Public transport (was: sprawl & health)
- Patrick J McDonough wrote:
> The opposition is from the usualIn all discussions of sprawl, I
> suspects.. Most are libertarian
> ideologues or anti-transit zealots
> paid directly or indirectly by the
> highway lobby..
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
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.