betacity


when the least efficient way to get somewhere is also the cheapest
July 15, 2012, 2:48 pm
Filed under: Cities, Energy, Transit | Tags: , , , ,

Why are there so many SUVs hurtling at ungodly speeds right in the middle of America’s largest, most populous city?  If you’re half way across Broadway or one of the avenues, cars including cabs speed up and honk.  The streets in New York are much worse than in many other cities I have visited recently – London, Paris, Philadelphia, Chicago, Bombay, Rome to name a few.

Manhattan is a study in how the car and driver took over the city’s streets and how pedestrians have virtually no power in the relationship.  Finding a new necessary balance is an issue of pushing back against a culture of entitlement, really:  being entitled to risk other people’s lives and comfort as you careen in your huge state funded vehicle through heavily populated areas.

Have a look at Will Doig’s article on why there are so many crazy drivers in the middle of Manhattan:

Here’s a wild statistic: At any given moment, a third of the cars in Manhattan are just passing through on their way to somewhere else. Why? Because it’s cheaper than driving around it.

Thanks to a quirk of history, the East River bridges to Manhattan aren’t tolled, nor are the outbound Hudson tunnels — you can drive from Long Island to New Jersey for free if you go through Manhattan. Go around Manhattan, however, and you’ll hit tolls of up to $13. The system gives drivers a financial incentive to drive straight through the most crowded, most congested patch of land in the country.

With gas taxes, we make the same mistake: We artificially depress the price of fuel so that the least efficient way to get somewhere — in this case, a private car — is also sometimes the cheapest.

Will Doig, Chris Christie’s Gas Tax Foolishness, Salon

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