Idea: Studded Tire Surcharge

Editor's Note: On February 6, we asked BlueOregon readers to suggest progressive ideas that the next Oregon Legislature should enact. Over the next several weeks, we'll post some of these ideas here - and ask you to discuss them. Good idea? Bad idea? Any suggestions?

From "k":

While we're at it, can we add a surcharge to studded snow tires to help pay for roads? I've been driving in Oregon snow/slush since I was 16 and have done just fine without studded snow tires (I grew up in an area that regularly got snow & I'm a skiier). Half the people here get them for the 1 day we might get snow and then stay home that day to avoid driving in it. They should, at least, be responsible for some of the damage they cause to our roads.

Discuss.

[If you have your own original progressive idea to propose, do it here: "There oughta be a law."]

Comments

  • Clinton (unverified)
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    I wouldn't call it a "Progressive" idea, I'd just call it a good idea. In an argumentation class last year a rather moderate student rallied us all up about this kind of fee or tax. It's sort of like taxing cigarettes or alcohol: they are indulgences that have an adverse effect on regular operations of the state.

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    I've been telling this to anyone who would listen since I was in High School. I think it's a great common sense idea that's almost impossible to argue sensibly against. Okay, that's not true, enforcement could be tricky. But you could just give people a sticker to put in their window or on their license plate indicating that they've paid. If they're pulled over and have snow tires without a sticker, they'd be heavily fined. Since most people have them professionally installed, you could have the installer sell you the permit as well.

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    K,

    Like you, I have had a lot of experience with snow ddriving, and I even drove a small ski bus from Black Butte Ranch to Bachelor for a couple of years back in the day.

    For those of us that live in fairly steep terrain (like my area SE of Sandy) or east of the Cascades, studded tires are at least slightly more useful than was portrayed in your excerpt.

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    I do stud up every year, and I am aware of the millions of dollars of damage that I and my fellow travelers inflict on the state every season.

    If you are arguing that we can continue to use studs and that we should pay a fee comensurate with the damage we do, I'm your man.

    Allow studs, and make users pay. It's only fair.

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    Why is this a progressive idea? It's really just another tax on rural folks who live in areas with lots of ice and snow. I think that if Portland had the climate of Bangor, Maine, we'd never, ever hear about this. Despite the claims of those in less-snowy climates, studded tires provide a significant margin of safety, as long as people drive carefully in the first place. Those who don't find quickly that studded tires don't help them defy the laws of physics. And I'm not so sure about the damage issue. I think heavy trucks do far more damage on highways than do studded tires.

  • Steve Bucknum (unverified)
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    Well, if this is a progressive idea, then so are the following:

    A surcharge on bottled oxygen for those with breathing problems.

    A surcharge on insulin for those with diabetes.

    A surcharge for water drinkers.

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    Studded tires are the cheapest safety solution for those of us that live in the snowy/icy parts of Oregon. You can spend twice as much for a studless snow/ice tire - I do - but if you are not as well off and you want to keep your family safe, you buy studded tires.

    When driving over here, you never know what is just around the bend, over the hill, or down in the shady valley. You can't stop and put on chains, then take them off, every few hundred yards - and road conditions do change that much in only a few hundred yards here. You do lots of damage to roads wearing chains when they aren't needed, yet to be safe you'd end up wearing them when not needed due to the winter variability of conditions. -- Most Western Oregonians think of snow/ice as a regional event or something you see only in the passes. Here it really is variable. The wind can leave dry open pavement at the top of a hill, and 200 yards later you can be plowing through 3 feet of snow. A straight stretch of road that gets the afternoon sun can be dry, but a shady place around the next corner can be a sheet of ice.

    The ONLY safe way to drive in Central/Eastern Oregon is to have either studded tires, or pay twice as much to have a studless alternative.

    A surcharge on studded tires is both regressive to lower income people, and generally stupid if it results in more chain damage to roads.

  • bluelady (unverified)
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    I'd exempt folks who reside in certain counties (i.e. probably all or most of Central/Eastern Oregon). Maybe even some finer subdivisions (far, far eastern Multnomah County).Not much different than managing DEQ requirements.

    Fee collected at time of purchase (or exemption certificate filed).

    Can't see that it would be enforced except in conjunction with some other traffic offense ("License, registration, and tire tax/exemption certificate, please")

    As a veteran of 20 years dodging ruts while commuting I-5 I'd guess most of the damage occurs on roads where the tax ('scuse me, user fee) would make sense.

  • toast (unverified)
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    Well we could just maintain our gas tax the way it is and continue to use the proceeds to pay for road maintenance. If maintenance costs go up, we just increase the gas tax slightly to keep up.

    Vehicle weight (and mileage) is a reasonably related to the road damage it will cause. People in Western Oregon subsidizing those in Eastern Oregon isn't such a bad thing. Especially since the worst road damage is on the passes and westerners with chains do the bulk of it.

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    There was, btw, a great discussion about studded tires earlier at BlueOregon a few months ago.

  • Baloo (unverified)
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    I like the idea of a studded tire surcharge. These morons deserve to pay more, especially if they're going to tailgate me in the rain with 40% less wet-road traction than the average tailgating Californian-transplant asshole who can't handle our weather.

    Another thing I would like to see is an increase in vehicle registration fees. Vehicles under 4500 pounds pay the same fees they do now. Vehicles over 4500 pounds pay the same fees they do now, plus $1 for every pound over 4500.

    And as long as we're talking about getting people to pay for the damage they do to the roads, it's high time Wood Village set up a toll booth on Hogan Road right on the hill by the Safeway, WV residents get a toll-exempt sticker. After all, the vast majority of people driving on 238th Avenue over the Wood Village/Gresham city line aren't Wood Villagers, they're Greshamites who destroy our 238th Avenue while we're the ones stuck paying for their shortcut to the freeway.

  • Baloo (unverified)
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    Toast, gas tax only covers under 40% of highway costs. The rest of the highway revenue comes out of the pockets of everyone, regardless of their ability to drive or license status, thanks to state income tax.

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    I definitely see the need for studded tires, and the exemption for people who live in certain areas sounds good.

    However, we have a lot of people in the Portland metro area who get the tires and drive on them every day-- but only need them a handful of days out of the year. Those do damage to our roads.

    The idea above about charging more for vehicles that are over a certain weight sounds good as well-- maybe we can then pay to fix the major ruts that are on our roads. However, that won't do anything about the majority of trucks that come through Oregon, but aren't registered in Oregon.

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    On the comment about a toll in Wood Village--

    First, it's not a "short cut"-- it is marked in Gresham with signage stating that it's the way to the freeway. A short cut is when people go a way that is not marked as the route to the freeway-- Hogan is clearly marked at Powell/Hogan as the route to I-84.

    The route begins as Hogan, but twists and turns in the Wood Village area and becomes 238th.

    People in Gresham (as well as Sandy, Boring, and other areas) use this route because it's the clearly marked route to the freeway. Personally I use the route that puts you through Fairview just to the west of Target-- I avoid the hill (where people don't always drive as safe as they should) and typically get to the freeway in less time. I'm also on major thoroughfares the entire time, instead of on streets that feel like local/neighborhood streets.

    And a good number of the people heading through that area are heading to businesses in Wood Village as well (namely the Wal-Mart Supercenter, Jack in the Box, Arco, the auto auction place, the daycare along 238th, etc.). A toll might cause them to go elsewhere, which wouldn't be good for those businesses.

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    Wow Baloo,

    My hat's off at your ability to insult so many people in so few sentences.

    BTW: I'm a native Oregonian moron who advocates using studded tires and paying a fee for damage incurred, and I don't tailgate you in the rain unless you're driving underspeed in the left lane.

    As for Hogan/238th, it's not a shortcut, it's the commute for anyone living between Gresham and Government Camp.

    Electeds of all levels have been handwringing and doing nothing about installing a major arterial for.........oh.......about 30 years.

  • Robert Huffman (unverified)
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    Steve Bucknum writes: "Studded tires are the cheapest safety solution for those of us that live in the snowy/icy parts of Oregon."

    Of course they're the cheapest, because people that drive with them are taking advantage of an economic externality: they're not paying the true cost. You use studded tires, and I use traction tires. You pay less than me, even though you cause much more damage to the roads. I end up subsidizing your studs.

    So, pay up buddy.

  • Steve Bucknum (unverified)
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    Robert Huffman writes,

    "Of course they're the cheapest, because people that drive with them are taking advantage of an economic externality: they're not paying the true cost."

    Poor people don't "take advantage" of anything. They are forced to take whatever steps they need to take to survive. I can get a studded tire for $50, sometimes less. My "studless" ODOT approved alternative costs $125 per tire. You do the math.

    And "true cost" is subjective. What a tire costs off of the rack is the true cost to me the consumer. Road costs are not tire costs. You make a relationship between the two, semi-logically, but not taking into account all factors (such as vehicle weight). If we want to resort to anecdotal evidence or unproven connections, then we can talk about why it is that over in the Portland area there is lots more rutting of roads than over here where nearly everyone had studded tires in winter. Perhaps studded tires cause less road wear??

    My gas tax goes to road repair. My State tax also goes to road repair, and to pay for things like Portland's light rail. Last time I looked, there wasn't a MAX station in Prineville. In fact, I'd have to drive over 130 miles, over a mountain pass, to get to the nearest MAX line in Gresham. And if it's winter, I'd better have darn good tires to get over that mountain. -- But my point is this - its not like studded tire users aren't paying. There are inequities in the payment system. I pay for your light rail and get no benefit from it - I've only been on MAX twice in my life. Perhaps the west side / valley people pay a little more for road repair per capita. I don't really think so, but maybe they do a little.

    Part of being a State isn't equity, it's shared burdens. We rural folks help the urban areas out in more ways than I can count, starting with we feed you. And sometimes the urban folks spend a little money on something they might think is unfair - like repair of roads from studded tires.

    If we follow up on all these little user fees, we have dropped into the Republican mind-set trap. Shared burdens cost less, individual burdens cost more. The purpose of government is to share our burdens, even if sometimes it isn't fair to the individual. The physical infrastructure of our State is certainly one area I think ought to be fully a shared burden.

    If you take the concept of a tire user fee to another level, why not a bridge user fee? Bridges cost lots of money. They cost way more per mile than a road or street built on the ground. A city like Portland ought to have a bridge surcharge because they have so many, and they are so long. The Fremont bridge alone including the spans leading to the bridge that are above the ground must have 5 miles above ground. In all of Crook County, we have only about 75 yards of bridge spans over water. So, I won't mind paying a bridge span surcharge when I look at this from my narrow point of view of self interest.

    Of course, its TOTALLY LUDICROUS - but that is where we go when we stop sharing our burdens (good government) and start trying to cost out every little thing for user charges (the Republican trap). We end up with the best government that special interest money can buy.

  • k (unverified)
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    Wow. I'm impressed that anyone read my idea (progressive or not - I was just throwing it out there).

    Let me give you some background since I feel like some of you are assuming I don't have a clue about East of the Cascades...

    My parents live in Central Oregon in an area that gets enough snow that together with their neighbors they bought a snowblower (the main roads are plowed but frequently the plowers shove the snow into nearby driveways creating substantial problems for the residents). My parents do NOT have studded tires. My father thinks they are expensive and destroy the roads so they make do without and no, he's not stuck at home, he drives plenty and even with years and years of driving in Central Oregon slush, snow and ice hasn't had an accident (and I promise he drives at a decent speed).

    I grew up in an area that got snow every year and we lived in the hills. Our driveway was so steep, you couldn't get up it without putting your car into first gear. Even studs couldn't help you on our driveway. I learned to drive in that area, without studs and in the snow. It can be done. We didn't have the studless snow/ice tires either. Dad was too cheap (still is).

    • I think a surcharge should be charged at the time of purchase or installation. Enforcement would be near impossible otherwise.
    • If city folk have to pay more, so be it. There's less snow in Pdx and less reason to have studs.
    • Just the other day, I saw not 1 but 2 cars drive by (in Pdx) with studded tires on -- fines should be even higher than they are now if you have studs on after the removal date. The increased fine would encourage early removal as well as help pay for road damage.

    It couldn't hurt to include a driving in snow education sheet with the purchase of studs either. Years ago I was working with some nitwit who had moved up here from California who was extolling the virtues of her studs because she thought they helped her stop more quickly on a rainy day. She, of course, was the first one to stay home if a snowflake dropped from the sky.

  • k (unverified)
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    Wow. I'm impressed that anyone read my idea (progressive or not - I was just throwing it out there).

    Let me give you some background since I feel like some of you are assuming I don't have a clue about East of the Cascades...

    My parents live in Central Oregon in an area that gets enough snow that together with their neighbors they bought a snowblower (the main roads are plowed but frequently the plowers shove the snow into nearby driveways creating substantial problems for the residents). My parents do NOT have studded tires. My father thinks they are expensive and destroy the roads so they make do without and no, he's not stuck at home, he drives plenty and even with years and years of driving in Central Oregon slush, snow and ice hasn't had an accident (and I promise he drives at a decent speed).

    I grew up in an area that got snow every year and we lived in the hills. Our driveway was so steep, you couldn't get up it without putting your car into first gear. Even studs couldn't help you on our driveway. I learned to drive in that area, without studs and in the snow. It can be done. We didn't have the studless snow/ice tires either. Dad was too cheap (still is).

    • I think a surcharge should be charged at the time of purchase or installation. Enforcement would be near impossible otherwise.
    • If city folk have to pay more, so be it. There's less snow in Pdx and less reason to have studs.
    • Just the other day, I saw not 1 but 2 cars drive by (in Pdx) with studded tires on -- fines should be even higher than they are now if you have studs on after the removal date. The increased fine would encourage early removal as well as help pay for road damage.

    It couldn't hurt to include a driving in snow education sheet with the purchase of studs either. Years ago I was working with some nitwit who had moved up here from California who was extolling the virtues of her studs because she thought they helped her stop more quickly on a rainy day. She, of course, was the first one to stay home if a snowflake dropped from the sky.

  • Harry (unverified)
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    k writes (twice): "I grew up in an area that got snow every year and we lived in the hills. Our driveway was so steep, you couldn't get up it without putting your car into first gear."

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    Hmmmm.. so steep you had to use low gear? I always thought that the best way to increase/maintain traction was to decrease torque. The lower the gear, the higher the power and therefore the probability that you will be breaking traction (ie spinning your tires).

    <h2>"Even studs couldn't help you on our driveway."</h2>

    So studless can? Or would you have to go to chains? (See Buckman on chain damage...if you think that a 1/8 inch of steel on pavement is bad, then, what?....4-6 times that amount is GOOD for pavement?)

    Maybe we should just arrest any Portlander who drives with studs, since they really should be riding a bicycle instead. I would allow for studded bicycle tires, as long as the cycle and rider weigh less than 125lbs total.

    Outlaw your studded tires only for residents of cities with elevations lower than 1500 ft above sea level...leave the rest of us alone.

  • marc in pdx (unverified)
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    we did have a lazy attempt at limiting the damage by forcing teh switch to aluminum studs. i think a 'permit' fee of $2-5 per tire at the time of seasonal mounting would be appropriate. at the very least it would make me feel a little less pissed at the morons who drive down my street in april with studs still on their vehicle. i have lived in oregon almost my entire life and have NEVER put studs on any car i have owned. i have made hundreds of trips across the mountains during winter (they are called chains people) without incident. if there is some kind of perceived bias against east siders then double the city folks mounting fees to $4-10 per tire.

  • Jon (unverified)
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    There's less snow in Pdx and less reason to have studs.

    Studs are for ice...which we do get during the winter.

    That said, I grew up down in K Falls, and never used studs either. But you learn how to drive in that type of weather when its there every winter, and it helps that traffic is minimal down there as well.

    Up here, with the cold, rainy winters, ice happens a lot, especially on streets that dont get a lot of sunlight. So studs are helpful, and make certain people feel a little safer. Fine. Charge them a couple dollars extra. (although I thought we already did).

    But you know what? It still doesnt mean the government is going to use the money to actually fix roads. They money usually just gets diverted to something else.

    Hell, Im in Beaverton. Cedar Hills Blvd has looked like a war zone for a couple years. Yet the city is ripping up perfectly good streets in the downtown Beav area to put in brick, to make it "perty". There's our tax dollars well spent.

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)
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    Wayne and Steve,

    I'm wondering why it would be progressive to subsidize rural Oregonians' choice to use studded tires. Studs do a considerable amount of damage, which consumes public money, energy, and natural resources. Taxing something tends to discourage it, so I see a stud tax a progressive from an environmental standpoint, and equitable from an economic standpoint.

    Wayne is correct that heavy vehicles do the most damage to roads, though. Most of the rutting we see on hiways is caused by weight making the pavement sink, as opposed to abrasion wearing off the surface. There is a construction process called CRAM construction , developed in California that might reduce that damage considerably, but ODOT has shown little interest in testing it.

    Studs do cause abrasion, resulting in the roughened surface that makes the tire path areas noisier than the rest of the road.

  • k (unverified)
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    Harry - We had to park at the bottom of the drive when we expected snow (frequently in the winter months). Neither chains nor studs helped if it was bad. Despite warnings & various studs and chains, I watched a number of people try to make it up because they were too lazy to walk. Watching them slide down backwards or sideways was quite a picture, especially since one side of our drive was a pretty severe incline into the forest.

    My entire life, I've used chains once. I simply drive smart in inclement weather. There's no reason others can learn to do that too. In fact, in Bend there's a terrific program using skid cars if you need lessons (I took the class about 5 years ago as a brushup).

    As far as the 125 limit you suggest, I qualify -- even when you include the bike. I've always been a walker though.

    I happen to know there's a number of supporters for a studded snow tire surcharge East of the Cascades (remember, Harry, that's where the majority of my family lives and has for quite some time) it's not some big Portland conspiracy against Central /Eastern Oregon.

  • Aaron (unverified)
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    I strongly support the idea of charging motorists for damage to the public infrastructure (including use of snow tires, or for that matter a large SUV). However it has become quite obvious that drivers will fight tooth and nail to appose ANY increased cause to the 'right' of driving. Whether it's higher gas taxes (which have actually declined next to inflation), higher parking fees, or toll roads; all of these have been shot down. The single greatest challenge facing transportation planners is how to maintain the level of service expected by citizens, while doing so with a steadily declining budget. If you want the system to work, you must pay for it.

  • Ross Williams (unverified)
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    Despite the claims of those in less-snowy climates, studded tires provide a significant margin of safety,

    Studded tires are illegal in Minnesota and Michigan. Neither is exactly snow-free. I think there were several studies after they were made illegal that showed they had little safety benefit since they reduce traction on dry surfaces.

    And I'm not so sure about the damage issue. I think heavy trucks do far more damage on highways than do studded tires.

    Heavy trucks do do more damage, but that is why Oregon charges them on weight and mile. Studs wear off pavement. Those long puddles of water down the middle of lanes on a lot of Oregon highways are evidence of that. In my experience, you don't see that where studs are illegal.

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