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Home > Letters & Commentary > Subsidies influence transportation choices

Subsidies influence transportation choices

by Frank Nilsen

Published February 5, 2004 in the Carpinteria Coastal View News.

Scott Wenz asserts that cars are not the cause of traffic, people and lack of road space are...(CVN, Your Views, Jan 22). I invite Mr. Wenz to the corner of Mark Avenue and Via Real [at the Carpinteria Industrial Park] during a.m. and p.m. rush hour to observe and ponder.

He is likely to notice one thing for sure -- the bumper-to-bumper line of one-person-per-car traffic noisily and impatiently slogging along liberally wide streets. During the a.m., these cars roll off of a toll-free U.S. 101 and fill City- and employer-subsidized free parking spots. In the p.m. these same cars leave behind empty, oil-stained spaces, collectively forming a wasteland with no other real use.

I then invite Mr. Wenz to stick around and watch the buses arrive, VISTA from Ventura, and MTD and VISTA from Santa Barbara. He will likely notice two things:

First, that disproportionately fewer numbers of people take the bus vs. driving a car. Let's see: car parking is paid for by the City and employers, the roads are toll free, the State's Vehicle License Fee has been reduced, but bus fare recently increased 25 percent! Could priorities in what we subsidize influence transportation choices? Hmm!

The second thing Mr. Wenz might notice is that after the riders trickle on or off the bus, and after the bus pulls away, few traces are left of either bus or rider. The curbside and tree-shaded grassy spaces they momentarily occupied are returned to the birds, squirrels, and yes, cars.

As long as public money is involved in transportation options, support for sensible modes like walking, bicycling and transit are far better uses of those funds than subsidies for car and driver -- and the "knee-jerk" reactions that seek traffic relief through more and more automobile accommodation.

Frank Nilsen
Industrial Park employee and bicycle/bus commuter.

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