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Definitions and Data Coverage

Definitions and Data Coverage


Revenues. Transportation revenues include money received by the U.S. government from transportation-related taxes, user charges, or fees that are earmarked to fund transportation-related expenditures. Both money received from transportation sources but used to fund non-transportation purposes and money from non-transportation sources but used to fund transportation purposes are not counted as transportation revenue. Below are examples of receipts that are not included in transportation revenues:

  • Taxes collected from users of the transportation system that go to the general fund.[1]
  • Non-transportation-related general fund revenues, which are used to finance transportation activities.
  • Proceeds from borrowing, whether short-term or long-term.
  • Proceeds from sale of investments and the payment of loans.

Expenditures. Transportation expenditures consist of money paid out for transportation-related activities by the U.S. government.[2] In this definition, expenditures include payments from all sources of funds, making no distinction between transportation source and non-transportation source. The outlays can be funded through transportation trust funds, general fund or proceeds from borrowing. However, the following types of outlays are not considered as transportation expenditures because they are not for transportation purposes:

  • Loans or other extensions of credit.
  • Purchase of securities for investment purposes (recorded loss on the sale of investments is, however, treated as expenditure).
  • Payments for retirement of debt principal (long-term or short-term), which are reported with debt statistics. Interest on debt is, however, reported as expenditure.[3]

Data Coverage

Highway Revenues. Federal highway revenues constitute the portion of money paid into the Highway Account of the Highway Trust Fund (HTF). The HTF revenues are derived from excise taxes on motor fuels,[4] motor vehicles, tires, parts and accessories for trucks and buses, and interest income earned on balances of the Trust Fund.[5] Motor fuel taxes, which are included in the HTF, are taxes levied only on motor fuels used by highway users.

State and local highway revenues are raised through taxes on motor fuels, motor vehicle licenses, and motor vehicle operator licenses, along with charges on regular and toll highways, and parking facilities. For state and local governments, motor fuel taxes include taxes on gasoline, diesel oil, aviation fuel, "gasohol," and any other fuels used in motor vehicles or aircraft. Motor vehicle operator license taxes cover licenses for the privilege of driving commercial and private motor vehicles. Motor vehicles license taxes are taxes imposed on owners or operators of motor vehicles for the right to use public highways, such as fees for title registration, license plates, vehicle inspection, vehicle mileage and weight taxes on motor carriers, highway use taxes, and off-highway fees.[6] Parking facility charges are imposed on on-street and off-street parking meters and charges and rentals from locally owned parking lots or public garages. Regular highway charges include reimbursements for street construction and repairs, fees for curb cuts and special traffic signs, and maintenance assessments for street lighting, snow removal, and other highway or street services unrelated to toll facilities. Toll highway charges include fees from turnpikes, toll roads, bridges, ferries, and tunnels; rents and other revenue from concessions (service stations, restaurants, etc.); and other charges for use of toll facilities.

Highway Expenditures. Highway expenditures consist of outlays of the Federal Highway Administration, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration, and outlays for road construction activities managed by the Department of the Interiors National Park Service, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Bureau of Reclamation, the Bureau of Land Management, the Department of Agricultures Forest Service, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and other federal agencies. The Federal Highway Administration expenditures include outlays for federal-aid-highway programs (financed from the HTF) and the Interstate Substitution and Railroad Crossing Demonstration program (financed from the general fund). The federal-aid highway program fund is apportioned to states using formulas for planning, constructing, and improving the nations highway system. Outlays of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) are used for setting and enforcinng safety performance standards for motor vehicles and motor vehicle equipment, investigating safety defects in motor vehicles, setting and enforcing fuel economy standards, helping states and local communities reduce the threat of drunk drivers, and promoting the use of safety belts and child safety seats. NHTSAs outlays in the form of grants to state and local governments for conducting local highway safety programs are also included.

For state and local expenditures, outlays of the following activities are included:

  1. Maintenance, operation, repair, and construction of regular highways, streets, roads, alleys, sidewalks, bridges, tunnels, ferry boats, viaducts, and related structures.
    Examples: Snow and ice removal and application of salt and sand (including that by sanitation or street cleaning agencies, if identifiable); street or highway lighting and related fixtures; traffic signals; highway and traffic design, planning, and engineering if handled by public works or highways agency; highway safety; and construction and maintenance of such highway-related items as curbs, gutters, crosswalks, grade separations, trestles, railroad crossings, and storm drains integral to highway projects.
  1. Maintenance, operation, repairs, and construction of highways, roads, bridges, ferries, and tunnels operated on a fee or toll basis.
    Examples: Turnpikes, toll roads, toll bridges, toll ferries (including docks and related terminals), toll tunnels, and all related activities and facilities such as snow and ice removal, highway police and fire protection units if administered by the toll authority, lighting and light fixtures, design and engineering, garages and administrative buildings of toll authorities, operation of toll booths, drawspans, rest stops, and service areas by the toll authority itself.
  1. Provision, construction, maintenance, and operation of local government public parking facilities operated on a commercial basis.

The source data do not cover the following activities in the state and local highway expenditures:

  1. Patrol or policing of streets and highways and traffic control activities of police or public safety agencies.
  2. Enforcement of parking regulations and laws such as meter readers, parking facilities for exclusive use (e.g., by meter readers) of government employees, and parking areas connected to a specific type of facility, such as those for a public sports stadium.
  3. Debt service on toll facility debt.

Note that state and local governments highway expenditures reported by the Census Bureau are slightly lower than those reported in the FHWAs Highway Statistics because data from Highway Statistics include outlays for highway activities such as law enforcement and patrols and policing of streets and highways that are not included in the Census data. Although the FHWA data provide better coverage of state and local highway expenditures, in order to maintain consistency among the different modes regarding the types of expenditures included in the state and local data, these data were not used. Table 1 outlines the major differences in Census Bureau and FHWA calculation of state and local highway transportation financial statistics.

Table 1. Comparison of the U.S. Census Bureau and Federal Highway Administration Calculations of State and Local Transportation Financial Statistics

Excel | CSV

Item Census FHWA
Motor fuel tax revenues Includes state and local tax revenues on any fuel used in motor vehicles, and on gasoline used by aircraft. Includes state and local tax revenues attributed to highway use of fuels, including diesel fuel, gasohol, and liquefied petroleum gas used by private and commercial motor vehicles and transit systems. Does not include revenues on gasoline used by aircraft.
Motor vehicle license tax revenues Includes vehicle mileage and weight taxes on motor carrier, highway use taxes, or off-highway fees. Does not include vehicle mileage and weight taxes on motor carriers, highway use taxes, or off-highway fees.
Local parking charges revenues Includes local parking revenues. Not explicitly collected.
Highway expenditures Excludes patrols or policing of streets and highways, traffic control activities of police or public safety agencies, law enforcement and safety activities of vehicle inspection enforcement and vehicle size and weight enforcement, street cleaning activities, and roads within parks maintained by a park agency. Includes patrols or policing of streets and highways, traffic control activities of police or public safety agencies, law enforcement and safety activities of vehicle inspection enforcement and vehicle size and weight enforcement, street cleaning activities, and roads within parks maintained by a park agency.

Transit Revenues. Federal transit revenues include the money paid into the Mass Transit Account of the HTF. The Highway Revenue Act of 1982 established the Mass Transit Account within the HTF and provided that a certain proportion of federal fuel taxes be assigned to it. Although highway users pay the taxes, these funds are treated as federal transit revenues in this report.

State and local transit revenues comprise money generated from operations of the public mass transportation system (i.e., rapid transit, subway, bus, street railway, and commuter rail services), such as fares, charter fees, advertising income, and other operations revenues.

Transit Expenditures. Federal transit expenditures include grants to state and local agencies for the construction, acquisition, and improvement of the mass transportation facilities and equipment and for payment of operating expenses. Also included are Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) commuter rail subsidies related to the transition of Conrail to the private sector[7], research and administrative expenses of the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), and federal interest payment contribution to the Washington Metro Area Transportation Authority (WMATA) loans.

State and local transit expenditures include all amounts of money paid out for operation, maintenance, and construction of the public mass transit systems, including subways, surface rails, and buses. For example, expenditures on rapid transit; subways, surface rail, and street railroad systems; commuter rail lines; trolleys and light rail; related stations, tracks, depots, and rail yards; acquisition of right-of-ways; transit police employed directly by utility; subsidies to public mass transit systems (but not private ones); and buses are included in transit spending. Payments in support of privately owned and operated transit utility operations, including railroads, are also included in the state and local transit expenditures. These are payments or subsidies to private bus companies, railways, light rail, or other private passenger transportation systems for construction, purchase of equipment, and operations and subsidies to railroads for continued service to rural or outlying areas.

The following transit activities are not covered in the state and local spending for transit: systems solely to transport students; systems exclusively for handicapped or senior citizens; systems owned but operated under private contract without financial oversight; depreciation of assets; activities not directly related to utility operation, such as administration of utility debt and payments-in-lieu-of-taxes; and benefits paid to utility employees by employee retirement systems. Also excluded are payments to private firms to provide transportation for government employees, such as shuttle bus service between public buildings, and payments to private firms for transporting students.

Rail Revenues. Railroad activity generates revenues in the form of fuels and property taxes, but these are not treated as transportation-related revenues in the report. [8] Fuel taxes collected from railroads are channeled into the general fund for deficit reduction and hence do not fall under the definition of transportation-related revenues. State and local governments collect property taxes from the railroad companies, and some of these proceeds may be used to finance transportation activities. That portion of the state and local governments property tax revenue, which is used for transportation, is not accounted for in this report because of lack of data. For a similar reason, transportation-related property taxes for other modes are also not covered. Amtrak, the passenger railroad service, generates revenues from passenger fares, but since Amtrak is not an entity of the federal government its revenues are not treated as government transportation revenues.

Rail Expenditures. Federal rail expenditures include expenses of the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) for its programs, namely, capital grants to Amtrak, settlement of railroad litigation, northeast corridor improvement, local rail freight assistance, mandatory passenger rail service payments, safety and operations, railroad research and development, Conrail labor protection (which provided benefits to Conrail employees deprived of employment because of workforce reduction and other actions), railroad rehabilitation and improvement, the Alaska railroad revolving fund, regional rail reorganization program, Amtrak corridor improvement, freight line rehabilitation, the Penn station redevelopment program, MAGLEV prototype development, next generation high-speed rail, Alameda corridor direct loan financing program, Rhode Island rail development, Alaska railroad rehabilitation, high-speed rail train sets and facilities, emergency railroad rehabilitation and repair, West Virginia rail development, and the Amtrak reform council. Also included are outlays for the rail service program of the former Interstate Commerce Commission and outlays of the former U.S. Railway Association.

The local rail freight assistance program, a program of FRA grants to state governments, has had a 70:30 percent federal to state funding share, respectively, since FY 1982. Due to lack of readily available data, state and local government rail expenditures are estimated based on this ratio.

Air Revenues. Federal air revenues include passenger ticket taxes and other excise taxes and fees paid by air carriers and passengers. Examples of these are aviation excise taxes, freight waybill taxes, general aviation fuel/gas taxes, ad valorem tax on domestic passenger tickets, international departure and arrival taxes, etc. These revenues are accumulated in the Airport and Airways Trust Fund (AATF). While held by the Treasury, the Trust Fund balance is invested in Government securities, and any interest income earned is deposited back into the Trust Fund.

State and local revenues for air mode are derived from airport charges. These include hangar rentals, landing fees, terminal and concession rents, parking fees at airport lots, and other charges for use of airport facilities or for services associated with their use. In 1992, local governments began collecting passenger facility charges and spending these revenues to finance capital programs. The collection of passenger facility charges was authorized by the Aviation Safety and Capacity Expansion Act of 1990.

Air Expenditures. Federal air expenditures consist of outlays of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and outlays of the Office of the Secretary of Transportation for air carriers, essential air service, and Commission on Aircraft Security programs. The FAA expenses cover the costs of constructing, operating, and maintaining the national air traffic system, grants for airports, administration of the airport grant program, safety regulation, research and development, etc. In addition, expenses of the Office of Secretary of Transportation for Payments to Air Carriers, Essential Air Service, Commission on Aviation Security and Compensation for Air Carriers programs; expenses of the Civil Aeronautics Board for the years prior to its abolition; Department of Homeland Securitys outlays for Federal Air marshals program; and transportation-related expenses of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) are included. Transportation-related NASA expenditures include outlays for research and development, construction of facilities, and research and program management.

State and local expenditures for air constitute outlays for the operation and maintenance of airport facilities, as administered by local airport and port authorities with responsibilities for promoting safe navigation and operations for air modes, and regulation of the airline industry. Examples of these expenditures are outlays on publicly operated airfields and related facilities (runways, terminals, control towers, maintenance facilities, and the like); intergovernmental payments for construction, operation, or support of publicly owned airports; support of private airports; and airport police if either an integral part of the airport authority or a payment to regular police agency. Purchase and operation of government-owned aircraft, such as police helicopters and state civil air patrols, are not covered in the state and local government air transportation expenditures.

Water Revenues. Federal water revenues are derived from user charges and taxes paid into the Inland Waterways Trust Fund, the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund, and the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund. Interest incomes from these trust fund balances are also included. Moreover, tolls and other charges collected by the Panama Canal Commission[9], receipts of the boat safety account of the Aquatic Resources Trust Fund, and receipts of the Offshore Oil Pollution Trust Fund and Deepwater Port Liability Fund are accounted for in the federal water and marine revenues. [10]

State and local revenues are generated through state and local water charges. These include canal tolls (including Panama Canal), rents from leases, concession rents, and other charges for use of commercial or industrial water transport and port terminal facilities and related services. Fees and rents related to water facilities provided for recreational purposes, such as marinas, public docks, etc., and toll ferries are excluded.

Water Expenditures. Federal expenditures comprise outlays of the U.S. Coast Guard for transportation-related programs and activities, such as marine safety, environmental compliance and restoration, alteration of bridges, oil spill recovery, aids to navigation, marine environmental protection, search and rescue, and ice operations.[11] All expenses of the U.S. Maritime Administration are included, such as subsidies for construction and operation of vessels by U.S.-flag operators, research and development, training of ship officers, federal ship financing fund, ready reserve force, ocean freight differential, maritime security program, maritime guaranteed loan, etc.[12] Also included are those expenses of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for construction, operation, and maintenance of channels, harbors, locks, and dams, and protection of navigation. Moreover, salaries and other expenses of the Federal Maritime Commission, expenses of the Panama Canal Commission for the years until the hand over oof Panama Canal to Republic of Panama in December 1999,[13] and operations and maintenance expenses of the Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation are accounted for.

Water and marine expenditures at the state and local level constitute payments for the provision, construction, operation, maintenance, and support of public waterways and harbors, docks, wharves, and related marine terminal facilities and the regulation of the water transportation industry. These include commercial port facilities, canals, harbors, and other public waterways; dredging of same; public docks, piers, wharves, warehouses, cranes, and associated terminal facilities; and regulation and inspection of the commercial water transportation industry. Expenditures on recreational docks and marine facilities, such as public marinas devoted to pleasure boaters, are excluded.

Pipeline Revenues. Federal pipeline revenues are raised through pipeline safety user fees assessed on a per-mile basis. The assessments are made on each pipeline operator regulated by the Office of Pipeline Safety (OPS) in the DOTs Research and Special Programs Administration (RSPA). The OPS began charging companies a fee for using gas transmission pipelines in 1986. Between 1986 and 1994, the fee almost doubled from $23.99 per mile of pipeline to $44.94 per mile. In 1995, the fee doubled once more to $95.57. There are no state and local revenues for pipeline.

Pipeline Expenditures. Pipeline expenditures comprise outlays for the Research and Special Programs Administrations (RSPA) grants-in-aid activity for state pipeline safety programs, enforcement programs, and research and development. Federal government outlays for pipeline programs started in FY 1988. State and local government spending for pipeline is obtained from the Office of Pipeline Safety under RSPA.

General Support Revenues. General Support revenues come from fees paid by registered shippers of hazardous materials, which are held in the Emergency Preparedness Fund. The Research and Special Programs Administration (RSPA) administers and apportions the revenues to states and territories through the Hazardous Materials Emergency Preparedness (HMEP) grant program.

General Support Expenditures. This includes outlays that are not directly allocated to a specific mode. Expenditures of the following agencies have been included under the General Support category (although their funding may come from different sources): The Office of Inspector General, the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, the National Transportation Safety Board, the former Interstate Commerce Commission until its termination in December 1995, the Surface Transportation Board, all expenses of the RSPA (except pipeline expenditures), the Office of the Secretary of Transportation (except for payments to Air Carriers and Commission on Aircraft Safety), and Transportation Security Administration.[14]

[1] This includes revenues earmarked to fund nontransportation activities. Examples of such revenues are the portion of the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) allocated to the general fund for deficit reduction, and rail fuel tax revenues also dedicated for deficit reduction.

[2] In some accounts in the Budget of the U.S. Government, certain offsetting collections from the public are deducted from disbursements to determine expenditures for some federal programs. These collections are those mandated, by statute, to be applied directly to finance agency expenditures rather than being transferred to the Treasury. For example, the Aviation Insurance Revolving Fund provides funds to support the aviation insurance program authorized under Chapter 443 of title 49, U.S. Code (formerly title XIII of the Federal Aviation Act of 1958). In addition, intra-government transfers, i.e., transfers from one federal account to another, are treated as offsetting collections. Such transfers are also deducted from gross outlays of the receiving federal program or account to determine its expenditures. Expenditures for some federal programs may be negative because of such deductions.

[3] For the federal government, outlays for interest on the public issues of Treasury debt securities are reported as the interest accrues, not when the cash is paid. For state and local governments, interest on debt is reported on actual disbursement.

[4] Readers should note that federal motor fuel tax revenues include the portion of revenues attributed to highway use only, while state and local motor fuel tax revenues constitute taxes on any fuels used in motor vehicles or aircraft.

[5] Effective 10/01/98, the Highway Trust Fund ceased earning interest on its invested balances, per Section 9004(a) of TEA-21.

[6] These do not include personal property taxes on motor vehicles; sales or gross receipts taxes on the sale of motor vehicles; taxes on motor carriers based on assessed value of property, gross receipts, and net income; and other taxes on the business of motor transport.

[7] Conrail was privatized in 1987.

[8] During 1991-95, railroad companies paid fees to the FRA to cover costs associated with the FRAs rail safety program. The government terminated these collections in 1995.

[9] Ownership of the Panama Canal Commission was transferred to the Republic of Panama in December 1999.

[10] The Oil Pollution Act of 1990, Public Law 101-380, consolidated balances from the Offshore Oil Pollution Compensation Fund, Deepwater Port Liability Fund and the Clean Water Act Section 311(K) Pollution Fund into the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund.

[11] Not all expenditures for the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG), as reported by the Office of Management and Budget, are considered transportation-related. Part of the expenditures for Operations, Acquisition, Construction and Improvement, Research & Development, and Test and Evaluation are considered as transportation. Within these program areas, only Aids to Navigation, Marine Safety, and Marine Environmental Protection activities are included in the earlier reports. Expenditures for Environmental Compliance and Restoration, Alteration of Bridges, and Oil Spill Recovery. Within these program areas, only Aids to Navigation, Marine Safety, and Marine Environmental Protection activities are included in the earlier reports. In the current report, more activities like Search and Rescue and Ice Operations have been included. In addition, Boat Safety program revenues and expenditures have been included.

[12] Public Law 99198 amended section 901 of the Merchant Marine Act to increase from 50 to 75 percent the amount of agricultural commodities under specified programs that must be carried on U.S.-flag vessels. The increased cost associated with this expanded U.S.-flag shipping requirement stems from higher rates charged by U.S.-flag carriers compared with foreign-flag carriers. The Maritime Administration is required to reimburse the Department of Agriculture for ocean freight differential costs for the added tonnage above 50 percent.

[13] Outlays of the Panama Canal Commission for FY 2000 include the first quarter operations only, because ownership of the Panama Canal was transferred in December 1999. FY 2001 expenses are for the settlement of remaining accident and contract claims against the Commission.

[14] Transportation Security Administration was established on November 19, 2001. Since outlays for this program is relatively big, it will significantly increases the total amounts of the General Support beginning from FY 2002.

Updated: Saturday, May 20, 2017