There’s one word that’s never used in this lengthy New York Times piece about the impact high-fuel prices are having in rural areas: Carpool. When will we stop treating driving to work alone as a constitutional right?
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From the FT comes this ardent defense of congestion charging, now coming to Manchester, England. Note the final line, a nice rejoinder to the typical red herring, raised in NYC and elsewhere, of congestion charging as a regressive tax. “The case for road pricing is clear: every driver on the road imposes a cost on others, through congestion, pollution, greenhouse gas emissions and the risk of accidents. The attractions of a well designed scheme are the market mechanisms that encourage drivers to travel when road capacity is cheapest and most available. By paying more for longer journeys through heavily built-up areas, motorists are encouraged to find other, quieter routes to get around. A small response from drivers can greatly improve traffic flows. Since the rich drive more than the poor, road pricing is also progressive.”
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The LA Times has been running an excellent ongoing investigation into traffic. I was struck by these sentences in particular, about a driver stuck in traffic: “He loves Los Angeles, mostly. In the last few weeks alone, he’s seen a Latin American art exhibit at the L.A. County Museum of Art, a Murakami show at the Museum of Contemporary Art, an avant-garde dance performance at UCLA, and flamenco dancing at El Cid restaurant on Sunset Boulevard. Tonight, he’ll meet friends at Papa Cristo’s Greek restaurant in L.A. to dine on fried octopus and feta.” This raises the question: How could one live a place where all those things were possible without encountering traffic? To do all these things in a place without traffic, say, Montana, you’d likely eat up the same amount of time merely driving from one far-flung locale to another in search of these activities. Angelenos can use the metro system to get to some of these events, but even those trips take longer than those by car. Traffic, like congestion itself, is a relative term.