 18th, 2023 14:28 – Updated references to clickable links

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