Monday, August 20, 2007

Congestion makes us richer!

I feel so much better now. I thought that all the traffic congestion that limited my mobility around this town was a huge pain in the rear. Now I know that it is making me richer.

Thanks to the Oregonian for setting me straight. You see, people in Portland drive less than people in other cities of comparable size, and that translates into big dollar savings. And that money gets spent on all sorts of other local goods and services instead of going to out of state oil companies. They call it the "green dividend."

A local economist, Joe Cortright, estimates we save $2.6 billion a year because we drive less, and his report is being touted by the planning elites as evidence that their policies are working. He estimated not just the actual money saved, but also imputed a value on the time we don't spend in our cars, and added that to the total savings.

So let me get this straight. If driving less saves us money and makes us better off, then driving less still, we'd be better off still. And not driving at all, we would presumably maximize our well being.

The error these agenda driven analysts make is in the underlying assumption that driving is a negative, so minimizing it is a good thing. But driving is not a negative - it is a very useful activity for both business and for household activity. If we are driving less because the roads are so clogged up, we aren't saving anything at all - in fact, that is a net cost to us.

We are poorer, because we would have happily traded the time and money for the trip, but when the extra cost of the extra time spent on the congested roads is added, we don't make the trip. The congestion cost prices us out of trips we would normally find "profitable" to take.

Another thing the study didn't discuss is the relatively higher price of gas in Portland compared to other cities, due to the higher taxes in Oregon, and the fact that there are no refineries close by. If we drive 16% fewer miles than the national average, how much of that is due to the higher cost of gas? Half?

This study is just ridiculous. It's on the front page of the Metro section of the Oregonian, because it supports the agenda of the elites the Oregonian has spent the last 25 years cheerleading for.

Just another example of the made up news that is so prevalent at the O.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

First, Joe Cortright is a hack. The worst kind of agenda-driven shill there is.

Second, if Portland's no-car policy is creating so much wealth, where the hell's it all going? Portland has one of the worst urban-area economies in the nation, including one of the highest unemployment rates. Portland's average income and income growth lag both its supposedly car-happy neighbors, Washington and Clackamas Counties.

The $25 billion ODOT has spent in this state in last decade without building even one significant lane-mile of new roadway is criminal. If this were China, there'd be some well-deserved executions.