This Earth Day, millions of people around the world, from Amman, Jordan, to Brainerd, will make a statement about the impact of their transport choices by participating in a "Car Free Day," foregoing their personal cars in favor of walking, bicycles, or public transit.
Do we know the full cost of transit choices to our environment and communities, to our health and quality of life? Many people think of public transit as an expense to taxpayers, but don't consider automobile subsidies. As taxpayers, we have spent vastly greater amounts subsidizing automobile centered development.
Up to 40 percent of road construction and maintenance costs are not covered by auto user fees and taxes. Eighty percent of the U.S. consumption of 20 million barrels per day of oil goes for transportation, most of it for private automobiles. Gas prices at the pump don't include the $9 billion a year in federal tax subsidies to the oil industry, the $30 billion annual cost of defending Middle East oil supplies during peacetime (CBO estimate), or the $100+ billion cost of each Gulf War (or the price paid in blood, lives, and political damage). Pollutants from transport exhaust are positively associated with cardiovascular disease, respiratory diseases, asthma hospitalizations, and reduced lung function. Increasing congestion has led to increased travel times, stress, noise, and loss of productive time.
The total direct and indirect costs of automobiles and automobile-centered sprawl include the costs of air and water pollution, accidents, municipal services, farmland and natural habitat loss, congestion, noise, property value impacts, aesthetics, acid deposition, and global climate change. Better planning, more fuel efficient vehicles, and cleaner forms of transportation could enhance our quality of life, helping us live more productive, healthier lives, and improving the environmental health of our communities and planet.
Brainerd Area Coalition for Peace
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