Robert Steuteville, coauthor of New Urbanism: Best Practices Guide, wrote this article for a newspaper in New York’s Southern Tier. He argues that, urban dwellers are being forced to subsidize sprawl, along with all its negative effects. He writes:
So, city dwellers are subsidizing the suburban, car-dependent lifestyle in many ways. One, federal and state road construction dollars mostly go to rural and suburban highways, while local street networks must be maintained and built through local taxes. Two, most road construction and maintenance dollars come out of general revenues – not gas taxes – even through city residents drive less. Three, the external costs of the car-dependent lifestyle, such as global warming and national security expenses to protect oil access, are borne by all, regardless of how much you drive. Four, the costs of parking spaces, mandated by government for the convenience of automobile users, are passed on to all consumers, regardless of driving habits – and tend to make housing in cities more expensive. Poor urban households, many of whom own one or no cars, are particularly abused by this system.
His solution? Again, from his article:
Just to make public policy more automobile neutral, we need to raise gasoline taxes substantially, and divide the larger pie equitably between rural highways and local streets. On top of that, more money should go for mass transit to give people the choice to avoid driving.
I agree with him. I think it is unfair to make everyone pay for things that not everyone uses and that not everyone contributes to equally (in the case of climate change). Also, as much as I hate cars, I know that not everyone agrees with me, and I don’t have the right to say they shouldn’t drive, no matter how ecologically and socially irresponsible it is. But by the same token, they shouldn’t be able to force me to live their lifestyle if I would prefer to walk to everything. It’s all about choice.