It would have little effect on bicycle use. Raising gas taxes is going to cost people who have longer commutes substantially more than people who live within reasonable biking distance. The average U.S. commute is around 32 miles round-trip, which would take close to 2 hours without traffic or traffic controls.
The response to higher gas taxes would have nothing to do with bikes. We'd buy cars with better fuel efficiency, explore alternative engines with lower costs-per-mile, and continue to pay the tax. Until the efficiency gains match the costs of the tax, the rest of the economy would suffer as most people would have less discretionary spending.
You HAVE to get to work, so you're going to eat the tax. And it's regressive, to boot.
Urban people in the U.S. complain a lot about the suburban nature of most of the country, but there is little that can be reasonably done eliminate the suburbs. Most people in this country simply prefer it, and will pay more for their transportation costs to get it. Raising taxes on these people is not going to change their behavior in any meaningful way. A few extra cents, or even an extra half dollar is gas taxes is going to be a lower cost to them than uprooting their life and moving within biking distance.
little that can be reasonably done eliminate the suburbs. Most people in this country simply prefer it
If people prefer it, why does the government have to mandate it by law?
Suburban zoning and -- even more importantly -- minimum parking requirements force property developers to build nothing but sprawl with isolated pods of single-use development. Wide, hostile roads are required (by law) to carry people between commercial, office, residential, and industrial sprawl zones.
If free markets were allowed to have any influence at all on land development, you would see at least some new urban style building. As it is, nothing but sprawl is permitted.
You have stated this more beautifully than anyone else here. This is why I left the US. Mile after mile of suburban hellscape, mandated by law, and full of lazy shits who are too dumb to even know there's another way of living.
> Raising taxes on these people is not going to change their behavior in any meaningful way. A few extra cents, or even an extra half dollar is gas taxes is going to be a lower cost to them than uprooting their life and moving within biking distance.
GP said EU levels, so it's not a few cents or "even" a half dollar. It's straight up doubling or tripling gas prices. This would no doubt impose a lot of hardship on people, and there might well be significant political upheaval in the process, but if you think it wouldn't change behavior and the suburban sprawl problem then you don't realize how inelastic people's income really is.
There's also public transportation, I've lived in Portland and LA and on average it takes 2x-10x longer to get to where you want. I've always wondered, especially on light rail, why can't they just go faster?
The net speed of transit is driven by stop frequency and dwell time. Remember, you simply cannot make up for the time you're not moving -- driving half your trip at 15 mph and half at 30 mph doesn't give you an average speed of 22.5 mph ((15+30)/2), but of 20 mph -- it's the total time for the trip, divided by distance.
Acceleration (and braking) of LRV has to be limited on account of standees, which generally means limiting top speeds. The fact that most LRVs travel on shared roadways (with private vehicles, trucks, bikes, and pedestrians) means they have to be prepared for sudden stops. Exclusive RoW can avoid this problem, but it's expensive: you've either got to block off surface access, elevate, or tunnel.
Tracked vehicles cannot pass one another without sidings. A consistent issue with LRVs is that if there's a breakdown, or even a delay, of an up-track vehicle, the effects ripple back through the route. Sidings (or switches) are expensive. Trolley buses (which receive power from overhead electrical wires) have similar limitations.
Any transfers you need to make will also add considerable time to your trip, and again, dwell or stationary time _cannot_ be made up by speed.
In crowded or dense urban areas, priority signaling for transit, and the lack of need to find and pay for parking, can cut some time off of trips, but that's fairly limited.
Transportation is still a trade off between convenience and price. I think a lot of the people not living within biking distance are probably also living in an area where public transport is a serious inconvenience compared to other options.
I live in the Cleveland area, and even living in the downtown area, I could imagine it being a legitimate sacrifice to live without a car. While the downtown area is growing in residence and support services, such as grocery stores, are being built downtown, it's still tough. Also, while some businesses are moving their offices downtown, other companies, especially large ones like Eaton, have moved their substantial downtown presence to the suburbs, so the problem is happening in both the residential and commercial side of real-estate. I'd have to imagine many small and mid-size cities suffer from this.
I just don't see a solution that is going to get people to cluster more, given our culture. I think the long-term solution is electric cars and the possibilities that shared, highly convenient, self-driven cars present. So instead of changing behaviors drastically, we use technology to make the required changes much smaller.
because of stopping. It takes more force to stop. Plus you would throw everyone and their stuff on the train around the process (they have no breaks for their forward acceleration).
You already feel a mild version of this in rush-hour on NYC subways. Your body will move slightly as the train breaks, often causing people to lose balance (particularly if they never experienced this previously)
I combine public transport with a bike, its about picking the moment when biking is faster than public transport.
For me that is right when I get off the train.
public transport time 1h 15m, combo time: 45mins.
I know that by car it takes less than 1h 15 mins but more than 45 mins.
The tax could have a negative impact on the working poor, at least initially, but it's important to distinguish between short-term and long-term.
A historical example comes to mind: the collapse of the slave industry in the American South in the 1800s. (Please note that I'm referring to very specific aspects of the trade; I'm not by any means equating slavery with the energy sector, morally or otherwise.)
If you were to consider abolition from a short-term point of view, as many Americans did, it seemed like a terrible idea. It had catastrophic effects on millions of working, poor Americans. After all, it meant crippling the nation's single largest industry.
And yet, when we reflect on the American slave trade and its eventual decline, those hardships are trumped by greater moral and economic imperatives. The moral imperatives go without saying. The economic ones had to do with recognizing the true cost of labor and finding new opportunities, some of which were outside of agriculture.
Some moral and economic imperatives exist in our current conversation about restructuring the energy industry, which are only visible from a long-term perspective. For example, we're morally bound to address the long-term environmental impact and dangerousness of car travel (although, again, I'm not suggesting this moral imperative is equal to that of abolishing slavery). From an economic standpoint, we're also bound to recognize that our current methods of producing and consuming energy are unsustainable.
TL;DR: Sometimes radically restructuring an industry is the smart - and right - thing to do, despite the relatively short-term economic hardships that it causes.
This. Especially in cities, where car usage is a classic example of the tragedy of the commons. I personally would love to see the entirety of public transportation in major cities paid for by those who want to drive. Muni, BART, CalTrain, NYC Subway, etc. should all be funded via a tax on those who prefer to drive in a region where public transportation exists.
See, this is where I have to disagree - I think people who insist on driving their own cars should fund those who take public transport.
The government is trying to encourage public transportation - that puts less stress on roads and infrastructure, it causes less pollution and damage to the environment, and means roads are less congested.
Also, public transport is one of those funny things that actually gets better the more people use it.
Fares will go down, and you'd get more frequent services.
And I doubt raising the tax rate on fuel would do much at all, in America at least. Gas prices have gone up significantly over the last few decades and we drive more and more.
Can't reply because of HN time restrictions on long threads, but I think the reduction on driving is more due to cities and housing centers within cities getting denser - even Houston is doing that, and we've traditionally been very spread out. We still are, but it's improving.
In most cities I've lived, not really. I grew up in Florida and cities were not made accessible to those without cars.
Cape Coral, for instance, is just a huge, sprawling (mostly-vacant) city. You could probably manage to situate yourself with most of the things you need nearby, but you would still find the vast majority of the city inaccessible without a long ride.
I've climbed snow-covered mountain roads (more like trails really. unpaved roads in a state park) in upstate New York in a Honda Accord plenty of times (friend has a rather remote cabin...).
Some people do legitimately have a need for larger vehicles. The farmer I use to work for had 4 or 5 F-150s to be used on the farms (no way you are getting a regular car in and out of some of those waterlogged fields). Those were farm equipment, not something you use to drop off the kids at school. People who need vehicles like that to go grocery shopping are an extreme minority.
No, it isn't. There is absolutely no need to have a truck-based, tall monster of a vehicle in even the most serious of winter conditions in the United States. 1: places will close of road conditions are that bad. 2: a front wheel drive with good snow tires is plenty good. 3: if you're that scared of driving in the snow, a subaru impreza with snow tires is small and does quite well in the most extreme stuff.
Although I replied earlier that I've driven a small sports car through most of the last three or so winters, what you said is not always correct. There are many times that the snow is simply too deep for cars, even that Impreza. When you're high centered on snow, you're not going anywhere.
And I have never seen any of the roads around here closed, even when impassable by anything short of a snowmobile or a tractor.
People in wintery climates who want SUVs want them because the roads are frequently uncleared, or because they need to travel at night during a blizzard when the snow is piling high. If snow and ice removal operated 24/7, I agree that a smaller car would be just fine.
As people will surely pile on to tell you, the vast majority of trips taken are no more than a few miles.
If U.S. cities had proper cycling infrastructure, I would expect many more adults would use bikes for local travel. But as it is, driving is certainly more reasonable for many people when the alternative is biking on a shoulderless road with deadly vehicles passing inches away from you.
If it was feasible and I lived within 10 miles of where I work, I would for sure bike. Right now, I commute almost 20 minutes in my car, so biking to and from work just isn't a great idea. If I lived and worked in the city, I would for sure bike every day. Even if I worked in the city, I would utilize the light rail for the majority of my commute. It sucks I would still have to drive 10-15 minutes to get to the light rail though.
That actually seems like a reasonable difference considering that outside of cities biking is only a hobby (and sometimes quite a dangerous one depending on infrastructure). And in America many commuters drive for over 20 minutes.
I know what you're saying, so I'm sorry for being a little pedantic, but I just have to jump in and point out that there are MANY bike commuters in suburban and rural areas. I lived in Bloomington, Indiana for two years and biked 3 miles into town every day. It was incredible for my health and the countryside is just gorgeous. In many ways it was vastly preferable to my various urban commutes since then.
You're right that the infrastructure is often lacking, but you learn the tricks you need to get your errands done, and there are many of us out there every day building the critical mass to change that.
This seems to be the usual retort anytime someone dares and propose a change in the insanity that is car driving in America. It is as if god personally swept down, laid out cities and then continued to crush their public transport systems.
In reality of course, these commute times are all of your own making. Just because politics in the 20th century designed cities a particular way doesn't mean it is now forever set in stone in the 21th.
To be fair though, there's nothing particularly difficult or slow about a ~20km commute with a good public-transport infrastructure.
Until recently I lived about 20km away from my work, and my commute took about 25-30min: 10min walking and 15min on the train. I found this a very nice and relaxing commute; being on public-transport means you can read / browse the web / zone out, and indeed it's a valuable unwind time for me (the walking time is also hugely beneficial in this respect). [The same trip by car takes about 30min with no traffic, or an indeterminate amount of time in typical rush-hour traffic...]
Calgary is just silly large and special. My commute to the university is 30 minutes in good traffic by car. Mass transit implies about one and a quarter hours on the ctrain and twenty minutes on a bus. Plus waiting time.
Keep in mind Tokyo is only the center of that metro area. Tokyo itself is 13M people. The full metro area is 35M! Meanwhile calgary is a mere 1M!
Calgary is just not scaling. If we tried to fit 35M people in Calgary the city limits would start hitting the Rockies! Just as CPUs are hitting limits on the speed of light Calgary is hitting limits on safe highway speeds. Mass transit could be improved but it cannot shrink the city.
I used to cycle 15 miles or so each way to work a few years ago. That place did have a fitness center w/ showers on campus, so it worked out ok (except having to get up an extra couple hours early). My current job just moved into a new building with a small fitness room and showers, so I may try it again next summer (about the same distance).
The best part was actually looking forward to my commute -- even though I only cycled about once or twice a week. Now I'm so far out of shape, it will take a few months of working out in the gym to get back to what I was doing (and hopefully my knees won't go out again).
The thing with Bloomington is that it's very bike friendly compared to most cities of similar size and there is a substantial cyclist population considering half of the town consists of students that have nowhere to park their cars.
Your average noncollege town isn't like Bloomington.