Transportation - Public Transit
INFRASTRUCTURE vs ECONOMICS ï¿½
The Cost of Car on Society
What hope do we have to make sustainable changes in our infrastructure, let alone make a serious commitment to address climate change, considering that our province is heavily dependent on automobile industry for its economy? Hope to come to terms with our energy dependence, a serious threat to our social and economic structure, and the need for decisive and prompt action by both industry and government.
(A report released by the Pembina Institute and the David Suzuki Foundation noted that Canada was far behind in its pledge to reach Kyoto accord targets. "Canada's energy policies, which include support for rapid expansion of highly greenhouse gas-intensive activities such as oil sands development, are sharply at odds with our climate policy," it said.
Why? Simply because car dependency has inflicted widespread damage on our health, society, economics and on our environment. Because the government's extensive investment on roads and automobile industry, when the car has been viewed as the most unsustainable mode of transportation, has been counterproductive and micromanaged.. The political argument on the benefit of employment generated by the automobile industry, does not incorporate the expenses this investment has created in all other sectors. These expenditures are hidden social costs for all taxpayers to pay while big businesses walk away with the profits. Worse still, because people do not adhere to catastrophes or social expenditures as a whole, unless they are personally affected financially as they disregard the financial burdens subsidized by the government and non-motor users.
BENEFIT ANALYSIS of Automobile Industry in Ontario:
COST ANALYSIS of Automobile Industry in Ontario:
(The industry made it clear that expansion and survival in Ontario will take place if sizable subsidies are offered by the government. Our government obliged.)
Car-related costs for Ontario per year total about $ 8.3 billion: hidden car-related costs: $3.8 billion and government car-related costs: $ 4.6 billion, (David W. Crouse). The estimated cost of the car to Ontario is very high, over $ 8 billion per year, as David McRobert reported. And that does not include costs of global warming, stress due to traffic congestion, car-related court costs, car-related spending by the Ontario Ministry of the Environment or individual ownership costs.
EXTERNAL COSTS (In addition to Tax and Oil Subsidies):
Our cities have been affected by the impacts of climate change, polluted air and water and loss of bio-diversity. Our deteriorated infrastructure and diminished quality of life that extensive road transport has imposed on individuals and society, are reflected in internal and external costs.
Illnesses attributed to air toxics are: asthma, cancer, cardiovascular diseases, migraine, stress, physical and mental fatigue.
Asthma rates for Canadian kids have jumped fourfold over the past 20 years, to a level where more than one in 10 have been diagnosed with the respiratory ailment, reported by the Commission for Environmental Co-operation (CEC), a group created as part of the North American Free Trade Agreement.
HEALTH DAMAGE: Ontario
2005 = $ 7,809,201,70
[Economic damages from air -pollution illness to the health care system, time lost from air-pollution illness, plus direct losses to employers and employees is over $ 1 billion in costs to the public.]
Social equity has been jeopardized by exclusion and discrimination. Approximately 20% of Canadian households do not own a car, 10% are low income and 10% are precluded from driving due to disability. Subsidization of the automobile benefits wealthy households as they own cars and drive more than poor households, who pay for the benefit of drivers through taxation (Todd Littman, Social inclusion as a Transport Planning Issue in Canada). Furthermore, firms advertise positions with the requirement of own transportation. Activities which are limited to motor vehicle transportation exclude non-drivers.
Accidents/fatalities have been considered to be the most significant social cost. The World Health Organization, reports that road safety is a Public Health issue; 1.2 million people are killed on roads every year and up to 50 million more are injured (WHO, Road Safety, 2004). Pedestrians and cyclists are particularly at risk; crashes are frequent and deaths and injuries are common. If current trends continue, the number of people killed and injured on the world's roads will rise by more than 60% between 2000 and 202O. One report estimates the global costs of road crashes is about $ 518billion US annually, (The global challenge of road traffic injuries).
In Central and Eastern Europe annual crash costs: $ 9.9 billion. Highly motorized countries: $453.3billion. (WHO, Global Burden of Disease).
In US people sustained 5.27 million nonfatal injuries that cost the public health-care services $31.7 billion. Annual U.S. costs for deaths, injuries and lost productivity: $ 200 billion. The cost of road injuries is almost 5% of GNP. [Assuming a car-free district of 12,000 people who drive 25%as many miles per year as average Americans, and incur 25% as many crash costs, the annual economic benefit for that district of avoided crash costs is: $ 6.1 million, CAFÉ CBA: Baseline Analysis 2000 to 2020]
In Canada over 3,000 drivers, passengers, pedestrians and cyclists are victims every year.
By contrast, between 1988-1997 only 3 people were killed while riding urban transit buses,
Congestion has imposed travel delays affecting individual and market costs.
It threatens competitiveness and distribution of products. On a personal level the average family spends up to 20% of its income on owning and operating an automobile; this is further exacerbated by additional congestion costs, (An expensive Love Affair).
According to a recent report by the Economic Development Research Group of Boston, The Cost of Congestion to the Economy of the Portland Region, congestion will cost local economy $844 million per year by 2025 in productivity, personal and business transportation costs and market prices.
In Ontario traffic congestion will worsen the next decade as the population is expected to increase by 12 million people with immigration. Up to 5 million residents will settle in the suburban areas of the Greater Toronto Area and the South West region; if development continues at same pace, it will worsen traffic gridlock. The daily vehicle-km of automobile travel is estimated to grow by 64% between 2000 and 2031. At a conservative value, a driver's time at present is $ 10 per hour (Toronto-Related Region Futures Study, Neptis Foundation 2002).
Community/Safety has been jeopardized by the divisive and limited public space in our continuous effort to accommodate car traffic. Urban planning has developed into auto-transport planning. Pavement covers over 50% of most urban areas in the form of roads, parking, and limited choices in design of landscape. The alienating and barren suburbia and the urban car-clogged infrastructure have equally harming social impact on the community:
Pollution: Air, Water, Soil, Noise. The environmental costs imposed by pollution are both individual and public.
Urban Sprawl: Transportation, Road Infrastructure, Municipal Services Costs.
Land Use: Agricultural & Rural land; Greenspace; Development.
A US survey estimates that for every mile outside the urban centre, it costs the city $500 to develop the necessary infrastructure for that residence.
"Sustainability needs to become the measure for economic
The intent of this brief report is to inform and motivate the public to pressure government officials to divert investment toward sustainable and beneficial solutions.
All sectors of our lives have been affected negatively by the predominance of auto-transport. Published reports have pointed out that individual and public costs far exceed the employment benefit of the automobile industry. As well, the costs of subsidies and related services provided by the government to accommodate road transport, are far greater than the revenues from motor-vehicle users. Corporate welfare has not been distributed proportionately, in fact it has been exploitive.
The automobile industry in collaboration with oil industry have produced and sustained a mode of transportation based on profitability; the government in its political timidity and opportunism, has created car-dependency.
The government's failure to incorporate external costs to motor vehicle use and to invest in and subsidize sustainable modes of transportation, has extended, like a domino effect, the harms created by excessive motorization. At the Municipal level, the Mayor of Toronto articulates, at every opportunity, the importance of a beautiful city; but articulation has not progressed into action. This level of government has failed to make prudent use of our existing capacity and as a result Toronto has become a car-clogged, noisy and air polluted city with all the ramifications of an unsustainable infrastructure.
Although there have been debates on economics and the direction of policy, the fact remains that quality of life is not based solely on economics and marketing. Environmental degradation should be viewed as a challenge to:
If we wish to have an efficient infrastructure, a cohesive community and a vibrant environment we must end the perpetual self-defeating norm of a car-dominated existence.
*Clive Doucet is a city councillor in Ottawa.