Re: An Argument for Fee-based Roads (long)
- What a great new point of view! It's so easy to view these
transportation issues strictly from a socialogical perspective, but so
refreshing to look at it from pure economics. How many times has a
family member driven 5 miles across state lines just to purchase a
cheaper gallon of gas? How many times do we travel 5 miles out of our
way to a grocery store with cheaper tomatoes? I've noticed that
people will go an extraordinary long way to save a few dollars, even
if their savings are mitigated by travel costs.
I don't believe that any one perspective is sufficient to explain the
bizarre situation American society find itself in, but economics might
explain a few things:
- Europe doesn't have our problems to quite the same extent. However,
they DO have supermarches, retail parking lots strip malls, etc.
Perhaps this lesser degree of destruction has something to do with the
price of gas?
- Why would anyone think that a bus is a better city investment than a
Trolley? Aside from the fact that the Trolleys' advantages are less
tangible (greener and cleaner, and less pedestrian fear of getting
hit, etc.), there is always the point that the Buses transportation
infrastructure is FREE(except that it isn't, of course!).
- Why should I drive to D.C. from Philly, instead of taking the train?
Well, for one thing, it's half the cost.
Economics won't explain the love affair that America has with the car.
The automobile represents freedom itself, and the ability to get in a
car and whisk off to the country can't be underestimated. Why does
this represent freedom? Maybe because it's FREE?!?
Lets not forget other factors, like class equality (we all take the
same roads, albeit in different vehicles).
I don't know if Turpin mentioned all of the hidden costs of
maintaining our roads and highways. What about food? Why is our food
more expensive and of inferior quality to Europes? Well, for one
thing, it isn't fresh, because it's been shipped from Idaho. Why?
Because the roads are FREE! Who cares if the lettuce is limp ...
people will eat it, and it's cheaper!
I love to drive... I admit it. Driving inspires confidence and control
over ones surroundings. Driving into the countryside on an interstate
on a beautiful day confers an amazing sense of freedom and peace upon
the driver. I would willingly pay extra to escape the dreariness of
suburbia. Wait a sec ... why should I need to escape?
--- In carfree_cities@y..., "turpin" <turpin@y...> wrote:
> I've been noodling on these issues, and this is the result ..
> An Argument for Fee-based Roads
> 6. What About the Progressives?
> Or: Why is this issue not pressed more, in national politics? Part
> the answer lies in popular support for the automobile. The long
> development of this transportation system makes it difficult for
> people to imagine how alternatives might work as well or better. The
> fact that it is subsidized by sales and income taxes causes them to
> ignore the cost they are paying. The automobile industry has done an
> excellent job of portraying itself as a bastion of free enterprise,
> rather than as handmaiden to a public system.
> Sadly, many political groups labelled "progressive" are complicit in
> this distortion and suppression of the issue. Indeed, any attempt to
> make the public cost of car transportation fee-based may haveto
> overcome resistance from progressive sentiment.
> Many of the politically progressive persuasion do not want to view
> this problem as a failure of -- as the inevitable result of --
> massive public subsidy. Like the automobile industry itself, they
> prefer the view that car transportation is a result of free
> enterprise, which they oppose. Correctly viewing the car and its
> infrastructure as a public transportation system, massively
> subsidized, requires them to reframe the kinds of arguments they
> Urban planners and proponents of public transporation -- meaning, a
> different kind of public transportation -- have a natural affinity
> for active government planning, and a distrust of economic
> mechanisms. The often misunderstand economics. (Only a massive
> misunderstanding would let anyone think our current transportation
> system is private!) I say this not to criticize urban planning. In
> view, there is an essentially public element to cities that requires
> it. But I also believe that policy should be informed by economics.
> The first step to correct a public boondoggle is not more public
> programs, but to end the boondoggle. Once automobile use pays its
> way, we might find that so many private alternatives emerge, that
> public transportation is not so big an issue as we imagined. Cities
> will change their nature to reflect the better pricing information,
> and people who then walk and bicycle more will demand public spaces
> for these modes of transport, which public space fortunately is much
> cheaper to build and maintain than vehicular roadways.
> The progressive misunderstanding of economics extends to how they
> view people. When a progressive thinks of someone driving a car a
> quarter mile to pick up a quart of milk, they are appalled by the
> global consequences of this kind of decision, multiplied a million
> times over. They don't understand that this is the natural and
> inevitable consequence of the low marginal cost of driving, as seen
> by the individual. Progressives mistakenly believe that political
> awareness is the way to get people to think globally and act
> The economist knows that this is futile, and that pricing mechanisms
> are the way to get people to act locally, without them having to
> think globally. When the global cost of each additional mile of
> driving comes from is the driver's pocketbook, then their decisions
> will change.
> 7. Is This Realistic?
> Americans love their automobiles. But to date, there is little
> economic understanding of our transportation system. If this message
> can be spread, it can get support from economists and people whose
> politics is swayed by economic argument.
> Cities are a primary beneficiary of a fee-based road system, since
> they would no longer have to maintain "their" transportation system
> purely from property and sales taxes that suburbanites avoid. Cities
> should also favor a reduction of other subsidies for sprawl.
> Suburbanites, of course, will oppose this change, since they are the
> primary beneficiary of this public subsidy.
> Progressives SHOULD favor fee-based roadways. It touches on many
> issues near and dear to their heart: automobile culture, city
> architecture, public spaces, dependence on foreign oil, pollution,
> etc. In the ideal world, progressives would be spear-heading this
> policy change, uniting economists, cities, and urban residents. But
> progressives have been stymied by their unwillingness to understand
> the economic nature of the problem, and to apply economic argument.
> hope this changes, and that they do become the vanguard for
> controlling the automobile, not by fighting for unproven forms of
> public transportation, but by opposing the massive public subsidy
> current system requires.
- Louis-Luc said:
>It's relative...I'm with you up to this point.
>Knowing there is an environment spoiled with cars, and
>an underground city filled with life (Montreal Underground Network), I
>prefer the subway way over the
>bus, because you can ride it and walk through the underground city for hours
>(or repetedly for days), without knowing cars even exist.
>However, in a city with no car, or where car drivers yield to human-powered
>traffic both in theory and 100% in practice, then streetcars or buses become
>much more attractive, because you don't have the stress of walking through
>car traffic when you ride them and walk in the city.
>The ideal is a monorail:We've had more than enough experience with elevated transport systems to
>- it runs in the air (over street level) NONONONONONO!!!!!
>- it frees the street for human uses true
>- when you ride it, you see outdoors, true, but not at eye-level
>but I think it's more vulnerable to the weather than a metro. probably so
decide right now never to build another one of the damn things. It's
true that newer technology is better in this respect than older stuff,
but it will never be acceptable. (Well, ok, some breakthrough in materials
that allowed the construction of spider-web thin supports for the tracks
(or whatever) might change the picture somewhat, but it still is not
the right way to do it. If you need above-ground transport, trams are
the way to go. If there's too much traffic from the trams to be acceptable,
then you HAVE to build a metro, no matter what the cost. If there's that
much traffic, the cost is not unreasonable (per rider).)
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J.H. Crawford Carfree Cities