Thursday, November 8, 2012

It's the demand, stupid

Billions of people want to live in U.S.-style car-dependent sprawl. As long as this is true, the fossil-fuel industry will have power, lots of power.

Currently, the autosprawl system of human shelter and transport has critical mass. Because most people travel by car, the massive public investment in autosprawl infrastructure is seen as necessary.

We can break that critical mass. But only by addressing demand. A carbon tax would address demand. But it would be easy oppose. People would rightly expect it to be corrupt.

Instead, we should make public transit fare-free. The payback is immediate and greater than the "lost" revenue. Free transit is simple and easy to see. There are no complicated carbon-pricing indexes to be manipulated. And the myriad benefits are out in the open for all to see: less noise, less congestion, less parking problems, fewer collisions, lower medical costs, etc.

More importantly, fare-free transit would break the critical mass of the auto as transport. Autosprawl public "investment" would be seen for what it really is, subsidy.