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Traffic subsidies (USA)

Free parking, possibly $300 billion/year
Fourth power rule for trucks: http://thatmansscope.blogspot.com/2009/10/trucks-and-fourth-power-rule.html

In most of the US public transit is explicitly a social service like welfare, providing options for people who can’t drive; complaining that it doesn’t support itself is like complaining food stamps don’t. And, being meant for poor people, the options provided are crappy. A train system that ran every 10 minutes instead of every 30 would seem to cost 3x as much, but might attract many more riders by virtue of being frequent enough to be useful. (Also, it wouldn’t cost 3x as much, since the rails would be a fixed cost. The more you use the rails, the cheaper per ride they get.)

Also, traffic accident rate is a lot higher than the transit accident rate, killing 30-40,000 people a year, for a social cost of $200-300 billion a year. Add that to an estimated $300 billion/year subsidy of free marking, and unknown health and pollution costs, and we’re talking a lot of money.

Also, transit subsidies are (a) small compared to road expenditures and (b) help drivers. At least where a decent fraction of commutes, even 10%, are by transit, those are people who aren’t driving, who are off the road and not competing for parking. If you’re a driver in a remotely congested area you should *want* people taking transit, out of your way.

Hard to monetize, but driving is also supported by non-inevitable decisions to prioritize driving. Used to be roads were open to all, a mess of pedestrians and horses and carts, then bicycles and streetcars. Then cars came. They could have stayed mixed with everyone else, crawling along at safe speeds; they’d be a lot less attractive then. But instead we decided to clear the roads of other users, despite having priority, for them and let them zoom along. And pretty much everything that makes cars faster makes roads more hostile and dangerous for pedestrians and cyclists (not that those two always get along either.) Pedestrians want short blocks and narrow streets with lots of stop or at least yield signs and jaywalking rights; cars want long blocks with limited control and lights with long switch times.

Apparently, car safety also wants road - sidewalk - trees, to be forgiving of cars somehow leaving the road. Better to hit people than trees, I guess. Pedestrians would want trees between them and the road. This is actually a thing

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Damien Sullivan

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