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Public transport (was: sprawl & health)

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  • turpin
    ... In all discussions of sprawl, I always emphasize the fact that it results from massive, public subsidy. The suburbanites get their free ride from the
    Message 1 of 5 , Aug 30, 2003
      Patrick J McDonough wrote:
      > The opposition is from the usual
      > suspects.. Most are libertarian
      > ideologues or anti-transit zealots
      > paid directly or indirectly by the
      > highway lobby..

      In all discussions of sprawl, I
      always emphasize the fact that it
      results from massive, public
      subsidy. The suburbanites get
      their "free ride" from the state
      and city taxpayers who underwrite
      this lifestyle with roads, signals,
      traffic policing, and emergency
      services. This cost-shifting is
      especially apparent when suburbanites
      move out of cities to escape their
      tax burden, yet daily commute on
      roads largely funded by city taxes.
      This tax burden is bankrupting state
      and city budgets.

      The automobile infrastructure that
      supports sprawl is the largest
      public transportation system ever
      built. Anyone who supports this
      kind of government largesse is
      no libertarian. A libertarian
      calls for an end to government
      roads, or at least, insists that
      auto roads are funded entirely
      from fees on fuel and vehicles,
      rather than from general tax
      revenues. Any mechanism that
      attaches the cost of driving to
      the decision to drive would
      severely hamper sprawl and its
      lifestyle.

      Most critics of sprawl approach
      the problem backwards. Instead of
      targeting the cause of the problem
      -- the huge subsidy for driving --
      they propose the construction of
      alternate public transport schemes.
      Get rid of the driving subsidy, and
      alternate transport will start to
      look much more attractive to people.
      Continue to subsidize automobile
      use, and it will be very hard to pry
      people from their cars.

      On a level playing field, where
      every mode of transport is required
      to fund itself rather than
      operating from the public coffers,
      automobiles will not fare well. The
      well-known economies for other modes
      of transport would become apparent
      to people, as they make individual
      decisions about how to get around.
      When these decisions are made from
      their own pocketbook, driving will
      start to seem a huge expense, rather
      than a freeing capability. But that
      won't happen until we level the
      playing field. As long as each driver
      has a "free" road, roads will be
      overbuilt and overused.
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