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Retrospective: Would America Have Been Automobilized in a Free Ma rket?

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  • Lanyon, Ryan
    Message 1 of 1 , May 7, 2004
      Cross-posted from Auto-Free Ottawa:

      > http://tinyurl.com/2zgxh
      > [Letter published by the New York Times, Sunday, February 10, 1985.]
      > To the Editor:
      > Prof. Ragaei El Mallakhs Jan. 20 letter criticizes William Safires
      > proposal to increase gasoline taxes as contradicting Mr. Safires
      > free-market approach.
      > However, an analysis of direct governmental subsidies to the automobile
      > reveals that most state and local governments would have to raise
      > gasoline taxes by at least 40 cents a gallon to cover the costs of
      > police and fire department services to the automobile, the very
      > expensive drains necessitated by all that concrete surface, the
      > elongation of sewer, water and public lighting systems, etc.
      > In most suburban communities, at least 40 percent of police work is
      > directly related to automobiles, as is one-sixth of fire department runs
      > prying people out of wrecks, washing down the pavement after a wreck,
      > etc. None of this is covered by gasoline or weight taxes.
      > The cost of drainage is significantly increased by the roads and parking
      > lots required for the automobile peak storm-water flow can be increased
      > by as much as 10 times by paving terrain that previously held storm
      > water or released it slowly. Drain construction is usually about 40
      > percent of the cost of road building. Most drains are financed out of
      > the local property tax. Occasionally, the Army Corps of Engineers has to
      > solve downstream flooding problems caused by too much pavement in a
      > river watershed.
      > The cost of constructing sanitary sewers is twice as high in the
      > automobile-oriented suburb as it is in a transit-oriented urban
      > community. This is because automobiles require everything to be spread
      > out. Some suburban communities devote as much as 4,000 square feet of
      > paved road and parking surface to each automobile.
      > Even the total cost of roads is not paid out of gasoline and weight
      > taxes. Most local governments need to finance road maintenance and
      > repairs out of general revenues. Some have allowed them to deteriorate.
      > Harder to measure, but nonetheless real, are the costs to society of:
      > -Longer food chains as farms on the metropolitan fringe are displaced
      > by sprawl.
      > -Structural unemployment because new jobs in suburbia are inaccessible
      > to job seekers without automobiles.
      > -Premature obsolescence of streetcar-era neighborhoods whose
      > compactness cannot accommodate automobiles.
      > -The oil-crunch-induced world-wide stagflation [of the mid-1980s],
      > caused in part by a fourfold increase in U.S. oil imports in the nine
      > years after domestic oil extraction peaked in 1970. (This was just a
      > preview of the turn-of-the-century crunch when world oil extraction
      > starts its decline. Oil extraction in the Soviet Union, the worlds
      > largest extractor, is already declining.)
      > A free-market approach to automobilization wouldve made for a different
      > world.
      > JAMES A. BUSH
      > Detroit, Jan. 25, 1985
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