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Why Won’t the Feds Encourage People to Go Car-Free?

We always like to hear about people jettisoning their cars for other modes of transportation, and there are several blogs on the Streetsblog Network that chronicle efforts to give up the personal automobile. They include Carless Parenting, based in Salt Lake City; The MinusCar Project, in Sioux Falls, South Dakota; and Car Free with Kids, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. All are filled with inspiration and strategies for those who would like to go the same route.

Today we're featuring a post from Car Free Days, a Seattle blog that chronicles the mobility adventures of a family that has gone from three cars to one, and is looking for ways to give up that last link to auto dependency. Today, they examine the money people could save if they didn't drive, and marvel at federal policy designed to prop up the auto industry:

2611810942_75ca5747cd_m.jpgAs good as money in the bank. Photo by Car Free Days.

[T]he American Public Transportation Association’s Transit Savings Report…looked at what a car costs to own and run (the whole deal from buying it, maintaining it, parking, registration, insurance and more) and then compared that with what transit use would cost the same family.

The PI says in Seattle such a comparison nets a $10,483 savings for those chucking their car keys. And that’s for transit use. A bicycle switchover would probably fare even better. …

While news like this could entice many to bail on car ownership, it seems like government is trying to keep us chained to the auto industry, using promises of a $4500 stipend for turning in a gas guzzler and replacing it with a newer, slightly more economical model. Cutely titled “Cash for Clunkers” the plan appeared under the banner of climate change but doesn’t strike me as anything other than a politically beige way send additional cash to the auto industry.

As I tweeted yesterday, how come only new car buyers are getting the bonus? If this is about fixing the climate, then shouldn’t non-drivers be eligible for the same (more!)? Isn’t going from 18mpg to unlimted mpg better than the 28mpg called for by the trade-in proposal?

More on the costs of driving -- including thoughts from Nirvana's Krist Novoselic on the subject! -- at Seattle Transit Blog. Plus, The Infrastructurist takes an early look at Rep. Jim Oberstar's plans to change the way American transportation is funded, and The Bellows links to a proposal for vehicle-miles-traveled taxation.

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