Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The full cost of automobile transportation

When most people think about the costs associated with driving, they think about the price of the car, and the price of fuel. If they really think about it they include the cost of insurance and registration. What they don't consider are all of the other costs of the automobile transportation system, costs that are usually paid by everyone, not just auto owners.

Todd Litman is the executive director of the Victoria Transport Policy Institute, a source of good information on alternative transportation options, including the TDM Encyclopedia. He's written an excellent article on these hidden costs of auto dependency:
According to the U.S. Consumer Expenditure Survey, in 2008 U.S. motorists spent on average approximately $2,700 per vehicle on ownership expenses (purchase, registration, insurance, etc.) and $1,400 on fuel and oil, about $4,100 in total. That year, governments spent $181 billion to build and maintain roadways (more if you include traffic services such as policing and emergency response), or about $730 annually per registered motor vehicle. Less than half of these roadway expenses are paid by motor vehicle user fees, the rest are borne through general taxes.

A typical urban parking space costs $5,000 to $25,000 to construct, resulting in $500 to $1,500 in annualized construction and operating costs. There are estimated to be at least three off-street parking spaces per vehicle worth about $3,000 annually in total per vehicle. This indicates that most vehicles are worth less than the road and parking infrastructure required for their use. For each dollar that a motorist spends on their vehicle, governments, businesses and consumers must spend at least another dollar to provide roads and parking facilities for their use.
Remember that the next time someone says that cyclists don't pay their way. Through general taxes we pay for roads, parking, and all the other hidden costs of auto dependency. What's the solution? Todd has some thoughts:
I am not suggesting that everybody must give up driving altogether. My research and my personal experience indicate that the best transport system is multi-modal: good walking and cycling conditions; good public transit, carsharing and taxi services; and mixed land use to minimize the distances people must travel to reach common services and activities. This is no more "anti-automobile" than a healthy diet is "anti-food," it lets users choose the best mode for each trip.
From BikePortland.

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