Hmmm??! Appears There Is No Consensus

Yesterday I pointed out that anti-idling bylaws did nothing to cure carbon emissions and they were an empty political gesture.  I think dumb may have come up too.  I further postulated that the cost to stop and then accelerate back to normal speeds is where the emission costs live.  Worse, that is where my gas budget gets consumed.

Some do not agree.  The some generally hold feeling rather than facts, and I don’t find that very compelling.  Their principal belief is that if driving becomes more difficult people will choose more eco-friendly methods.

Like congestion will force people to use bicycles, walk or possibly to use public transit.  A poorly conceived idea.  While I do not dismiss this as impossible, I think the problem is not so simple.  The facts do not support the belief.

I have recently talked about  belief derived reality and how those structures may be flawed.  This is another of them.  If you start with the belief that cars are bad, then you reach an untenable conclusion.  Starting with the purpose to be achieved and the variables that exist independently of opinion you get something else entirely.

First, the anti-car belief assumes, without evidence, that anyone could get where they are going, conveniently enough, using the alternate methods.  That is not quite true.  The belief further supposes that all people are in the same circumstance.  Again wrong.

For example, walking or biking is fine if you have time.  But what did you steal the time from?  Your children?  Your sleep?  Other leisure? Study?  Maybe work?  Time is like money.  You can only spend a given dollar or hour once.

Perhaps it replaces exercise time and if so it is an acceptable solution.

Walking from Pickering to downtown Toronto seems excessive so we must assume that public transit would be the choice there.  Again public transit is fine under some circumstances.  Principally that, the stations are close enough to the beginning and end of the journey.  If they are not, then the time issue reappears.  Public transit, in general, is acceptable if run well and economically.  Even then it is too rigid for many people and too time consuming for others.

So walking, biking and public transit are reasonable solutions for some, but probably not all.  What of those who move about with their work?  Lawyer to the courthouse or a meeting.  Executive to another store.  Salesman.  Student.  and more.  Some can use public transit some of the time, but not all the time.  In places other than than large urban centers, for time sensitive travel public transit is inadequate.

There are the others who must use the roads and would benefit from less congestion.  Not necessarily fewer cars, but better flow.  Presumably the air quality improves if they save time on the road.  Fewer engine hours.

These other people include:

  • All those who do not have access to public transit for part of their journey.
  • Those who usually use public transit, but just for today they need to buy groceries.
  • Commercial vehicles like transports, local delivery and the buses themselves.
  • All those in construction and like trades.  You cannot carry the tools on a bus.
  • Anyone with more than about 10 kg of material to move.  Computer, catalogs, and such
  • Emergency vehicles.  Firemen do not take the bus to a fire.
  • Persons with disabilities.
  • People who do not feel comfortable walking or biking in winter weather.

People will use public transit if it works for them and people will walk or bike too.  Perhaps if public transit was an attractive choice instead of a heavily subsidized operation, running inconvenient schedules and populated with the occasional surly driver and more than a few drug addled or drunk passengers.  It is better to draw customers to you with good and well priced service as opposed to forcing them to deal with you.

Those that would use transit are however, only a share of the total and quite possibly a small share.  My guess and I emphasize guess, is that you could not move more than 30% or so of the folks away from cars and most of them will not make the step without incentives, preferably positive incentives.

Suppose instead, public transit were to be free.  Only a fraction of it is paid for with fares now,  so why not go all the way.  There could well be offsetting savings.  No new parking garages, fewer meter enforcement costs, less wear and tear on streets.

The current anti-car craze is poorly conceived.  The cost of congestion, in terms both of money and emissions, is large, increasing and at least partly unnecessary.

Time to put the Flavor-Aid away.  (Kool-Aid was not used in Jamestown.  You could look it up.)

Don Shaughnessy is a retired partner in an international accounting firm and is presently with The Protectors Group, a large personal insurance, employee benefits and investment agency in Peterborough Ontario.  |  Twitter @DonShaughnessy  |  Follow by email at moneyFYI

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