Tag Archives: tax

The Carbon Tax and the Poor

By Dom Nozzi

A great many intelligent people have pointed out the obvious in recent years about our climate change – a change driven by carbon emissions – and our fiscal crisis: It is screamingly obvious that an extremely effective, fair way to reduce carbon emissions (and raise desperately needed govt revenue) is to enact a carbon tax. Increasing the price of Global-Climate-Change3carbon sends a much-needed price signal to people that products, actions and services that directly or indirectly use carbon have an embedded carbon cost. That cost is the climate change and environmental/societal woes hidden by a lack of a carbon tax.

Underpriced carbon is rapidly destroying our world and the future of our species.

An important reason why a carbon tax is equitable is that people using more carbon pay more tax. Such a tax would raise much-needed government revenue by charging people for societally unsustainable behavior.

One would therefore think that political liberals and environmentalists would be 100 percent in favor of a carbon tax. Such people, one would expect, would find such a tax a no-brainer.

But as I often point out, a very large number of desperately needed societal actions are squelched because of the red flag too often raised by liberals and environmentalists: “WE CAN’T DO THAT BECAUSE IT WILL HURT POOR PEOPLE!!!!”

We can’t raise the gas tax…because it will hurt poor people.

We can’t put this four-lane monster highway destroying our downtown on a road diet (taking it from four lanes to three, for example)…because poor people won’t be able to get to jobs.

We can’t ease our parking woes, make our town centers more compactly walkable, and substantially reduce the amount of off-street, gap-tooth dead zone parking lots…because charging people money for parking will hurt poor people.

We can’t raise the tax on cigarettes to reduce excessive smoking…because it will hurt poor people who smoke.

We can’t adjust electricity prices to promote energy conservation…because it will hurt poor people.

We can’t charge a tax on sugar…because poor people won’t be able to afford to buy a Pepsi.

We can’t charge a fee for a background check…because poor people won’t be able to afford to buy a gun.

We can’t charge an impact fee on sprawl residential development…because it will hurt poor people who buy sprawl homes.

[I’ve heard all of the above complaints more than once.]

At the Conference on World Affairs in Boulder Colorado yesterday, I attended a session on how we need to learn to live with global warming because we have passed the tipping point and there is no way we can avoid catastrophic warming in our lifetimes no matter what we do (session title: “Climate Change: Get Used To It”). A question came from someone in the audience: “If we establish a federal tax [like has been admirably done in Boulder and a few European nations] on carbon, won’t it be a very bad idea because the carbon tax would be unaffordable for poor people??”

As you can imagine, the question made my blood boil.

I wanted to leap to my feet and scream to her: “We are driving a car at a high rate of speed towards a fiscal and environmental cliff (given our huge government fiscal woes and our huge climate change woes). Do you mean to say that we should not step on the brakes?? That we instead go over the cliff because poor people cannot afford to brake?????”

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Visit my urban design website read more about what I have to say on those topics. You can also schedule me to give a speech in your community about transportation and congestion, land use development and sprawl, and improving quality of life.

Visit: www.walkablestreets.wordpress.com

Or email me at: dom[AT]walkablestreets.com

50 Years Memoir CoverMy memoir can be purchased here: Paperback = http://goo.gl/9S2Uab Hardcover =  http://goo.gl/S5ldyF

My book, The Car is the Enemy of the City (WalkableStreets, 2010), can be purchased here: http://www.lulu.com/product/paperback/the-car-is-the-enemy-of-the-city/10905607Car is the Enemy book cover

My book, Road to Ruin, can be purchased here:

http://www.amazon.com/Road-Ruin-Introduction-Sprawl-Cure/dp/0275981290

My Adventures blog

http://domnozziadventures.wordpress.com/

Run for Your Life! Dom’s Dangerous Opinions blog

http://domdangerous.wordpress.com/

My Town & Transportation Planning website

http://walkablestreets.wordpress.com/

My Plan B blog

https://domz60.wordpress.com/

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http://www.facebook.com/dom.nozzi

My YouTube video library

http://www.youtube.com/user/dnozzi

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Filed under Bicycling, Economics, Energy, Politics, Road Diet, Sprawl, Suburbia, Urban Design, Walking

The Counterintuitive Impacts of Traffic Congestion and Road Widening

By Dom Nozzi

The conventional wisdom claims that widening a road will reduce traffic congestion and fuel consumption.

The conventional wisdom is wrong.

Newman and Kenworthy are the scholars to read on this issue. Their studies persuasively show that the reverse of the conventional wisdom is true.

Research has found that cross-culturally and throughout history, humans, on average, will live in a place that creates a round-trip commute time of approximately 1.1 hours per day. Therefore, when we widen roads, the faster commute time that is briefly created will enable more dispersed residential sprawl to get us back to the 1.1 hour equilibrium.

People, in other words, drive longer distances (and drive more often) when a road is widened. In a growing community, that means the congestion is not reduced. And the increased driving increases the amount of fuel consumed.

This sprawling, dispersing impact of road widening is inevitable, regardless of how aggressive your land use plan is in controlling sprawl.

In many locations within the US, we have seen an upward trend in the number of roads that are now highly congested. This has happened despite the fact that this country has spent trillions of public dollars over the past several decades to try to reduce congestion by widening roads. Given the growth in congestion traffic jam on huge hwy (and the failure to reduce congestion in the long run) despite all the widenings, this strategy has failed catastrophically. It is perhaps the most costly, misguided and damaging action taken in human history.

Indeed, the trillions we have spent to widening roads has actually created new car trips that would not have occurred without the widening — thereby validating both the studies of Newman & Kenworthy, as well as the “Triple Convergence” described by Anthony Downs. The Triple Convergence states that when a road is widened, three things inevitably occur. First, motorists who had been taking alternative routes to avoid the congestion now converge back on the widened road. Second, motorists who were avoiding congested times of day now converge back on such rush hours. And third, motorists who had opted to use transit, walk or bicycle to work start converging back to driving by car after the road widening.

In a growing number of American communities, the response to congestion is to let it be. This approach is known as “planned congestion,” and is the preferred strategy for such communities because of the enormous costs of widening roads, the benefits of congestion, and the counterproductive consequences of widening. I am an enthusiastic supporter of planned congestion for several reasons. Fighting against congestion by widening a road is part of the road-building, home-building and auto-maker lobby paradigm, because they know that if we try to fight congestion, we will get more road widenings, more cars, more car travel and more sprawl.

One of the many benefits of congestion is that, as transportation planner Ian Lockwood says, congestion creates a “time tax” for motorists. That is, the motorist pays a “fee” when they are slowed down. That “fee” is the time they lose in congestion. Conversely, then, the “time tax” created by congestion contracts our residential patterns as people seek to maintain that 1.1 hour equilibrium I mentioned above.

In our political climate, it is nearly impossible to use much more efficient and effective tactics: that is, to have motorists pay the real cost of their travel through high gas taxes or congestion (toll) fees. Instead, we keep motorists on welfare by not having them pay directly for the roads they drive on, or the time of day when they drive. All of us pay directly for water and electricity and food based on how much water, electricity and food we consume. Why not take the same approach with driving?

Because it is so politically difficult to directly charge motorists on welfare for their driving, the easiest way to control excessive driving (particularly at rush hour) is to indirectly charge the motorist by letting congestion happen. By not widening the road. By not adding turn lanes. By not timing traffic signals.

As Walter Kulash says, fighting congestion by widening a road is like loosening your belt to fight obesity.

 

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Visit my urban design website read more about what I have to say on those topics. You can also schedule me to give a speech in your community about transportation and congestion, land use development and sprawl, and improving quality of life.

Visit: www.walkablestreets.wordpress.com

Or email me at: dom[AT]walkablestreets.com

50 Years Memoir CoverMy memoir can be purchased here: Paperback = http://goo.gl/9S2Uab Hardcover =  http://goo.gl/S5ldyF

My book, The Car is the Enemy of the City (WalkableStreets, 2010), can be purchased here: http://www.lulu.com/product/paperback/the-car-is-the-enemy-of-the-city/10905607Car is the Enemy book cover

My book, Road to Ruin, can be purchased here:

http://www.amazon.com/Road-Ruin-Introduction-Sprawl-Cure/dp/0275981290

My Adventures blog

http://domnozziadventures.wordpress.com/

Run for Your Life! Dom’s Dangerous Opinions blog

http://domdangerous.wordpress.com/

My Town & Transportation Planning website

http://walkablestreets.wordpress.com/

My Plan B blog

https://domz60.wordpress.com/

My Facebook profile

http://www.facebook.com/dom.nozzi

My YouTube video library

http://www.youtube.com/user/dnozzi

My Picasa Photo library

https://picasaweb.google.com/105049746337657914534

My Author spotlight

http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/domatwalkablestreetsdotcom

Leave a comment

Filed under Energy, Politics, Sprawl, Suburbia, Urban Design