The Washington Post today has a front page story about a poll suggesting people would rather pay tolls than taxes. But to me, that’s a gross generalization. When you go to the specific questions on the survey, you’re able to sort the answers by a number of demographics, but where you live isn’t one of them. And as the article points out, that could make a difference.

Three out of 4 D.C. residents said they favored tolls over taxes, while 61 percent of Marylanders and 53 percent of Virginians shared that view.

The national numbers suggest people prefer tolls over taxes. But that question is too vague to be meaningful. How much in taxes and tolls? On which roads? All the time or just at peak hours?

In fact, Virginia Transportation Commissioner Philip A. Shucet’s comment in the article suggests a public education campaign might alter the answers.

Shucet cautioned drivers to consider a little math before backing tolls in all cases. He said tolls on new highways would be at least $1 in each direction. So even if gas taxes were raised 20 cents a gallon — the amount he said was needed to fund all the state’s transportation needs — a driver who spends $2 a day on tolls would have to use more than 10 gallons of gas a day to save money. That’s a 100-mile commute — in a Hummer.

Of course, money isn’t the only consideration. Reduced stress and travel time are the major objectives. But there’s no guarantee that a roads program, paid for by a 20-cent tax increase or tolls, would reduce either stress or travel time.