Thursday, April 22, 2010

Highway Dependence Begets Auto-Dependence, What's the Cost?

Well in NYC, the City and its residents save $19 billion annually.

The $19 billion number is a quick, conservative estimate that almost surely understates the savings New Yorkers reap by not driving. The study estimates that, per capita, New Yorkers drive nine miles per day. It then multiplies that figure by the national average cost of operating a vehicle, 40 cents per mile. Compare that total -- how much New Yorkers spend on driving, per capita -- to the national average, and you get $19 billion in savings.

Here's why that's a conservative estimate. The study calculated average VMT rates in New York City by distributing the average daily distance driven in the entire metropolitan region according to the city's vehicle ownership rates. If New York City car owners drive less often than their Suffolk County counterparts, or drive shorter distances when they do -- both reasonable assumptions -- then nine miles per day overshoots the mark. Moreover, the cost of driving is almost certainly higher in New York than it is nationally, due to elevated costs for parking, insurance, and gasoline. In other words, it's likely that New Yorkers save much more than $19 billion.

Cities (and larger entities) spend money on transportation and its infrastructure every single year, no matter the form. If you spend it on the kind that supports high quality dense, urban living that puts more money in the pockets of your citizenry who can then spend their savings how they choose.

You want to know why housing is more expensive there? Reason 1: the Car has less impact on livability, and Reason 2: those savings can then be spent on better housing closer to activity centers, which are always in high demand no matter the age. If economics are driven by emotion, we WANT to be near other people.

Activity hubs are where fame, fortune, and females can be found, which is why Bill Shakespeare moved to the squalor of 16th century London, hardly the paragon of livability compared to modern city standards. Due to advances in industry and sanitation our cities are no longer disease ridden, filthy mires. Imagine how valuable the land will be when we remove all of the other barriers to livability, such as intra-city highways.

I tweeted about this yesterday when reading about some American Dream Coalition. These are the kind of people so intellectually bankrupt that they apparently think the American Revolution, Civil War, and World Wars were fought for the single family home and two-car garage. Of course, none of those things existed.

What they don't understand is that the American Dream is about opportunity which is defined by and had only through CHOICE, fundamental to market economies and capitalism, no? The American Dream Coalition wants to shackle everyone to home mortgages and car payments. Why? Well, because they are made up of car companies, oil and gas companies, the dinosaurs of the real estate industry (ReMAX and Century 21s of the world) and the highway lobby.

In their world, you are coppertop. They want to suck the life out of you and every city they can touch.

I'm going to start the horse and buggy coalition. WE NEED TO BAIL OUT THE HORSE AND BUGGY INDUSTRY! What will happen to those jobs?! Oh sweet despair and dismay! I can't live without you.

Perhaps someday we too can get out of the stone ages of stupidity and begin competing with the global cities who understand a thing about real economic development.