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Jan 29 / Andy

Complete cost of roads (preview)

MoneyI want to give you a preview of the next article, whose topic will be one of the core topics this website focuses on: the complete cost of roads and driving.

As I said in the last post, roads come nowhere near paying for themselves. Only a small percentage of their construction, operation, and maintenance is paid for by user fees (for example tolls, car registration, gas tax, and other fees only paid by drivers). The rest is paid for by general funds. This is really okay! Lots and lots of other things our government pays for are not based on how much money they generate… like parks (surely parking fees don’t cover their expenses) or a police force or our education systems. This is okay. It is a decision that we have made. We’ve decided that we want to pay for these services, not because they are revenue makers, but because they are something we want 0ur society to enjoy.

One of the main arguments against transit, however, is that it doesn’t pay for itself. I argue, and like I said this will be a core topic of this blog, that it is unfair to hold mass transit to a different standard than that to which we hold personal cars and everything that comes with them. If you are going to include every direct, indirect, and other expense in the estimation of the financial performance of mass transit, do not fail to recognize all of the costs, wherever they are incurred, of pervasive personal auto ownership (including gas, registration, environmental, cost of trade, political, health, etc.).

One of the main goals of this blog will be to compare the costs and benefits of all of our myriad options for mobility and shaping our community. Think about some of the costs associated with driving that we don’t usually recognize. A few are: health costs from sitting in your car instead of walking or biking, environmental costs of pollution from using fossil fuels, economic/political costs of importing oil from countries that don’t really like us. The list goes on. And to be fair, it goes on for mass transit too!

I want to emphasize that if we are going to analyze these two methods fairly, we must include all of the costs. Still, transit will become evident as the preferred alternative. It is the least costly and has more benefits. I’ll delve into some of these in the next post and I invite you to participate in the comments section. Thanks!