Comment 30729

By arienc (registered) | Posted May 02, 2009 at 09:48:25

A Smith >> If drivers had to pay for the use of roads, just as they have to pay for their cars, demand for roads would fall dramatically.

On this point I agree with you, however in our society which has decided that public roads are a valued entitlement, that idea is unlikely to go anywhere. Politicians are afraid to enact even the slightest hint of road pricing, even on highways like the RHVP. And how do you convince non-drivers to pay for roads at all? After all, they shop at stores and use services which were supplied using those same roads.

Once again, government interference in the delivery of goods and services distorts consumer preferences and the result is shortages and inefficient use of taxpayers money.

There are many circumstances where government "interference" brings efficiencies. For example, as a road user, I would only want to pay for the roads connecting my house, my workplace, and the businesses I patronize. You would likely only do the same. The grocery store that buys food from the farmer would only pay for the roads that their trucks use, and so on. We end up with millions of individual actors trying to compete for road services instead of one single co-ordinated process for building roads in the community. How do they all agree on where the roads go? I see no evidence that this is more efficient and helps build a society that functions.

If public transit provides a useful service to businesses, then why the need to have taxpayers subsidize it? The HSR was started as a private company, so why can't it return to private hands? If it truly does provide a benefit to society, it will earn profits just like McDonald's, Tim Horton's, the odd airline, etc.

Interesting you bring up McDonald's and Tim Horton's. Imagine those businesses without the benefit of public road infrastructure! Would they have grown to the size and scale they are now? Highly doubtful. These companies have capitalized and profited on the automobile culture that we citizens have subsidized. Which explains why they are resistant to any change in the status quo. Same with the airlines...we have spent billions of public dollars on airport infrastructure so that airlines can operate. Flying to Cancun for less than two thousand dollars a seat would not be possible in a truly free-market economy. Although most still remain unprofitable, those few that have earned profits have taxpayers to thank for providing them the opportunity.

What folks like myself are looking for, is more balance in what we choose to subsidize. Instead of subsidizing primarily road and air transportation, balance that out with more pedestrian, bicycle, mass transit and train travel.

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