Monday, April 1, 2013

Investing to Save

Chicago wants 650 miles of segregated bike lanes by 2020.  NYC has a goal of 1800 miles by 2030.  London has budgeted spending $1.4 billion over the next decade, Toronto will spend $500 million over the next two years, and the USDOT is finally getting into the act

That's a lot of cheddar.  These cities must like throwing it around willy nilly... au contraire.  There is method to the madness.  They're spending now to save later.  Save on what?  Well, first there is personal mobility costs considering the average cost to own and operate a car for one year hovers around $9,000.  Second, getting people out of cars puts less stress on roads, meaning less potholes, less reconstruction, etc.  Third, getting people out of cars is healthier for cardiovascular system let alone the damage done by vehicular collisions (considering 34,000 people died on roads in 2012 and about a million are injured each year).  Fourth, getting people out of cars reduces congestion and therefore the costs associated with 1) delays and 2) pollution and particulate matter in the air.

As far as I know, the city of Copenhagen has gone the furthest putting monetary values to these various auxiliary and external costs.  They found for each mile by bicycle generates 1.22 DKK in net value, whereas for each mile driven there is a .69 DKK net social loss.  In other words, these cities are following CPH's path and not just spending, but actually investing.  Reducing car travel and car dependence empowers the people, enables choice:  of how to get around, but also what to do with the extra money in their pocket.  Invest it?  Start a business?  Save it?  Afford better housing?  Spend it?  Any of these things is better than where it goes due to infrastructurally-coerced car dependence.

Closer to home, we have bike plan.  There is also a complete streets plan.  And a downtown plan.  And a comprehensive plan.  Adding the costs of each of those consulting fees together, the city of Dallas could have a few dozen miles of segregated bike lanes.  Instead, we get together with NCTCOG for ribbon cuttings on newly opened trails which follow the antiquated Robert Moses model of segregating modes of transportation.  By doing so, the bikes on trails model ensures that the bikes are not actually part of the street network and therefore not adapted to real estate the market.  It dilutes rather than concentrates.  Therefore, Dallas doesn't capture the value generated by increased local business through bicycle ridership.

One form of transportation must always be sacrificed. It's either car-dependence or legitimate choice in all modes including cars, which will always find their place.  The choice is simple really: invest to save or spend to spend some more and go broke (or stay broke).