Cars Provide Social Benefits Too

When the Antiplanner travels around the country, I often meet people critical of their local transit systems. “The buses/trains are empty most of the time,” they say. “I saw a bus this morning with only one passenger on board.” “They put advertising over the windows so we can’t see in to see how empty they really are.”


Socially beneficial transit? Flickr photo by David Wilson.

People shouldn’t complain about empty transit vehicles, says transit expert Jarrett Walker. People “make it sound like because transit systems run empty buses that means they’re failing,” says Walker. In fact, those empty buses are serving a socially beneficial function: they “are valued for the lifeline access they provide for the isolated senior,” disabled person, or other people who lack access to an automobile.

British Columbia transit advocate Todd Litman made the same argument in 2008 when the Cato Institute published the Antiplanner’s paper showing that transit doesn’t save energy or reduce greenhouse gas emissions. We should only count the energy-saving benefits of transit, said Litman, during rush hour, when the transit vehicles are relatively full. During the rest of the day, transit provides other benefits (“parking cost savings, consumer savings, basic mobility for non-drivers”) and so shouldn’t be judged based on its energy cost.

This is a brilliant argument and one that deserves to be more widely heard–so long as it is understood that it applies equally well to automobiles as to transit. If you are driving a car with three other people in it, congratulations: you are saving a huge amount of energy over what you would be using if the four of you were riding transit. On the other hand, if you are alone in your car, congratulations: you are performing socially beneficial functions such as increasing your work productivity, getting your kids safely to school, or saving your family money at a supermarket or supercenter.

Some people might argue that for you to drive to work or to a grocery store isn’t “socially beneficial” because you are the main beneficiary. But the same is true for those non-drivers who take transit. When you think about it, your employers benefit from your work more than you do, or they wouldn’t pay you to do it; and whoever hires or buys products from your employers benefit as well. Similarly, your grocer benefits when you shop there, and your neighbors benefit when you buy things that they like because it gives the grocer an extra incentive to keep those things in stock.

You can use this kind of argument to argue for endless multipliers that can spin any benefit-cost analysis out of control. But the basic point is that there is no reason to think that the social benefits of mobility for people who lack cars are any greater than for people who have cars.

While mobility has social benefits, it also has costs, and it is easily possible that those costs can exceed the benefits. Until true self-driving cars become available, at the very least we know that almost every car on the road has someone inside who is engaged in socially useful travel (the main exceptions being people traveling to commit a crime). We don’t know that with transit vehicles: if the only occupant is the driver, and the driver’s only function is to move other people, there is no social benefit.

Au contraire, says Walker: the social benefit comes from giving people who lack cars the option of transportation even if they don’t use it. “Social benefits of public transport,” says Walker, “tend to be based on the severity of need among certain population groups, rather than the level of patronage to be gained by meeting this need.”

The problem with this claim is that it offers no useful measure of success or net benefits. Taken to extremes, you could argue that the emptier the transit system is, the more socially beneficial it is.

In fact, we have to have a way to consider costs. We know that people driving their cars are paying most of the costs of their travel–generally, well over 90 percent of the roughly 25 cent cost per passenger mile. But transit riders pay on average only about 25 percent of the costs of their travel, which in 2011 averaged 95 cents per passenger mile. Even socially beneficial travel isn’t worth it if the costs are too high.

Walker and Litman seem willfully ignorant of the political dynamics that drive transit agencies. By Walker’s analysis, the most socially beneficial transit is that serving the inner city, where most people who lack access to autos live. But transit agencies are driven to provide transit to the suburbs where people pay more taxes and are more likely to vote, while they cut back on transit service to inner cities. As a result, according to APTA data, the average number of people on a transit bus has declined by nearly 30 percent since 1977 (see tables 3 and 8).

It is likely that cuts to inner-city transit service are partly responsible for the continuing growth in auto ownership. According to the Census Bureau, 91 percent of all households have one or more cars. The Census Bureau also reports that 21 percent of workers who live in a household with no cars nevertheless drive alone to work and 12 percent carpool, so transit (which carries 41 percent of such people to work) isn’t the only or even the most convenient option for people who lack cars.

Transit agencies could save energy and provide more social benefits by withdrawing from the suburbs and focusing on urban cores, but that wouldn’t be good for their budgets. Simply calling something socially beneficial is meaningless unless you also consider the costs and offer some kind of incentive for transit agencies to provide those social benefits.

Here are a few facts. In 2011, according to table 1.8 of the Energy Information Agency’s Monthly Energy Report, the average “short wheelbase car” got 23.1 MPG in 2011 while “long wheelbase” (longer than 121 inches) cars got 17.1 mpg. According to the Federal Highway Administration, short-wheelbase cars did 77 percent of “light-duty” driving, so the overall average was about 21.72 mpg or 5,850 BTUs per vehicle mile.

Table 16 of the 2009 National Household Travel Survey reports average occupancies of 1.67 per car, so cars used an average of about 3,500 BTUs per passenger mile. According to the Antiplanner’s calculations based on the 2011 National Transit Database, transit systems in just 21 out of 373 urbanized areas used less than 3,500 BTUs per passenger mile. If you are driving in an average car with two people, then transit in only 10 urban areas is more efficient than your car; if three people, then only one urban area’s transit system is more efficient than your car. That system (Martz Trailways in Wilkes Barre, PA) offers exclusively commuter-bus service, meaning it doesn’t often have empty vehicles.

In the end, transit advocates can’t have it both ways. If the goal of transit is to save energy, then it shouldn’t be running vehicles to areas and at times when they will be nearly empty. If the goal is to provide socially useful transportation, then advocates need to realize that automobiles also provide such transportation, generally at a much lower cost than transit.

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31 thoughts on “Cars Provide Social Benefits Too

  1. OFP2003

    I had to go peruse the Walker article, much like the Krugman article mentioned in a previous blog, I couldn’t believe what you wrote at face value. And yet it was true!

    Unfortunately, Walker is a right-brain emotional-feeler and probably can’t comprehend your left brain logical facts you presented. Perhaps if you emphasized how you felt about wasting poor-elderly people’s money on empty transit – then critics like Walker would sympathize.

  2. Frank

    “at the very least we know that almost every car on the road has someone inside who is engaged in socially useful travel”

    But if I drive my car to a dispersed campsite on USFS land, there is no social benefit, just parasitism. Right?

  3. Fred_Z

    Same old stuff, namely people trying to weasel out of the revealed truth of a free market. Righties do it with crony capitalism, which is really a sort of socialist fascism. Lefties do it with random emotionally induced fads like global warming or transit and trains. The worst are the ones where the interests of the lunatic left and the corrupt right come together, namely a railed transit megaproject.

    Once again, the only possible measure of the ‘benefit’ of something is to see what people will actually give up for it. We have created a perfect real desire measuring device, money, and we still refuse to use it.

    ‘social benefit’ is a lie, a fraud, a non existent thing whose only real meaning ‘something that I like and want to spend your money to get’.

  4. prk166

    Mr. Walker doesn’t seem to understand that if we need to get the disabled and elderly around, there are far more useful ways of doing it than running large empty buses and trains all over the place. He doesn’t seem to understand that if they’re empty, well, chances are that those disabled and elderly aren’t riding them either. And worst of all, he doesn’t seem to have heard of paratransit.

  5. msetty

    I’m going to let my associate in transit planning, Jarrett Walker, reply to the stupid screeds here if he can spare his valuable time.

    But I’ll just point out perhaps the dumbest, most ignorant thing The Antiplanner has ever said yet:

    “Walker and Litman seem willfully ignorant of the political dynamics that drive transit agencies.”

    Well, no. Mr. Walker is in extreme demand as a consultant, and is steadily gaining a strong following in the transit industry thanks to his blog and book. Meanwhile The Antiplanner leads the rear guard of the auto apologetics movement.

  6. afreeman

    Walker:
    “I’m very suspicious whenever something that is presented as technical analysis contains value judgments,” he said. “You don’t want me as a consultant to fly in to your community and tell you who you are and what you want your transit system to be. Ridership versus coverage is one of those questions that’s designed to bring out the community’s own values. It has no technical answer.”

    My community, the extreme in holier-than-thou on the environment and carbon neutrality (far from one and the same), had its transit dollars run low, clarified its de facto values so they could be openly debated, and decided to put the money where its mouth was.

    Walker, also points out in his single phrase— ‘end up’— the eternally shifting sands of time, consequence, and responsibility for social knots such as this:

    “And yet you have people who have fairly limited options that end up aging in place in a mobile home out in the desert.”

  7. MJ

    We should only count the energy-saving benefits of transit, said Litman, during rush hour, when the transit vehicles are relatively full.

    That is dishonest accounting, pure and simple. Not surprising coming from Litman, but unacceptable practice nonetheless.

    During the rest of the day, transit provides other benefits (“parking cost savings, consumer savings, basic mobility for non-drivers”) and so shouldn’t be judged based on its energy cost.

    Those are private benefits, not social. I do not benefit from someone else not paying for parking. And whatever benefits they do receive are at least partly offset by the cost of paying for their transit trip. Transit is also not the only way to provide basic mobility for those who (presumably not by choice) do not own a car. Let’s try subsidizing the consumer instead of the producer and see how they respond.

  8. MJ

    The policies they advocate have a political tin ear and ignore how administrative decisions actually get made. Walker legitimately does not understand why his proposed solutions do not get implemented. He thinks it is just because the “smart” people are not in charge, ignoring the incentives facing decision makers. Randal points to one type of incentive which channels resources away from where they might be best deployed. There are many others.

  9. C. P. Zilliacus

    msetty wrote:

    But I’ll just point out perhaps the dumbest, most ignorant thing The Antiplanner has ever said yet:

    Mr. Setty, you demean yourself with comments like the above.

    I am not asking you to agree with Randal or me or anyone else. But can’t we have a professional discussion of these issues without saying things like “dumbest” and “most ignorant thing?”

  10. C. P. Zilliacus

    The Antiplanner wrote:

    People “make it sound like because transit systems run empty buses that means they’re failing,” says Walker. In fact, those empty buses are serving a socially beneficial function: they “are valued for the lifeline access they provide for the isolated senior,” disabled person, or other people who lack access to an automobile.

    I have no problem supporting transit with my tax dollars – even transit that runs during off-peak commute times. At least in my part of the world, there are patrons on transit in these off-peak times. Can it be done in a less-expensive way? I think the answer is yes.

    I do wish the U.S. federal government would provide (and mandate for state and local government agencies) much better transparency showing where the dollars that subsidize transit com from, and how they are spent.

  11. C. P. Zilliacus

    The Antiplanner also wrote:

    This is a brilliant argument and one that deserves to be more widely heard–so long as it is understood that it applies equally well to automobiles as to transit. If you are driving a car with three other people in it, congratulations: you are saving a huge amount of energy over what you would be using if the four of you were riding transit. On the other hand, if you are alone in your car, congratulations: you are performing socially beneficial functions such as increasing your work productivity, getting your kids safely to school, or saving your family money at a supermarket or supercenter.

    If you are driving a motor vehicle using fuel purchased in the United States for on-highway use, then you are also supporting transit, at least in terms of capital subsidies at the federal level, and in many states also at the state, regional or local (county/municipal) level for capital and operating subsidies.

  12. Fred_Z

    After re-reading the article and the comments, I found it odd that all of you seem to be working from the unstated but critical assumption that bus transit is a government thing. Why is that? Why do municipalities mostly insist on bus transit monopolies? Why are such monopolies less evil than Standard Oil?

    Why can’t Joe the driver buy a bus and start picking people up at bus stops and compete for customers by offering good service, coffee, toilet, nice buses, maybe none of that, just super-cheap fares, whatever. Can you even imagine such choices being offered you by a civil servant running a bus operation?

  13. Dan

    Why can’t Joe the driver buy a bus and start picking people

    Because Joe is not rich and people aren’t lining up to lend him money. He must have excellent credit to get a loan for easily five figures, must do heavy maintenance if he can only buy used, has to hire someone to do his books, have a second bus when the first one is down, figure out what to do when another business or g–ess forbid another corporation undercuts him…and so much more on. This is the USA in the 21st century. You just can’t be average Joe and rise – the odds are long.

    DS

  14. Sandy Teal

    Even with this post, the Antiplanner is vastly underselling the social and personal benefits of cars. Life is just so vastly different with access to a car (with the exception of Manhatten and a few other city centers). Cars provide just so many more options for shopping, recreation, kids, social interaction with friends and family, etc.

    Life with access to a car can be greatly enhanced by work commuting on public transit. That is why most US transit is focused on transit. Providing transportation for the disabled and elderly and poor is a laudable goal too. Empty buses do none of that.

    Think about how limited life would be without a car. Could you go to family gatherings? Could you bring food to family gatherings? Could you stay late social events? Could you attend church on Sunday morning? Could you go to the beach or mountains? Could you shop sales or interesting stores? Could you take your kids to soccer? Could your kids sleep over? Even with a great transportation system, one transfer is a big delay and two transfers is immense.

    My point is that cars provide an immense value of options and freedom, and that is way undervalued in “anti-car” discussions. Even the Antiplanner often just argues on the wrong ground. I think it is productive to discuss whether Americans drive heavier cars than than necessary and whether too much parking is forced by zoning, but there is huge non-monetary cost in forcing people to not have cars.

  15. gecko55

    “Could you go to family gatherings? Could you bring food to family gatherings? Could you stay late social events? Could you attend church on Sunday morning? Could you go to the beach or mountains? Could you shop sales or interesting stores? Could you take your kids to soccer? Could your kids sleep over? Even with a great transportation system, one transfer is a big delay and two transfers is immense.”

    In der Schweiz where I live, all of the above, and more, is completely possible, and pleasant, via public transportation. (With the exception of going to the beach.) And two transfers does mean an “immense” delay. None at all in fact since the schedules are synchronised.

  16. msetty

    CPZ, huh? “Professional” discussion?? On this blog? With the likes of Frank, Metrosucks and similar trolls and namecallers?? Have you considered stand up comedy?

    CPZ, I certainly don’t expect Randal or you or most of the others on this blog to agree with me, but making the statement that Walker doesn’t understand the political dynamics of transit systems WAS dumb and ignorant. More to the point, and obvious to anyone paying closer attention than Randal did, that Jarrett’s understanding is much better than a lot of folks. Even if you’re “anti-transit” you should read his book.

    Working as a transit consultant for 25 years, Jarrett has certainly come to understand the political dynamics of transit boards and systems. And he clearly is working to improve transit services and decision-making, and is motivated by more than simply getting the billings out on time, unlike too often many other firms in the transit consulting business.

  17. msetty

    gecko55, thanks for mentioning what is possible despite the negativity towards transit at this blog.

    But of course most of the posters on this blog are opposed to developing ubiquitiously useful transit systems such as in Switzerland, starting with The Antiplanner. You see, we’re too “decentralized” and “low density” and any other number of alleged conditions that make the US ill-suited to quality transit. Never mind that Switzerland is highly decentralized, a condition overcome with the ubiquitous timed connections at hundreds of hubs around the country, as you describe.

    Never mind that the US has dozens of major regions more densely populated than Switzerland (and Canton Zurich), and where Swiss transit planning principles applied could lead to dramatic ridership increases and greatly improved economic performance as well.

  18. transitboy

    A couple of comments:

    Sandy Teal – these comments are reminiscent of what I always here from people in LA – “there’s no transit in LA”. In most major cities in the United States transit operates 24 hours per day, 7 days per week, so yes, you can go to family gatherings, church, etc. The fact that you may personally find transit distasteful does not mean it does not exist. Many people in LA, San Diego, Honolulu, and other places also routinely take transit to the beach. If you want to go out of town, rent a car. In fact, with the thousands of dollars you will save not having a car take a vacation to Europe.

    prk166 – these comments apparently come from someone with no knowledge of how expensive paratransit is. Paratransit costs $30 or more per trip to provide versus less than $2 on transit. No wonder transit agencies are trying to get out of providing it.

    Re the picture – it’s easy to get a picture of an empty transit vehicle. Go to the end of the line; nobody will be on board because it is the end of the line! It doesn’t mean people are not riding it elsewhere.

    Re driving by yourself: certainly you are personally benefiting when you drive yourself. You are certainly not socially benefiting anybody because you are 1) adding marginal air pollution (riding transit is not adding air pollution as the bus or train would operate anyway); 2) increasing congestion on roads; and 3) increasing congestion in parking lots, amongst other things.

    You may not be personally benefiting if you are driving yourself. Perhaps your city is made up of a city council consisting of the anti-transit people commenting on this site. Because of them, your city no longer has transit service. Although you are poor, you have to spend $2-3,000 per year on your automobile so you can exist. You don’t eat much and you’re clothes are falling apart, but you have no other choice. I never hear the Antiplanner or anybody else ever talk about the financial hardship that owning a car can cause the poor.

    One final comment: ever ride a taxi? Then you know how expensive alternatives to transit can be. Unless we want to be like the developing world and pay drivers $2 per hour or less to drive unsafe and overcrowded vehicles, then I don’t see jitneys ever being a substitute for transit.

  19. Dan

    “there’s no transit in LA”. In most major cities in the United States transit operates 24 hours per day, 7 days per week, so yes, you can go to family gatherings, church, etc. The fact that you may personally find transit distasteful does not mean it does not exist.

    Our estimates imply that the total congestion relief benefit of operating the Los Angeles
    transit system is between $1.2 billion to $4.1 billion per year, or $1.20 to $4.10 per peak-hourtransit passenger mile. We consider the potential gap between the short-run effect of ceasing transit provision (i.e., our estimates) and the long-run effect of a permanent shutdown … We consider the net benefits of constructing the Los Angeles rail system and conclude – contrary to the existing literature on rail capital investment – that they are large and positive.

    On a broader scale, our findings demonstrate that in contexts in which policymakers encourage adoption of activities that mitigate negative externalities, considering who adopts the mitigating activity is critical in determining a policy’s expected benefits.

    DS

  20. metrosucks

    I’m going to let my associate in transit planning, Jarrett Walker, reply to the stupid screeds here if he can spare his valuable time.

    Perhaps msetty could spare his valuable time that he usually uses to rip off taxpayers with lunatic transit projects, and provide some actual data backing up his assertions, for ONCE. Of course, we know that assholes like him just like to spew crap and fling insults. Mikey, I understand that the heat may be turned up under you cause people are waking up to the rail scams and Siemens and your other corporate overlords are displeased, but such is life for a rent-a-thug like you.

    Well, no. Mr. Walker is in extreme demand as a consultant, and is steadily gaining a strong following in the transit industry thanks to his blog and book.

    Umm, so? That just proves he is a great lobbyist who can deliver to boodle to rapacious transit agencies.

    CPZ, huh? “Professional” discussion?? On this blog? With the likes of Frank, Metrosucks and similar trolls and namecallers?? Have you considered stand up comedy?

    As if msetty ever rises above us mere car-driving mundanes flinging mud at each other. You will notice that in any thread, he is often the first to insult and characterize his opponents as deficient in some manner.

    gecko55, thanks for mentioning what is possible despite the negativity towards transit at this blog.

    Ohhhhh! Poor babies! A multi-billion dollar scam is criticized on a few blogs here & there, and suddenly the deck of cards threatens to collapse. How will we ever survive????

    But of course most of the posters on this blog are opposed to developing ubiquitiously useful transit systems such as in Switzerland, starting with The Antiplanner

    Of course, instead of letting Americans live the way we want to, the solution is to completely change the entire country to reflect msetty’s inbred aesthetic preferences. It is only the greatest coincidence in human history that this redefining of America will greatly enrich thugs like msetty and his buddies.

  21. msetty

    Oh, and why all your anger, Metrosucks?

    If you think (with no evidence whatsoever) that I’m a “thug” well, your anger and lack of decorum here prove over and over again that you’re nothing but a little sniveling punkass who wouldn’t know a real thug if one punched your lights out in a back alley somewhere…not that there’s much danger of that since you probably only leave your mother’s basement to go pee–or raid her refrigerator.

  22. msetty

    Of course, Internet Troll defintion #4 at the Urban Dictionary is my favorite for accounting for the way that punkass troll acts:

    http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Internet%20Troll&defid=6721197.

    Of course, before I ignore the punkass troll starting right now, I need to get my last licks in, like a “thug” (sic) if you will, against the thin-skinned punkass troll.
    4. Internet Troll

    An internet troll is a person who uses anonymity to cause frustration, anger, impatience or to generally be disruptive for no seemingly good reason EXCEPT to be that nuisance.

    Most are souless bastards, touched by daddy/priest, and in the stead of coping with that trauma in a healthy way, take out their aggression, anger, impotence, frustration on others.

    -have problems forming real-life relationships; have a hard time attracting members of the opposite/same sex,generally introverts. Though some are ‘trolls-in-hiding’, most are skill-less loners.

    General troll behavior:disruptive forum posts; the posts are generally off-topic, or unnecessarily combative. Each contemporary popular website has its own sub-genre of troll

    -can be male or female, mostly males, including the popular ‘gender bender’44 yo man that acts like 14 yo girl

    Female internet trolls, are far more scary then their male counterparts. Female trolls seem to better able to delude themselves into believing that their behavior is not only accepted online but that the traits that they find so well received (they are not) will transfer well to real life. usually ends badly.
    EX_1…on a thread with 50 people reading/posting, the troll tries to be the first to make a comment about the picture attached; one or two people point out his/her foolishness and instead of saying he understands, is sorry, or just shutting up, the troll then proceeds to exacerbates the situation by further feigning ignorance, enraging those who do not see through the behavior. Later, when several people directly attack said troll, he responds by praising their comments, or by hitting the ‘like/thumbs up’ button.

    EX_2:underneath an article about the impact of corporate greed in third world countries, say india, two people are having a back and forth about the article…an attention-seeking troll would pop in with something like “so how many niggers are there in india?” in an obvious attempt to illicit an emotional response; or if the article was accompanied by a family pic of a father/mother/son/daughter, a comment suck as “so how often do you think hes fucked that little girl/boy? boy he/she just LOOKS butthurt from all that fucking!”, again in an obvious attempt to divert intellectual discourse, or to just project feelings of their own sex abuse, or desire to be the abuser. Just try to ignore the internet trolls.

  23. metrosucks

    Msetty, I’m sorry you think everyone is like you and lives in your mommy’s basement, doesn’t shower, and has never slept with anyone (besides maybe another guy, but hey, I’m not judging). But I don’t blame you, since you look like a total dweeb. I guess spewing hate against your opponents is all you have left. How insecure can a loser like you be, that you can’t even take the (occasional) jab at your favorite pork barrel industry.

  24. metrosucks

    And for the person that claimed the streetcar is empty because it’s at the end of the line, well, there is no end of the line for the streetcar, per se, since it’s on a loop of sorts, and the area where this photo was shot looks like it’s around Lovejoy St or possibly over by the Convention Center. It’s just a useless boondoggle that has been scientifically proven to be slower than walking.

    And for anyone that still believes that light rail or streetcars have anything to do at all with transit or moving people, check this material out:

    So who supports light rail? Ballot measure 32’s biggest contributers were the electric companies that will sell electricity to run light rail, the construction firms and streetcar makers that will build it, and the banks that will finance it. They will profit at your expense.
    —————————–
    Light rail “is not worth the cost if you’re just looking at transit” admits Metro planner John Fregonese. “It’s a way to develop your community to higher densities.”
    —————————–
    Metro says adding two lanes (one each way) to the highways between Portland and Clackamas (99 and 224) would cost just $121 million–less than a tenth of the cost of the light rail. Those lanes would carry far more than 17,000 cars per day–at faster speeds than light rail, too.[this was years ago when the Portland to Milwaukie boondoggle was only estimated to cost $600million, still five times more than the far more useful highway improvements].
    —————————–
    New Urbanist James Kunstler refers to the auto-centered world as “the evil empire.” Metro advocates such as Portland City Commissioner Charles Hales often talk of people having a “love affair with” or being “addicted to” their cars, as if use of the auto was somehow irrational. Planners just cannot believe that people use cars because for many purposes they are more efficient and more convenient than any other form of transportation.
    ——————————

    In the past, transportation planners tried to reduce congestion by redesigning or improving roads. Metro has no such plans. Instead, it says that “the 2040 Growth Concept represents a departure from past transportation planning practice. Concentrating development in high-density activity centers will . . . produce levels of congestion that signal positive urban development.” (Regional Transportation Plan Update, March, 1996, p. 1-20.)

    —————————–
    Los Angeles has the highest density of any metropolitan area in the nation (about 5,400 people per square mile compared with Portland’s 2,800). It also has the fewest miles of freeway per million people of any city (about 51 miles per million people compared with Portland’s 108 miles).
    Metro wants to increase Portland’s population density to nearly 5,000 per square mile while building almost no new roads, which will make Portland more like Los Angeles than any other U.S. city. “In public discussions we gather the general impression that Los Angeles represents a future to be avoided,” says Metro. But “with respect to density and road per capita mileage it displays an investment pattern we desire to replicate.” (Metro Measured, May, 1994, p. 7.)

  25. Sandy Teal

    Sure, it is “possible” to get around everywhere in most cities by public transport and walking. But almost all people don’t want to do that. Even with 24 hour transit, try going to church with three connections carrying a potluck casserole on a Sunday morning. That is why the vast majority of people are happy to pay the expense of a car, even if they are poor.

    What do people want in a restaurant, for example?

    In a nationwide household survey conducted last year by the National Restaurant Association, 1,000 adults were asked what factors influenced their choice of where to eat away from home. “Recommendation from family member or friend,” responded 94 percent of households. Almost as important, 82 percent of the participants revealed: “Ease of parking at the restaurant.”

  26. Ogemaniac

    There are few things more pathetic than a libertopian that doesn’t even understand free market theory, let alone the very many flaws in the theory.

    “…congratulations, you are performing socially beneficial functions such as increasing your work productivity…Some people might argue that for you to drive to work or to a grocery store isn’t “socially beneficial” because you are the main beneficiary. But the same is true for those non-drivers who take transit. When you think about it, your employers benefit from your work more than you do, or they wouldn’t pay you to do it…”

    My God. Do you not realize that one of the core elements of your theories, and your core “justification” for the excesses of the rich, is that PEOPLE ARE PAID THE VALUE OF THEIR LABOR. From your employer’s point of view, in a competitive market at least, you are just a cog in a machine, spitting out labor at the market clearing price. If you disappeared, the market price would not change (in a competitive market) and your employer would be no better or worse off. He would just buy a new cog. If you figure out how to get the work done in half the time – GREAT. For you. You will charge precisely as much, as the same work has the same value regardless of how long it takes you. Your employer is no better or worse off. Nor is anyone else, except those that you may chose to donate your spare time to.

    So even if there was “enhanced work productivity”, all the benefits would accrue to you or those you favor. There are no systematic externalities in this matter. Nor is it even obvious that your “work productivity” is enhanced in a car vs a bus or train, given that driving (should, at least) consumes nearly all of your attention and ties up your hands. Even if it “saves” you some time, the it wastes every minute you spend in the car. Also, many polls find auto commutes to be one of the most hated parts of our lives. I doubt the stress they causes foster productivity in the surrounding hours.

  27. sprawl

    I often hate my commute when I have to go across town.

    But compared to taking transit, it is a dream come true. I can listen to my radio and Ipod without sticking the ear buds in my ears and it is much faster, carrying the things I need for work and or the people traveling with me, coming and going to where I need to be, when I need to be there.

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