Comment 25982

By seancb (registered) - website | Posted July 17, 2008 at 20:13:30

"I think you're missing just how much you rely on that road network, even if you don't drive on it. Every product you buy, save those that are manufactured on the spot (e.g. baked goods) is transported to you by road. "

To help your argument, the raw materials for those baked goods are also transported largely by roads ;-) but that is all part of the problem with our system.

We should be transporting more goods by rail. But because rail relies on private ownership and maintenance of the lines, it comes out as more expensive for many types of transport.

The level of public subsidy dumped into roads is astronomical. And it is entirely imbalanced. Yes, trucks need roads. And non car owners need roads. But take this example: Six continuous lanes, plus three lanes worth of paved shoulder, built, maintained, ploughed, resurfaced, and for what? For two waves of traffic each weekday that is comprised mainly of single occupancy vehicles. It is absolutely unnecessary for this scale of infrastructure to be built for cyclists, buses and transport. This ridiculous outlay of cash is to serve the almighty right to drive by yourself to and from work. How about this? An extreme case but not uncommon in North america. And this is in our back yard (and stretches for quite a few kilometres through toronto): SIXTEEN LANES! Is this necessary to get lettuce to our supermarkets?

Yes, we all use the roads but there is no doubt that the public expenditure is skewed heavily in favour of private automobile drivers.

How about parking? Public land is "rented" to drivers for parking at a ridiculously small rate per square foot. Businesses that provide free parking to customers and employees spend an awful lot on providing that land, costs passed on in higher prices and lower wages - spread evenly across even the non-driving members of their teams of employees and shoppers - again the transit/pedestrian/cyclist contingent pays more than their fare share for that lettuce.

Here's another small part: EMS services. Providing help to injured parties in motor vehicle accidents is not cheap, and we all bear that burden whether we drive or not.

Keeping automobile prices within reach is possible because of tax incentives and bail outs of large auto manufacturers.

Car users pay gas tax - but non automobile users pay gas tax in a roundabout way, the same way they need roads in a roundabout way: prices paid for goods include cost of transportation just as they inherently include a need for transportation infrastructure.

So, yes we all use roads and need roads but the cost of the infrastructure balloons when you have to build it to support single occupancy vehicles. If we only had to build to support buses, bikes and feet, the cost would be significantly different.

This is not to say I agree with free transit, but I do believe that it is an essential public service and as such should be subsidized in a similar manner to any other essential service. Ideally, we'd re-structure the tax system to account for the imbalance slightly better. So how do we do this? Do we increase the cost of car ownership through special taxes? or do we decrease the cost of alternative modes of transportation? Either way, the majority of road users will scream bloody murder because they are losing their invisible subsidies...

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