Councilman Smith Is Right: L.A. Should Fund Modes Based on Usage

4_22_10_graph.jpgSource: S.C.A.G.’s Year 2000 Post Census Regional Transportation Survey

In my Tuesday review of Monday’s City Council debate on whether or not the city should use it’s Measure R Local Return to fund bicycle and pedestrian projects, I mocked a statement by Councilman Greig Smith that because 10% of trips aren’t by bike, the City shouldn’t fund bicycle projects with 10% of Measure R funds.  I argued that because the city doesn’t do bike counts, it’s not possible to know for sure how many trips are by bike, but since we’re talking about bicycling and pedestrian spending together the argument is moot anyways.  After all, everyone is a pedestrian.

Turns out there’s more data out there than I knew.

In 2000, the Southern California Association of Governments completed a transportation survey to get better data for the Southern California area.  As you can see above, it turns out that almost 12% of trips regionally are done by what we call "people powered transportation," but what S.C.A.G. calls ‘non-motorized transportation."  Unfortunately, this number is a low one when it comes to trying to get a good number for just the city.  S.C.A.G. includes less urban counties such as Riverside, Ventura and San Bernadino in with L.A. County so it’s safe to assume that the number is higher in the city than in the entire S.C.A.G. region.

Second, the population most likely to use their feet or pedals to get around, immigrant and day-laborer communities are historically under-counted in surveys, especially those conducted by governmental organizations.

And last, this survey was done ten years ago.  More people are biking now than they were then.

The good news is, this survey will be updated this year after the census is completed so we’ll have better data to work with soon.

So, Councilman Smith, you were right to point out that the 10% number for the "bike-ped. set aside" was pulled out of thin air.  The number should have been at least 12%.  We look forward to your amendment correcting this mistake when the full Council votes on this matter at next Tuesday’s meeting.

Actually, scratch that.  Taking your logic from Monday, that modal funding should be based on modal split, "non-motorized transportation" is going to need a lot more than just 12% of the Measure R Local Return. S.C.A.G.’s 2008 RTP Non-Motorized Transportation Report says on page 20:

Out of the
total expenditure of $569 Billion in the 2008 Regional Transportation
Plan, $2.6 Billion is allocated for non-motorized projects.  Regional
bicycle and walking travel represents 11.9% of all trips respectively,
but represents less that 0.46% of all transportation funding in the
region.

Wow!  It’s going to take a lot more than 10% of the Measure R Local Return set aside to reach 12% with less than half a percent going towards cycling and pedestrian projects.  However, giving these modes a fare shake next week is a good place to start.

  • Just because SOV trips are 43.1% of trips in the SCAG region doesn’t necessarily mean we should spend 43.1% of transportation funding money on them.

    If our current transportation patterns cause social problems (which they do), it could very well make sense to spend different amounts. What we spend on transportation should reflect WHERE WE WANT TO BE, not WHERE WE ARE.

    After all, we didn’t understand the full consequences of our actions when we made the decisions about transportation and urban form that led us to where we are.

  • Damien, what is the fatality rate for bicyclists and pedestrians in Los Angeles. If New York City can cut their fatality rate down by adding bike and ped facilities, what is the potential for L.A.?

  • MU

    @Chewie – You are of course correct. You don’t spend public money based solely on current usage patterns. But that’s not Damien’s point. Councilman Smith was making the argument that the 10% spending on bicycle projects was unfair because 10% of trips aren’t by bike. Damien is pointing out two major fallacies with this argument. First that the 10% is for bike AND pedestrian. Second that since Councilman Smith is demanding spending based on current mode share, by his own demand, the spending should be higher than 10%. The wider point you make is that you don’t make spending decisions that way regardless. More people die in bathtubs than from terrorism, guess which we spend more money trying to prevent.

  • StatsDude, to provide you with that number you’d need two things:

    (1) an accurate count of cyclists in LA County (or at least the City of LA). This does not exist. The closest we have is the LACBC’s volunteer effort this year.

    (2) a reliable accounting of traffic fatalities and injuries. We do have this, via the SWITRS database that local law enforcement submits to the State of California.

    Part of the hurdles we face in LA is that the most fundamental data collection, data that should inform debate at he highest levels of government – that data collection simply doesn’t take place in L.A. When the data is collected, nobody compiles it into easy to read reports and maps. Finally, there is likewise no distribution nor public relations effort to make such data and reports well known, and to allow them to affect public consciousness.

    This is why traffic fatalities, while killing and wounding more people than violent homicides, never get the focused efforts of our professional legislators.

  • i’d say looking at mode share is a good starting place, but only that. the main factor should be what we want our mode share to be — if we want to encourage more non-motorized transport, then non-motorized transport should receive more funding than its existing mode share percentage.

  • Using the 5% or 10% local funding for bicycles does not give a accurate picture of total Measure R spending on bicycling in Los Angeles.

    The first project started under Measure R is the Orange Line extension with a total cost of 220 million dollars. Of that about 2 million will go towards a bicycle/pedestrian path at a cost of $500,000 a mile using the LADOT bike plan numbers and bicycle racks/boxes will be installed. That is almost certainly not going to exceed 1% of total costs.

    Then you have the 405 freeway lane addition at $1 billion dollars and zero spent towards pedestrians or bicycling infrastructure.

    The Expo Line will have a bike/ped path and racks/boxes for bicyclists, but the costs of the total project will be considerably higher than the Orange Line extension and yet the spending for bicycles/pedestrians will be about the same per mile as the Orange Line. Therefore the percent of money allocated towards peds/bicycles will be less than 1%.

    Crenshaw light rail line will have a bike/ped path and racks/boxes installed but as light rail costs about three times more per mile than the Orange Lline the total project costs will put the bike/ped spending at less than 1%.

    There also will be bus only lanes in the Valley under Measure R with no bicycle/pedestrian infrastructure.

    Finally, the subway extension down Wilshire Blvd from Western to UCLA is estimated to cost at least $4 billion dollars and it will not include a bicycle/pedestrian pathway. If only 1% of the $4 billion dollars on this project was spent on bike/peds infrastructure that would be $40 million dollars. That is clearly not going to happen since the project for bicyclists will probably be limited to storage boxes and racks.

    The costs of installing parking lots for automobiles at all of these major rail/bus projects will far exceed what will be spent on bicycling and isn’t the idea behind the rail/bus projects to get people out of their cars and into mass transit? Continuing to encourage people to use their cars for short trips only discourages them from walking and or bicycling to the rail/bus station.

    If you add in the five percent of Los Angeles local allotment of Measure R funds going towards bicycling, the total Measure R funds spent on Bicycling will probably not exceed one percent and it will certainly not come anywhere close to five percent and ten percent is way off the mark.

  • woooot! woooooot! @dennis (+@damien, too) for analysis.

  • I’m really curious what equilibrium you’d end up at if every year you allocated funds according to the previous year’s modeshares (and got rid of all parking requirements). I think Boulder did this, or something similar. I mean, jeez. If we spent 12% of LA’s transpo money on non-motorized transportation, it would be a fricking wonderland for bikes… and who knows how high the modeshare would go.

  • Tom Rubin

    A few points — and then I think some additional data must be useful.
    1. While I think that it is very useful to consider these data prior to making governmental funding allocations decisions, you will find that trying to do it directly by formula simply will not be practical for a variety of reasons. To name just one, take a look at the discussion above between allocation based on current distributions and what the body politic would like to see (which, unfortunately, is based on the often not very good assumption that such decisions can actually be implemented).
    2. The discussion above is based on passenger-trips, which is, of course, one very important consideration. However, when you are discussing regional transportation, you better consider goods movements — and, by the way, good luck in coming up with a way to equate human and goods movement into some type of automatic funding allocation formula.
    3. Another consideration is that, when you are discussing regional transportation, you need to understand that not all trips are equal. There are variety of ways to go with that, but my point here is, person-miles. walk trips, for example, tend to be far shorter than driving trips.
    4. You also need to consider to what extent these modes are self-financing. Nationally and in the State of California, goverment user fees and taxes on road users exceed governmental expenditures on roads (including such related items as DMV, CHP, local police and fire, etc.). Nationally, transit covers about 23% of governmental expenditures on transit (including capital expenditures, but not interest costs and certain other expenses). Bikers and walkers, as bikers and walkers, do not contribute much in direct user fees and taxes, but, of course, they do pay other taxes to all levels of government.
    5. Sticking to just people movement for the moment, I don’t have stats for Los Angeles County person-miles, but the format of the graph above appears very similar to that utilized in the National Household Transportation Survey. Here’s the link to the main data/schedule page:
    http://nhts.ornl.gov/tables09/fatcat.aspx
    (Gotta love a Federal agency that has “fatcat” in the URL for one of its most important web pages.)
    The two reports that I’m going to summarize are “Person Trips by Mode and Purpose” and “Person Miles by Mode and Purpose.”
    Since these are national reports, they have data that we’d prefer to exclude, such as air travel, Amtrac, and City to City bus, but I can’t take these out to get regional-only travel because inter-city auto travel is combined with local. So, this data isn’t perfect, but I believe it is useful.
    Here’s the totals:
    person-trips person-miles
    Road 87.75% 90.79%
    Rail .60% .87%
    Ferry .01% .01%
    Airplane .08% 6.82%
    Walk 10.95% .79%
    Other .62% .72%
    I included bicycle in “road,” because that’s where most bicycle trips take place; the data is 1.05% and .22%, respectively.
    Obviously, road dominates — and, if you consider that I’m guessing most walking trips are also on sidewalks (or, in some cases, on the same pavement, or whatever, used by rubber tire vehicles), which are part of roads (if they weren’t, then the “complete streets” movements would have a lot of problems).
    If anyone wants the spreadsheet for the above, contact me off-line and I’ll be happy to send it.
    Tom Rubin
    tarubin@earthlink.net

  • Jack Stephonovic

    Can’t wait to throw this in Greg Smith’s face on Tues.

  • Erik G.

    Tom Rubin is commenting here. Wow.

    Anyways, Damien, what this chart also reveals is the need for more accurate trip surveys and trip prediction models. Something tells me that the SOV is getting more credit than it deserves.

  • Tobias

    There’s also, of course, the obvious discrepancy between costs of the modes of travel: spending $X on bike paths and improvements will cover many, many, many, many more miles than $X spent on a heavy rail subway.

  • Tom Rubin

    Tobias, you are correct, but what is really important is the cost per unit. You can certainly do a lot more miles of bike path or sidewalk than you can freeway lane miles or subway miles, but the latter will generally produce far more passengers-miles and freight ton-miles.
    While I spend a lot of time with such numbers, and there are uses for them, when it really gets down to it, it is impossible to come up with a meaningful formula to spread the money around between modes. Sometimes, the only way to do it is good old smoked-filled back room — except, between the Brown Act and smoking bans, now it is done in a clear room at a public meeting.
    Yeah, sure.
    Tom Rubin

  • Eric B

    @ Tom Rubin,

    The problem with your emphasis on miles-traveled is this:

    Compare two trips: Person A travels 5 miles by car to a grocery store while Person B travels .5 miles by foot to the grocery store. By the way you try to glean utility from miles traveled “units,” the car trip would have 10 times the utility. But in real life, both Persons A and B just wanted a gallon of milk!

    By your metrics, all passenger-miles are created equal, which is obviously untrue in an urban environment. Because current funding (and the resulting development patterns) reflect this fallacy, more and more people do drive the 5 miles when .5 used to suffice for routine trips. Localities that do have compact forms are therefore penalized on transportation dollars even when they have equally pressing or greater transportation needs.

    We are probably in 99% agreement when it comes to freight, which does not get enough attention or respect among our electeds. But for passenger trips, we really need to change the mobility paradigm to one of accessibility where utility is measured by what you can accomplish rather than how far you must drive to meet your daily needs.

    With the federal money tree the way it is, locals have learned to put up matching funds for expensive projects more suited for interstate than intraurban transportation. This has drained resources away from, what I would argue are more deserving, projects like bike-ped.

    You’re right that formulas are impossible to get right on this. That’s why the set-aside should be considered a policy minimum. My thinking behind this is: “We know that bike/ped is underrepresented in transportation funding and we know that our policy objectives require at least this floor of funding, so let’s set this aside to ensure it doesn’t get lost in the other projects.” That’s independent of mode share, miles-traveled, or any other metric.

    TIGER seemed to be a promising way to judge projects by their overall utility and context. The grants went to everything from bike/ped to streetcars to rapid transit to roads, based on the merit of the project. I’d be interested to hear your opinion on its effectiveness.

  • Eric B

    Also, your point number 4: “Nationally and in the State of California, goverment user fees and taxes on road users exceed governmental expenditures on roads (including such related items as DMV, CHP, local police and fire, etc.).”

    This is only true if you are talking in the narrowest sense about highways. Accounting for deferred maintenance (because our user fees are too low to keep highways up to standards), the user fee is probably already at a deficit to what highways actually cost. Then when you start adding in other costs of cars (environmental, social, health, etc.), the user fee falls further into deficit.

    Local roads are paid for through property, sales, and other general taxes. They are also suffering from decades of deferred maintenance, mostly from damage inflicted by automobiles/trucks. When was the last time a bike caused a pothole?

    For a self-professed numbers guy, I thought you’d be the first to abandon the user-pays myth. As TxDOT concluded, no road pays for itself.

  • Tom Rubin

    @Eric B:
    Well, actually, when I need a gallon of milk, I just stop by a supermarket on my drive home.
    There are three main ways into where I live and, fortunately, there is a supermarket either right on the road or just off the freeway in each case, so the exta mileage — and time — to pick up the milk is minimal in all cases.
    The above is not intended to be a wise-ass rebuttal to your comment; it is intended as a very realistic response to the widely spread smart growth matra that all people should be able to walk to get a gallon of milk, etc. I say, well, if that is the way you want to live (and I have lived that way, and liked it very much at that time), good for you, but, if you don’t, then you should be free to make your own choices. I am at a time in my life when I, like many others, do extensive trip-chaining, combining a number trips, and I REALLY like, for example, being able to access full-service supermarkets, which tend to have the advantages of wider selections, lower prices, and fresher products, over smaller neighborhood markets which, because they can only draw customers from such a limited walk distance, cannot offer these advantages. In doing my grocery, and most other shopping, in combination with other travel, my transportation miles are not increased measurably at all.
    I fully agree with your point that not all passenger miles are equal. In various expert reports, I have argued, for example, that while passenger trips and passenger miles can both be utilized in useful performance metrics, when we get to, for example, questions of equity, it is transit trips that must be counted as more important. For example, for a home-to-work trip, what is more important is taxpayer subsidy per trip, not per passenger-mile.
    Why do I bring this up? Because, in transit, as in most other forms of transportation, as trip distance increases, as else equal (which it rarely is), cost, fare revenue, and subsidy per trip increases, but cost, fare revenue, and subsidy per passenger mile decreases. Therefore, it is not at all uncommon for the data to show that the taxpayer subsidy per passenger mile for, say Metrolink trips to be lower than for MTA bus trips. Well, depending on the specifics, this is very often the case, but, for the taxpayer subsidy for one Metrolink trip, you can move three, four, or more MTA bus passengers — and Metrolink riders are far Whiter, more male, and have many times the household income than the MTA riders, plus, Metrolink riders generally have the option of driving to their jobs, while many MTA bus riders do not.
    I am not at all against spending money on good pedestrian and bicycle projects, and there are a lot of good ones out there.
    There are also a lot of very good road projects out there, starting with maintaining the road infrastructure we have now.
    There is no perfect quantitative methodology for allocation of transportation funding to modes, purposes, areas, or specific routes, so we are left with the very imperfect political process, which just seems to get more and more ugly to watch each year.
    For those who advocate more spending for pedestrian and bicycle transportation, I say, good for you — continute your quantitative and qualitative analysis, but, learn and use the political process to the best of your ability, and sharpen your elbows, because that’s how the real decisions get made.
    Tom Rubin

  • Tom Rubin

    @Eric B:
    So my point on the revenues for road use paid by users and costs are clear, what I am comparing is the cash money coming in paid by road users for the use of roads and the actual governmental expenditures on roads.
    You are correct that this does not include any factor for deferred maintenance; it goes by what is actually spent, not what should have been spent.
    It has been many years since there have been significant increases in the most common road use charge, the pennies per gallon (currently $.184 Federal and $.18 California for gasoline). Because of inflation and improved gas mileage on vehicles, the actual payment made by road users per mile of travel on roads has been steadily going down.
    In addition, more and more of these user charges have been diverted to other things. $.0286 of the Federal $.184 goes directly to transit, plus another $.001 for LUST clean-up, and that doesn’t include significant other transfers of “flexible” road funding programs such as STP and CMAQ for transit and other purposes. In the Bay area, significant bridge tolls are are going for transit.
    So we wind up with this rather silly mechanism where we have user fees for roads which are diverted to non-road purposes, rather than being covered by “general fund” revenue sources, while, at the same time, we have “general fund” revenues that are used for roads — because the road use fees are not high enough.
    Huh?
    I’ve seen no end of studies that purport to show that roads do not pay for their “social costs.” Their “accounting,” such as they are, seems a bit less than precise (the famous Sierra Club list of such reports has a range of over six-to-one from the lowest to the highest) and all have one huge problem — they not only do not factor in the social benefits of roads, they do not even acknowledge that they exist. Some of these “costs” appear to be based on a lack of fundamental understanding of how things work (such as the value of property taxes on land used for public roads as a cost, without any recognition of the huge increases in property taxes due to road access), other less than precisely calculated (such as half of the cost of DoD because the main purpose of the U.S. armed forces is to secure Middle Eastern oil for road transport), while others fail to recognize the positive impacts of roads (such as the elimination of the public health problems of the “emissions” of the pre-automotive urban mobility power supply, the horse, mule, and oxen, to say nothing of leaving the carcasses of the dead f.o.b. street, or the improvements in public health due to far greater access to medical care and the growth of specialized medical care made possible by greater personal mobility).
    As to the TxDOT report, I assume you are talking about “The Highway Construction Equity Gap” (Cambridge Systematics, Inc., for Texas Department of Transportation, February 2008). This has been much discussed, but, it appears, little read, primarily because it was easy to find until years after the initial draft was released. Here is the URL to the revised version (after several revisions suggested by the Texas State Auditor’s Officer were incorporated) if you are interested:
    http://amateurearthling.org/wp-content/uploads/2008/07/texasdot_equitygap.pdf
    It is certainly true that this study of seven specific road construction or major improvement projects found that not one of the seven produced revenues from road user charges equal to the life-cycle costs, with coverage ratios ranging from a low of .13 to a high of .93, with an overall weighted average of .34.
    This, unfortunately, has been a much misunderstood study. Its main purpose was NOT to show that highway users didn’t pay for the cost of highways, but that the funding allocated for highways needed to increase.
    These are not the same thing.
    For example, I have pointed out above where over 15% of the Federal excise charge on gasoline is allocated elsewhere, not to mention the Federal “road” funds that can also be utilized for non-road purposes. In Texas, which has a $.20 per gallon excise charge on motor fuel, $.05 of that goes for K-12 education. The TxDOT study doesn’t count what road users PAY for their use of roads, it only counts the portion of that that the various legislatures actually USE for roads. If these re-allocated charges on motor fuel were directed back towards roads, then the coverage ratios would obviously be higher.
    The TxDOT study also assumes that there will be no increases in the per-gallon charges — and that vehicle mileage will continue to improve. Well, these appear to be very valid assumptions to me, at least until some legislative body makes a change, but, the purpose of this report was to show that there was an absolute need for these legislative bodies to MAKE those changes, either by increasing the cents per gallon fuel tax, changing to a VMT charge, or some other variation.
    Also, the report looked at seven construction projects and projected their life-cycle costs. As the calculations show, these only cover a bit over one-third of those costs through user charges. However, this does NOT, for these projects, mean that some other funding source is paying for these charges, it means that the money collected for use of other sections of the Texas road system have to redirected to do these projects, which, in turn, means that, as time goes by, there will be fewer and fewer of such road improvement and new road projects.
    You say, “For a self-professed numbers guy, I thought you’d be the first to abandon the user-pays myth.”
    Well, no, as a “numbers guy,” I look at the numbers myself and form my own conclusions — and, these are, right now, road users pay for the government expenditures on roads, but, not enough is being raised, or spent, on roads and user taxes need to be increased.
    I also conclude that it would be a good idea to stop doing two things: (1) taking “general fund” money and spending it on roads, and, (2) spending road user charges on non-road programs.
    Finally, you ask, “When was the last time a bike caused a pothole?”
    Well, I don’t know, may very well be never. Let me ask you, “How much to cyclists pay, as cyclists, for the use of the roads they travel on?”
    Tom Rubin

  • MU

    @Tom
    I won’t reach into the “how much is spent by who” debate. Once you get into external costs it becomes so theoretical as to be mainly a Rorschach test for people’s pre-existing opinions. How much of our military budget goes to keeping gas cheap? …debate…

    But I will respond to a few of your comments:
    Earlier you had listed the many ways in which cars have improved and are substantially cleaner now. True enough. Today’s American Lung Assn report (http://www.stateoftheair.org/) states that the number of high ozone days in Los Angeles has dropped 25% in the last ten years. However, the Air Resources Board also notes that “Annually, California’s dirty air is estimated to cause 19,000 premature deaths, 9,400 hospitalizations and 300,000 respiratory illnesses.” (http://www.arb.ca.gov/research/health/qhe/qhe.htm) That’s a pretty clear external cost. How best to improve it is debatable, but let’s not pretend these problems are going to disappear because the fleet mileage requirements go up by moderate percentage.

    In your comments about external costs you also point out that people don’t include the benefits of moving away from “the “emissions” of the pre-automotive urban mobility power supply” like oxen. This would be relevant if we were debating returning to a 19th century transportation system. I get that your point is that cars are unfairly maligned and people don’t appreciate how much they’ve improved our lives in general. But other than a few on the fringe, no one is really talking about ending the existence of cars. We’re talking about a better balance between the options that make sense NOW, not going back 100 years.

    You make the point that roads have social benefits that extend beyond the individual driving his car. You acknowledge that general fund monies go to build and maintain roads. Yet you claim that cyclists don’t pay anything for roads. It doesn’t matter that while I’m riding a bike, “as a cyclist”, I don’t pay directly the way I do when I drive. The point is that as a user of a transportation system all cyclists are already paying for their maintenance. The canard of “if cyclists want to use the roads they should pay for them” is one the most often repeated, but mis-information based criticisms out there. I understand your frustration with road funding’s mixed up logic. But the fact is, virtually no major expense in our society is paid for by direct user fees. A lot of education is paid for by property taxes. but some homeowners don’t have kids. There’s a lot of vegetarians who pay a little in taxes to pay for meat inspections, etc. etc. Getting lost in the specifics of precise funding formulas misses the point. I’m a “numbers guy” but sometimes I know that you can’t do an accurate cost/benefit analysis on ever large complex issue. Sometimes you have to make some decisions, guided by numbers, but also by judgment. I want to live in a world where we invest a little more in transit and human powered transport because I believe it will improve everyone’s quality of life. I accept that fact that I can’t prove it to you because I don’t think you can accurately quantify all the benefits.

  • Eric B

    @MU:
    Thanks for linking to those reports. I was just going to do the same.

    @Tom:
    The problem with a user fee system driving policy (pardon the pun) is that it assumes the status quo is all you ever want to achieve. Because most people drive, most people pay into the road fund, which then builds more roads, which prompts more driving, etc. Making transportation policy based on the status quo usage makes it impossible to move in a better direction (whatever that means to you). Unfortunately, the political paradigm that has resulted is that anytime a government (fed or state) spends “road user” money on “non-road” projects, it is automatically seen as theft. However, what it probably represents is good policy to spend money on more efficient modes. We agree that drivers need to pay more, but I also believe it is appropriate to “divert” some of that money to more efficient transportation. To the extent that the presence of automobiles on public thoroughfares makes it unsafe for other road users, then yes, car drivers should pay for facilities for other modes.

    The European model is completely different than the American model and, I would argue, results in better policy. They tax the hell out of gasoline to discourage its use, but put that money into the general fund. They don’t owe drivers anything and are free to make “transportation” policy that fits their needs. We can all see the result is good urban transportation systems and high speed rail for intercity travel. Automobiles have their role, but it is limited to the types of trips that are best suited for the technology (hauling stuff, deliveries, etc.).

    Finally, the street is more than just a conduit–it is a place in an urban environment. Janette Sadik-Khan considers herself the largest real estate developer in New York. Non-motorized transportation modes access the streets by-right. Americans have the right of travel. Motorcars and their drivers are regulated (licensed, insured, paying fees) because of their danger to others when they drive on public roads. Bicyclists are not licensed and don’t pay fees because, apart from the freak incident, they do not endanger others. Programs to license and register bikes cost more to maintain than they bring in for revenue.

    Thanks for engaging on this forum. All of our ideas benefit from the dialogue.

  • Tom Rubin

    @MU:
    Auto emissions, and all transportation emissions, are an issue and need improvement; no one is debating that. However, as I recently posted on another topic, every single one of the EPA’s “big six” has shown marked reductions over the past decades? CO, down 79%, 1980-2008; ground-level O3, down 25%; Lead, down 92%; NO2, down 46%; PM10, down 31%, 1990-2008; PM2.5, down 19%, 2000-2008; and SO2, down 71% 1980-2008 (I combined PM10 and PM2.5 into a single element for the “six”). Moreover, there were very significant improvements before EPA began these statistic time series in 1980 or later.
    Now, here is the problem — asthma rates have been going up, very steadily, since 1980.
    While no one is going to argue that breathing anything on this list is good for you, how does one reconcile that every single monitored emission is going down strongly, but the asthma rate is going up? How can the rate amoung children of a given age at a point in time be constantly going up, where there is a very obvious limitation on the time period of exposure that limits the lifetime exclusion factor (like unsafe tanning in your teens coming back to bite you in your 50’s or 60’s) while the presence of each emission is going down?
    The current generation of auto’s is apporaching as clean as it is possible to get them. I’m not talking hybrids, or battery-only, or alt fuel, I’m talking standard gasoline burners. Most of the clean-up on autos over the next decade and longer will be from older carsbeing replaced, not from still more even higher auto emission standards. Actual fact: 1970’s cars emit many times the emissions WITH THE ENGINES TURNED OFF as modern cars do when running.
    We have a lot more work to do with diesels, but, to a large extent, same story — what we have left to do has far more to do with retiring older trucks and replacing them with new ones than with coming up with still superior technologies.
    My bringing up mule and oxen emissions is entirely relevant — if we didn’t have auto’s we wouldn’t have the mobility we now have and modern life, as we know it would be very different. Animal mobility is still very important in many parts of this world.
    I did not, “claim that cyclists don’t pay anything for roads.” I asked a question, “How much to cyclists pay, as cyclists, for the use of the roads they travel on?” I gave anyone who wanted to the opportunity to respond. You can try to interpret your response in various ways, but I think it comes down to, “Cyclists, as cyclists, don’t pay anything for the use of the roads, and I don’t think they should because they pay for it in other ways — which appears to be primarily by what they pay to drive.
    Despite what you say, the vast majority of ALL major expenses in our society are paid for by direct user payments, at least for the most part. When you go to virtually ANY private sector store to buy anything, what you pay covers the cost of production, to a very high extent. If you live in the City of LA, you are paying a governmental entity the cost of production of the electricy and water you use. The goods and services that are NOT paid for by direct user charge are a minority, mainly government services like police, fire, education, etc. The ones where we are having the biggest problems — namely, healthcare — is where we have a mixed model where some paid their own costs, others have their costs paid by their employers as a condition of employment, and others have theirs paid by the taxpayers.
    What we have learned, both from doing it right and doing it wrong, is that, where direct user charges can be used effectively to pay for the good or service, that is the better way to go in almost all cases. For designated exceptions, such as education and public safety, we have gone to other routes for good reason — but, we would be a lot better off if road users paid for their use of the roads and their user fees went only to the roads — and we would have far better allocation of transportation resources as drivers responded by behavior changes to paying the actual costs of what it cost for road use (yes, doing the charge model will be a whole lot of fun, particularly if the politico’s get too involved).
    Where we get into trouble is when we decide that we need to take road revenues and use them for non-road purposes that should be general-fund, like transit, because it makes for misallocations of spending.
    I am NOT against spending, or spending more, on transit, cycling, or pedestrian improvements, but I don’t want it to come from what road users should be paying for roads — which should be a lot more than it is today, BUT, I want these funds to be spent wisely, which I have lots of reasons to believe is not the case today. While there are many examples of wasteful road spending (new Bay Bridge, “bridge to nowhere”), the waste and stupidity on overbuilt transit has been far, far more, particularly as a percentage of total cost.

  • @Tom

    Automobile drivers get free mandated parking throughout the city with houses apartments, stores etc. and that would have to be included in the costs for driving compared to bicycle.

    A great deal of the driving in a urban area is for short distances much of which could be done by bicycle without any loss in time or inconvenience. Unfortunately, that is discouraged by having free parking for cars and little infrastructure going towards bicycles. On Tuesday the Los Angeles city counsel approved having a bicycle corral installed on the street and that will enable a small business to have up to 12 more bicycles parked in front of their business instead of one car.

    As a city gets a higher population density per mile the bicycle becomes a much more competitive mode of transportation in terms of speed, convenience and cost. Why do you suppose companies employ bicycle messengers to deliver packages in a metro area if not for the speed advantage that a bicyclist has?