In one of his periodic ventures into writing fantasy fiction, Tom Friedman ($) imagines that Bush might support a big increase in the gas tax to encourage conservation. Besides all the substantive critiques -- it's regressive, most Americans have no choice but to drive, it would hit the rural poor hardest -- and the political objections -- no matter what they tell pollsters, Americans love their cars and hate taxes; the GOP beat the bejesus out of Bill Cinton for a 4-cent increase -- one obvious problem is that a gas tax would hit Republicans hardest.
According to the 2000 Census, about 76 percent of Americans drive alone to work every day; another 12 percent car-pool. (Car-poolers mostly live in auto-dependent areas of the South and West; 3 percent of Americans who walk to work).
Only 5 percent use mass transit, which is overwhelmingly a "Blue State" phenomenon. One-half of mass-transit riders live in the Northeast; 38 percent live in the New York metropolitan area --not exactly Bush country. 69% of mass-transit riders live in six states: New York, California, Illinois, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania. None of these states voted for Bush; only Pennsylvania is represented by Republicans in the Senate. Of the top ten states in mass transit ridership as a proportion of the population, none voted for Bush.* Only 1 in 50 Texans commute by bus, subway or train. Alabama and North Dakota have the lowest rates of public-transit use (0.4%), Michigan the highest rate of driving alone (83.2%).
Not only is mass transit more popular in "Blue States," but the folks on the bus look more like Kerry voters: 12% of African-Americans use public transportation, only 3% of non-Hispanic whites do. The only three counties in the nation where a majority of people use mass transit are in New York City: Manhattan (17% for Bush), Brooklyn (24% for Bush) and the Bronx (17% for Bush).
I don't foresee a Republican president and a Republican Congress voting to increase gas taxes anytime soon.
*New York: 24.4%
New Jersey: 9.6%