Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Speaking of not understanding (transportation) economics

I was prepared to write a response to the Sunday Washington Post local op-ed, by Jack Kustanowitz of Wheaton, "Why I'm Giving Up On Metro," which discusses how he bought another car (for how much $20,000, $30,000, $40,000?) and it is cheaper for him to drive than to take transit.

But Bruce Goldberg of Silver Spring, in a letter to the editor, "How Driving Adds Up," _which doesn't appear to be online_ made all the right/write arguments:

Every mile that a car is driven brings it closer to the point when it will need to be replaced. Using the $20,000 as the cost of a new car and the typical lifetime of 100,000 miles, the roughly 25-mile commute from Wheaton uses up $10 of the "capital cost" of a new car (20 cents times 50 miles). So ... the true cost of driving is actually the $10 that he said he pays for parking and gas plus the $10 toward the eventual cost of replacing his car.

Add in the cost of insurance, oil changes and other maintenance, plus interest costs if the car is financed, and the real cost of that daily commute is more than twice the amount the writer thinks he is spending.

It's not my money of course. Mr. Kustanowitz can spend his money however he wants. But every household that has one fewer car, or no cars, has a lot more money to spend on other things. Or even save. And savings are used to fund investments that help create economic growth, rather than destroy value.

Professor Peter Newman found a direct link between the amount of money households spend on transportation and the economic success of metropolitan economies. But it should be pretty obvious.

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