(Though blind to similar trends in Canada, and based on the situation before fracking and tar sands reduced the need for imported oil, this study is still one of the best there is on the real costs of driving.)

The Going Rate (June 1992) World Resources Institute,


No other country in the world depends as heavily on motor vehicles as the United States does. In per capita use, no other developed country even comes close. The average American drives or rides about 12,000 miles per year in cars and light trucks, almost double the distance traveled in most other industrial countries.1 (See Figure 1.) Even in urban areas, where people are the most likely to have other transportation options, Americans use motor vehicles for 82 percent of their trips, compared with 48 per-cent for Germans, 47 percent for the French, 45 per-cent for the English, and 42 percent for Danes.2 In1990, there were a record 190 million motor vehicles registered in the United States—23 million more vehicles than licensed drivers—and no end to the growth in the number of vehicle miles traveled(VMT) is in sight.

Thanks largely to motor vehicles, hyper-mobility has become almost an American birthright.

Thanks largely to motor vehicles, hyper-mobility has become almost an American birthright. Per capita motor vehicle use (cars, trucks, buses, etc.) has almost tripled, from three thousand VMT per person in 1950 to over 8700 in 1990, a compound growth rate of 2.6 percent per year. (See Figure 3.) Affordable motor vehicles and inexpensive fuel have brought American car owners freedoms and opportunities that few other countries can even hope to match and that were scarcely imaginable just a few decades ago. At the same time, the expanding truck fleet has enabled industry to move goods quickly and conveniently to markets.Yet, a forty-year focus in U.S. transportation policy on motor vehicles as the answer has made Americans lose sight of the question. The longstanding commitment to personal vehicles has led to inter-state and urban highways that at least until recently have been the world’s envy, to suburban developments, to shopping malls, and—coming full circle—to the world’s highest per capita motor-vehicle use.The quest for personal mobility may now be interfering with the good life instead of contributing to it.


Figure 1. Per Capita Car and Light Truck Travel(1987)United -StatesFrance ~Sweden -United -KingdomNorway -West -GermanyItaly -JapanB CarsD Rail and BusesI102 4 6 8 10 12Thousands of PassengerMiles per PersonI14

The quest for personal mobility may now be interfering with the good life instead of contributing to it.

Billions of dollars have been spent to build, maintain, and repair our highways and roads, and billions more are needed to keep them in good condition. Besides the financial burden this represents, compelling evidence reveals that our commitment to automobiles and trucks threatens our health, security, and the natural environment.

Figure 2. Trends in Total US Motor Vehicle Miles Travelled 1960-1990

Ironically, as congestion increases, ownership of a motor vehicle no longer guarantees mobility and quick access to services and places beyond the neighborhood or the reach of public transportation.In many parts of the country, rush-hour and even weekend congestion is slowly strangling entire metropolitan areas. Along with increased stress and tension, congestion leads to lost time, lower worker productivity, increased air pollution, more accidents, and wasted fuel. A transportation system dominated by vehicles also contributes to other national problems—and tragedies—including 47,000 deaths and five million injuries (the toll in 1988).3The social, economic, and environmental costs resulting from these trends have sparked widespread concern over whether—and at what price—growing motor vehicle use can be sustained. The FederalHighway Administration expects congestion to grow fourfold on the nation’s freeways and twofold on other roads over the next twenty years.4 According to the Transportation Research Board, part of theNational Academy’s National Research Council, annual delays in travel time will increase by 5.6 billion hours over the next two decades, wasting an additional 7.3 billion gallons of fuel per year, annually adding 73 million tons of carbon dioxide to U.S.emissions, and increasing travelers’ costs by $41 billion.5


The end results of such congestion border on the absurd: a one-way 30-mile commute on U.S.Route 1 from New Brunswick, New Jersey to Trenton could easily turn into a five-hour ordeal by 2005, as traffic inches along at an average speed of six miles per hour, slower than a trotting horse.6


The prospect of immobility is only part of the problem. Increased driving frustrates the achievement of national goals such as clean air, energy security, and protection of the environment.


Traffic congestion is not a new problem and try-ing to build more highways to alleviate it is not anew solution. In “The Power Broker,” a biography of Robert Moses, New York’s planning czar during the 1930s, Robert Caro describes the frustration of trying to cut traffic by focusing on the construction of more roads and bridges. “Watching Moses open the Triborough Bridge to ease congestion on the Queensborough Bridge, open the Bronx-WhitestoneBridge to ease congestion on the Triborough Bridge and then watching traffic counts on all three bridges mount until all three were as congested as one had been before, planners could hardly avoid the conclusion that ‘traffic generation’ was no longer a theory but a proven fact: the more highways were built to alleviate congestion, the more automobiles would pour onto them and. . . force the building of more highways—which would generate more traffic and become congested in their turn in an inexorably widening spiral that contained the most awesome implications for the future of New York and of all ur-ban areas. . . Pour public investment into the improvement of highways while doing nothing to improve mass transit lines, and there could be only one outcome. . .Moses’ immense new highway construction proposal. . . could only make congestion, al-ready intolerable, progressively worse. His program. . .was doomed to failure before it began.”7

Figure 3. Average U.S. Per Capita Motor Vehicle Travel 19501990


If motor vehicle use continues to grow, as expected, the prospects for further reducing urban air pollution and U.S. petroleum imports are dim. Yet, by the year 2010, total fuel consumption by U.S. motor vehicles could increase by as much as 50 percent over to-day’s levels.8 Even today, with less than 5 percent of the world’s population, the United States consumes a quarter of the world’s oil, and one half of this—about 8.9 million barrels per day—is burned in mo-tor vehicles.9 With domestic oil production declining, following our current transportation policies will deepen U.S. dependence on foreign oil sources, increasingly from Persian Gulf producers, further jeopardizing national security and adding to greenhouse-gas emissions.Growing frustration with what four decades of furious highway building has wrought emerged in the vigorous debate surrounding the passage of the1991 surface-transportation act, a law that greatly in-creased the funds available for public transportation.Although the era of massive highway building is end-ing, the United States still spends nearly $200 million every day building and rebuilding the nation’s streets and roads, despite predictions that congestion and delays will worsen.




Today’s heavy use of cars and trucks in theUnited States did not just happen. Nor did it spring solely from some peculiarly American love affair with the automobile. Rather, economic and political forces that partially mask the full costs of driving are at work. Motorists today do not directly pay anything close to the full costs of their driving decisions. However steep the bills for cars, insurance, automobile maintenance, and gasoline may seem to drivers, federal and state policies spare them many other costs. The net effect of these policies is to make driving seem cheaper than it really is and to encourage the excessive use of automobiles and trucks.What are the annual social costs of driving that motorists don’t pay directly out of pocket? And wha tpolicy changes are needed to better account for them through user fees and charges? Answering these questions—the purpose of this report—is by no means a straightforward task. But following the “polluter pays” principle of cost allocation, as recommended here, would begin to shift the various costs associated with motor vehicle use to the drivers who impose them. Some analysts may object to shifting all of the costs of motor vehicle use to drivers, arguing that roadways provide some public benefits that would justify partial public payment for, say, highway construction and repair. But any such benefits are quite difficult to measure and, in any case, are likely to be small compared with overall private benefits.In this report we allocate all costs directly to the motor vehicles—both public and private—that impose them. From a purely economic point of view, imposing user charges that reflect the costs of driving will not necessarily lead to economically optimal levels of driving or to the wisest investment in roads, bridges, and other driving-related facilities. (Such optimal levels would be determined by finding the point at which the marginal social costs of driving equal the marginal benefits, either in the short or long term.) Still, imposing fees on users—that is, the driving population—is consistent with theories of cost allocation that call for drivers to bear the costs they impose. Imposing user charges that better reflect the full costs of driving is likely to reduce levels of in-essential driving and, perhaps, increase demand for transportation forms other than motor vehicles.Finally, even when drivers as a group pay the costs of driving it may be possible to charge heavier fees on those drivers who impose greater costs. The costs of accidents, for instance, could be pro-rated so that highest-risk drivers would pay the most.Some policy initiatives that would accomplish such a shift are proposed at the end of the report.





The costs of driving can be categorized as either”market” or “external.” Market costs are those that are actually reflected in economic transactions, such as purchasing a car, buying fuel to operate it, constructing and repairing roads, paying for parking spaces, or purchasing automobile insurance. Market costs represent the direct, ordinary, expected costs of owning and operating a motor vehicle. In contrast, external costs (or “externalities”) are not reflected directly in market transactions. These hidden costs include those for illnesses resulting from motor-vehicle air pollution and the economic risks from increased global warming and dependence on imported oil. External costs obviously must be estimated using techniques other than analyzing normal market prices. Social costs are the sum of market and external costs—in short, total costs.



Making motor vehicle users bear their fair share of the total costs of driving would help curb the problems stemming from our current transportation system—congestion, excessive air pollution, growing greenhouse gas emissions, and endangered national security, to name a few. But, for several reasons, motor vehicle users rarely face the full costs of their driving decisions.


Government taxing policies frequently shift some of the direct costs of driving away from drivers. In this way, drivers fail to bear directly a significant fraction of road construction and repair costs, the costs of providing highway services, and the costs of providing commuter parking. In the case of externalities such as air pollution, climate-change risks, and noise, everyone shares the costs, but those who impose the costs pay only a fraction. Finally, some categories of costs paid by drivers don’t bear any direct relation to their driving decisions or the costs of these decisions. For example, drivers pay some accident costs in the form of medical expenses, lost work time, or premiums for accident insurance, but accident insurance costs are not always pegged directly to the amount of driving or the actual risks imposed by specific drivers.


To the extent that the price of driving—as reflected, for example, in the prices of cars, gasoline, and road fees—does not include all of these costs, people drive more than they otherwise might and shy away from competing transportation systems—such as public transportation or bicycles—that can provide comparable services at lower social costs.The enormity of the problems spawned by the use of cars and trucks in the United States demands a full accounting of these unborne social costs.


Without such information in hand, the comparative advantages and drawbacks of using, say, tolls, service charges, or fuel taxes to incorporate these costs into driving decisions will be hard to assess.




Roadway Capital Outlays

Roadway Maintenance

Highway Services



Parking costs should be considered part of the normal costs of owning and operating a motor vehicle. Yet, parking is supplied free to many motorists, effectively subsidizing the use of cars and trucks.The obvious example is the suburban shopping mall:customers park free. People who drive to the mall pay the parking fees only indirectly through the prices of the services and goods sold. Shoppers who walk or take public transportation to malls are thus paying for parking spaces they do not use, much as consumers who pay with cash subsidize those who use credit cards


Most employers in the United States also provide free parking. Approximately 86 percent of the American workforce commutes to work by car,21 and over 90 percent of all commuters park for free at work.22In all, close to 85 million Americans enjoy free park-ing space at work.What is the dollar value of these unborne costs to commuters? Assuming a $1000 per year average national value for a parking space,23 the nation’s 85million recipients of free parking enjoy an annual parking subsidy of about $85 billion in addition to the other parking subsidies described earlier. (SeeTable 2.) Of course, someone pays this $85 billion annual tab for parking, but it is not part of the cost of driving.


Someone pays the $85 billion annual tab for parking, but it is not the driver.


Employers offer free parking to workers partly because this fringe benefit is not taxed federally. In the Washington, D.C. area, for instance, an employer can provide a parking space as a fringe benefit for an employee at a cost of about $8 per day, about $2000 per year, without the recipient paying any federal taxon the benefit. To provide the same employee with an extra $2000 of take-home salary, an employer would have to spend about $4,400 per year (including federal, state, and local taxes, pension contributions and other benefits). More generally, Donald Shoup and Richard Willson have estimated that the value of a $ 1 tax-free parking subsidy—taking into account federal, state, and social security taxes—varies from $1.35 to $1.53, depending on the driver’s taxable income. It thus costs employers far less to offer “free” parking—an untaxed benefit—than the equivalent salary increase.



An extensive literature on parking practices indicates that free or subsidized parking for commuters makes solo commuting almost irresistible.24 (See Figure 4.) This commuting pattern, in turn, gives rise to excessive congestion, air pollution, security risks, accidents, and the various other societal costs outlined here. Shoup and Willson estimate that simply ending employer-paid parking would reduce the number of solo commuters between 18 and 81 percent, depend-ing on local circumstances and transportation alternatives, and it would cut the number of cars driven to work by 15 to 28 percent.25  Where commuter parking is provided free, part of the cost is paid by taxpayers in general through forgone tax revenues, and part is paid by employers on behalf of their employees. Of course, employees indirectly pay some of this cost: if they weren’t getting free parking, they would probably be getting some other form of compensation. Although employers and even the general public may benefit from free or subsidized parking—employee morale or punctuality might be better, for instance—the current allocation system masks the true cost of commuting. Many employees welcome free parking benefits, but others who live near work or prefer other modes of transport might not need or want free parking.When parking is offered as a “take-it-or-leave-it”benefit, drivers have no incentive to change in-grained behavior. Without doubt, free parking en-courages solo driving, and far more Americans drive to work alone than would if they had to pay parking costs directly.





The Costs of Air Pollution


After almost twenty-five years of efforts to reduce pollution from motor vehicles, the U.S. car and truck fleet is still a major source of carbon monoxide and smog. (See Figure 5.) In 1986-1988, about 112million Americans were living in areas where at least one air quality standard was not met, in large measure the consequence of car and truck emissions. In developing and industrialized countries alike, air pollution problems are mounting, with motor vehicles the source of major carbon monoxide emissions and smog problems.26 Although cars are getting cleaner with each model year, they are also getting more numerous and logging more miles—two trends that offset much of this improvement.



Although cars are getting cleaner with each model year, they are also getting more numerous and logging more miles—two trends that offset much of the improvement.


According to a 1991 report by the NationalAcademy of Sciences (NAS), EPA has greatly under-estimated the impacts of motor vehicles on smog levels. Emissions of smog-contributing organic com-pounds are probably two to four times greater than EPA estimates.27 According to the NAS, the vehicles that EPA uses to calculate pollution emissions are cleaner than most of those on the road, corrections for speeding and evaporative emissions are inaccurate, the Federal Test Procedure does not accurately simulate actual driving, and current inspection and maintenance (I&M) programs are not leading to the reductions anticipated. As a result, tailpipe emissions from individual new cars and trucks have been reduced (and vehicle prices now include the cost of pollution control devices), but the motor vehicle fleet emits much more pollution than previously thought—certainly too much to disregard.Motor vehicle pollution damages human health, materials, crops, trees and other vegetation, and visibility. Perhaps less obviously, the production, refining, transportation, and storage of oil also pollute the air and water, whether through oil spills or ground-water contamination.Using EPA data, Mark French of the Federal Reserve System estimates the costs of motor-vehicle generated ozone reflected in health effects, lost labor hours, and reduced agricultural revenues at 3.5 to 11cents per gallon with a point estimate of 6 cents (all1987 dollars).28 (These estimates exclude the costs of acid rain, chronic health problems, carbon monoxide health impacts, and forest damages from low-altitude ozone—all attributable at least in part to motor vehicle emissions.) Updating these values to 1989 yields estimated damages of $9 billion per year (with a range of $5 billion to $16 billion). The CongressionalOffice of Technology Assessment estimates the economic health benefits of meeting the ozone standard at $0.5 to $4 billion per year.29 Much of this ozone forms in an atmospheric soup of motor vehicle emissions.Researchers at the University of California, Davis, have also estimated the damages from motor-vehicle air pollution, including illnesses and premature death, reduced agricultural productivity, damage to materials, reduced visibility, and others.30 They calculated damages amounting to $ 10-1200 billion per year, the large range reflecting the uncertainty surrounding the number of deaths and illnesses attributable to pollution and the monetary value as-signed to human health and life itself.Great uncertainties notwithstanding, the economic costs of motor vehicle air pollution no doubt run into billions of dollars per year. In this analysis, $10 billion, as a conservative estimate, is used.


The Rising Risks of Climate Change

U.S. motor vehicles are also a driving force in global climate change. Reducing the risks will require changing energy-use patterns: about half of global greenhouse gas emissions stem from fossil fuel combustion (carbon dioxide), and the United States relies on fossil fuels for nearly 90 percent of its energy supply.Greenhouse warming occurs when a blanket of atmospheric gases allows sunlight to penetrate to the earth, but partially traps the earth’s radiated infrared heat. Over the past century, human activities have led to the buildup in the atmosphere of carbon dioxide and other gases (including methane, nitrous oxide, and ozone) that threaten to intensify this

natural warming.31 To stabilize atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration, the nations of the world will have to cut carbon dioxide emissions—the bulk of which arise from fossil fuel burning—by fully 60 to80 percent.32


Given large scientific uncertainties, it is not possible to accurately estimate the actual costs of the current buildup of greenhouse gases. Looking for at least an imperfect substitute for reliable estimates of economic damages, some policy analysts have estimated the costs of reducing the threat by, for example, imposing a carbon tax or by planting trees to offset carbon dioxide emissions.* Dale Jorgenson of Harvard and Peter Wilcoxen of the University ofTexas have estimated that a phased-in tax on fossil fuels, reaching $60 (1990 dollars) per ton of carbon in the year 2020, would cut U.S. emissions to 80percent of the 1990 level by 2005 and would hold them there indefinitely.33 A lower carbon-reduction target would obviously lead to a lower cost per ton.Stabilizing carbon dioxide emissions at 1990 levels, for example, might cost as little as $17 per ton, according to the same study. **


Some Fuel-Related Social Costs of Motor Vehicles


Air Pollution—mostly carbon monoxide and smog—have reached unhealthy levels in many major U.S.cities with motor vehicles the principal source. Motor vehicles are also important contributors to acid rain through their emissions of nitrogen oxides.


Oil Imports—U.S. petroleum imports have in-creased to almost 45 percent of supply, primarily to support growing transportation demand. Between1973 and 1990 oil consumption declined 44 percent in buildings, 9 percent in industry, and 64 percent in power generation. Only in transportation has oil consumption increased: by 21 percent over this period.Transportation (motor vehicles, planes, ships, etc.)now accounts for almost two thirds of U.S. oil consumption and oil imports threaten our national and economic security.•


Global Change—Emissions of transportation-related gases contribute directly or indirectly to global warming and ozone depletion. These gases include carbon dioxide, CFCs, hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxides, and carbon monoxide.


In the United States, motor vehicles, planes, trains, ships, and pipelines account for about 30 per-cent of all carbon dioxide emissions. In 1990, motor vehicles in the United States consumed about 133billion gallons of gasoline and diesel fuel, releasing about 350 million tons of carbon in the process.34 (See Figure 6.) A $60-tax on a ton of carbon trans-lates into a price increase of $8.20 per barrel of oil, or about $0.20 a gallon. Such a tax would significantly cut the use of coal—the fossil fuel with by far the highest carbon content—but would affect U.S. oil* *and gas consumption comparatively little.35 Assuming that motor-vehicle fuel consumption would continue at roughly 1990 levels, a phased-in tax of $0.20 per gallon would eventually cost motorists about $27 billion per year. (See Table 3-)



  • The costs of implementing such control programs may bear little relation to the actual damages being incurred from global climate change. For example, some have argued that increased energy efficiency, at least in the United States, could largely offset the buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere at very little cost.Yet, the costs of damages so avoided could amount to hundreds of billions of dollars.
  • * A worldwide 20 percent cut in carbon dioxide emissions would be only a first step to neutralizing the threat of global warming; it would not stabilize the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. As already indicated, stabilizing carbon dioxide concentrations at today’s levels would require an immediate reduction in global carbon dioxide emissions by 60 to 80 percent.

Other Social Costs of Automobiles

  • Congestion—Traffic in major urban areas has steadily increased with the growth in urban sprawl lead-ing to traffic delays, stress, lost productivity, higher vehicle operating costs, excess fuel use, greenhouse gas emissions, and air pollution.
  • Accidents—Traffic accidents lead to pain and suffering, higher insurance costs, damages to vehicles and other property, extra legal, medical and emergency-services costs, and losses of productivity
  • Noise—In addition to causing ill health effects, noise from highways leads to reductions in property

 Land Loss—Over 2 percent of U.S. land is paved over for roads and parking lots. The building of roads and other transportation-related facilities has caused the loss of wetlands, watershed regions, aquifer recharge areas, parklands, scenic areas, and historic and cultural areas.


Security Costs of Importing oil

Motor vehicles now account for over half of U.S. oil consumption and more than total domestic production. The U.S. transportation system is almost totally dependent on oil, ever more of it imported.This growing dependence puts the country’s national security and economic well-being at risk. While the United States has been a net importer of oil since 1948, concern over the security implications of importing petroleum rose dramatically as the OPEC cartel’s power grew in the early 1970s. At the time of the Arab oil boycott during the 1973 Middle East war, imports to the United States from the PersianGulf accounted for about 5 percent of oil supply.36(See Figure 7.) After the 1979 Iranian revolution, Persian Gulf imports dropped, reaching a low of 3 percent of supply in 1985. With the crash in world oil prices in the mid-1980s, U.S. oil demand rose even as U.S. exploration and production efforts fell.The net result was yet another rise in imports from the Middle East to 13 percent of domestic supply in1990. This trend is likely to continue. According to the Department of Energy, oil imports accounted for 42 percent of supply in 1990 and could reach 70 percent by the year 2010 and 80 percent by 2030.37  With the expected decline in non-OPEC production,38  oil-consuming nations everywhere will become increasingly dependent on oil from the Persian Gulf.


Dependence on imported oil, particularly from apolitically unstable region, can impose several kinds of costs on U.S. society. The first is related to the potential impacts that increasing imports could have on the international price of oil. As the level of oil imported by the United States rises, global demand for oil increases, and worldwide oil prices are driven upward. This upward pressure can lead to higher oil bills for all oil-consuming nations and may increase inflation worldwide and decrease U.S. purchasing power globally. Over the last 15 years, various analysts have estimated the economic costs of this element of oil import dependency at $0 to $100 per barrel of oil. More recent theoretical and empirical analyses suggest that this first class of social costs may not be as significant an economic threat as once thought.39 In this report, the impact of U.S. demand for oil on world prices is considered negligible ($0 as a cost element.)


The second class of social costs arises from overall U.S. dependence on oil and our economic vulnerability to sudden interruptions of supply. Such costs could include inflation, inconvenience, loss of income, unemployment, and productivity declines, to name a few. Because of the international nature of oil markets, domestic economic disruptions in theUnited States can occur even if oil imports account for only a small fraction of total supply. The UnitedStates and other nations that rely heavily on petroleum for transportation and lack alternative fuels for cars and trucks are especially vulnerable to disruptions in oil supplies. But though such costs are real, experts don’t agree on their actual dollar value.


Without reliable estimates of these costs (a problem with climate change too), analysts use the costs of mitigation programs as an approximation of the overall risks. Several types of government programs have been designed wholly or partly to reduce the risks of an oil-supply disruption or the economic impacts should one occur. Besides the research and development of alternative motor-vehicle fuels, the federal government has developed a strategic petroleum reserve (SPR) and maintains a military presence in the Persian Gulf to ensure access to Middle East oil—both actions to protect the U.S. economy from the costs of oil supply disruptions. In all, some $28billion (1990 dollars) has been invested in the SPR since 1976, and appropriations for facilities and oil have been averaging about $500 million per year.Those who consume oil should bear these costs, not taxpayers (who pick up the tab for the Department of Energy). Even more significant are the costs of maintaining a sizable military presence to protect theMiddle East region, estimated recently by Earl Ravenal for the Cato Institute at $50 billion per year.40 This sum reflects the costs of supporting the so-called Central Command (CENTCOM); it covers the expenses of maintaining four land divisions, nine

tactical air wings, and three navy aircraft-carrier battle groups; it does not include the costs, estimated at $5 billion per year, of a conventional war. Currently, the public pays these military expenditures through general tax revenues.


For several reasons, U.S. oil consumers should not have to foot the entire bill for these annual military expenditures. First, protecting access to oil may not be the only reason for keeping a military presence in the Middle East. Second, even if the United States significantly reduced its own oil imports, it might still feel a need to protect world oil supplies. All oil-importing nations, including the Europeans and the Japanese, benefit when the United States safeguards access to Middle Eastern oil supplies, a fact not lost on the countries that pitched in to pay for the war with Iraq in 1991.


Unfortunately, determining how much of these costs U.S. oil consumers should rightly pay is fraught with difficulties. Since motor vehicles account for half of U.S. oil consumption, in this report we allocate half the entire amount—$50.5 billion (SPR and military expenditures). (See Table 3-) We recognize that this estimate may be high and further analysis may produce a more appropriate value.


Congestion is one of the most troublesome long-term problems facing transportation planners and one of the most frequently cited issues in the transportation planning debate. Although nearly everyone intuitively recognizes highway congestion by the obvious symptoms—slow or stop-and-go traffic, crowded lanes, gridlock—a technical definition of the condition is surprisingly hard to pin down. The Institute of Transportation Engineers describes “congestion” as what happens when the number of vehicles attempting to use a roadway at a given time exceeds the roadway’s ability to carry the load at generally acceptable service levels. As conditions move from the various levels of service (summarized in Table 4), a highway becomes progressively more congested.41


In Los Angeles, congestion has already reduced average freeway speeds to less than 31 MPH; by the year 2010, they are projected to fall to 11 MPH.42 According to the Federal Highway Administration(FHWA), congestion is serious and rapidly worsening elsewhere too. On interstate and other major roads, congestion caused an estimated 8 billion hours of delay in 1989, lowering productivity and raising the costs of shipping freight by truck.43 Almost 70 per-cent of daily peak-hour travel on the urban interstate system occurs under near stop-and-go conditions, a 30-percent increase since 198344 (See Figure 8.)” Congestion now affects more areas, more often, for longer periods, and with more impacts on highway users and the economy than at any time in the nation’s history,” according to the FHWA.45


Congestion intensifies environmental problems, increases commuting times, raises vehicle operating costs (wasted fuel, excess wear on brakes, tires, and the engine, etc.), lowers worker productivity (from stress and fatigue), boosts insurance costs by increasing the risk of accidents, engenders productivity loss-es, and slows the delivery of business products.Though difficult to estimate, the toll of congestion on the health and mental well-being of drivers is also very real. Congestion is believed to increase blood pressure, frustration, and aggressive driving habits, even as it saps drivers’ patience.46


Environmental and air pollution impacts only add to this catalog of risks and ills. Greater smog, higher acid rain levels, and growing greenhouse gas emissions are among the most menacing. Consider just the extra carbon dioxide emissions. According toDepartment of Transportation estimates, congestion caused the waste of 3 billion gallons of gasoline in1984—3 percent of total national gasoline consumption. This waste resulted in the needless release of an extra 30 million tons of carbon dioxide in 1984.(The climate costs from these releases are included in the earlier cost estimates of global climate change.)By 2005, over 7 billion gallons are projected to be wasted as a result of growing highway congestion—70 million tons of carbon dioxide needlessly released into the atmosphere.


Estimates of the economic costs of congestion vary, and none has been comprehensive. Most have focused on such easily quantified values as lost time, wasted fuel, and increased insurance premiums due to accidents, and most exclude such costs as vehicle wear due to constant braking, driver stress, and other comparatively elusive damages. One widely cited report by the Texas Transportation Institute(TTI) found that congestion costs (from delay, extra fuel consumption, and higher insurance premiums)on major freeways and arterial roads in just 39 of the nation’s largest metropolitan areas totaled over $41billion in 1987.47 Of this amount, $28.6 billion was for lost time, $4.3 billion for wasted fuel, and $8.1billion for higher insurance premiums. The General Accounting Office cites estimates of national productivity losses from congestion of $100 billion and cites estimates of truck-delay costs from congestion of $24 to $40 billion per year.49



Figure 8. Travel Congestion on Urban Interstates 80 _”48

The total market costs of congestion on the nation’s roadways total at least $100 billion per year.


Counting only productivity losses, excess fuel use, and higher insurance premiums, the total market costs of congestion on the nation’s roadways total at least $100 billion per year. Drivers on congested roads bear this burden. (Externalities related to congestion—air pollution, global warming, noise, and so forth—are covered elsewhere in this report.)


Motor Vehicle Accidents

In 1988, 14.8 million accidents involving motor vehicles led to 47,000 deaths and almost 5 million in-juries.50 Most of the costs of these accidents were borne directly by drivers. Approximately 17 percent of these motor-vehicle deaths, however, were among pedestrians and bicyclists.51 Although cyclists and walkers both use streets and roads, neither group contributes much to the overall costs of roadway construction or maintenance. In this analysis, they are not considered roadway users, and a fraction of the total costs of accidents is allocated to them as non-drivers, at least in such categories as pain and suffering.


According to a recent study completed by the Urban Institute for the Federal Highway Administration, the total social costs resulting from motor-vehicle accidents amounted to $358 billion in1988.52 (See Table 5.) By far the largest cost category was pain, suffering, and lost quality of life—a total of$228 billion, estimated on the basis of the willingness of accident victims to pay to reduce the risks of such effects. The remaining $130 billion in losses was spread over productivity losses, property damage, medical expenses, legal and court costs, administrative costs, workplace costs, travel delay, and emergency services.


Who pays these costs? Some are borne by governments, some by insurance companies, some by

businesses, and some by accident victims and their families.


Table 5. Costs of Motor Vehicle Accidents(Billions of 1988 dollars)


Productivity losses amounted to $58.1 billion  and included lost earnings from injury or death and lower productivity at home (when, for instance, the car is being repaired). Drivers paid most of this amount: roughly $23.8 billion was covered by insurance policies, mostly through auto insurance paid for by drivers; about $25.4 billion was borne primarily by those involved in the accidents. Federal and state governments picked up the remaining $8.8 billion.By our estimates, the total productivity losses not borne by drivers amounted to the $8.8 billion paid by federal and state governments and $4.3 billion (17 percent of the costs of all accidents) borne by pedestrians and bicyclists, for a total of $13.1 billion.


  • Property damages in 1988 amounted to $38.3 Of this sum, $24.9 billion was covered by auto insurance (and therefore by drivers) and $13.4 billion by those in the accidents, also drivers. If it is assumed that pedestrians’ and cyclists’ property losses are negligible, then all property damage costs are being borne by drivers.


  • Medical expenses totaled $12.6 billion in1988. Auto insurance paid by motor vehicle drivers covered roughly $2.2 billion of these costs. Another $6.5 billion came from health insurance and workers (Here again, we assume that 17 per-cent of these costs were paid by the policies of pedestrians and bikers.) State and federal governments and other sources (including charity care by hospitals) accounted for $1.1 billion; costs borne directly by those involved with the accidents, about $2 billion; and other sources paid the remaining $0.8 billion. Thus, the medical bill not directly borne by drivers totaled about $2.7 billion.
  • Legal, court, and administrative costs ($15.7billion) were essentially all covered by auto insurance, so drivers paid them.
  • Workplace costs included lost time from workers talking about accidents or caring for victims, as well as recruitment and training costs to replace injured workers. Such costs amounted to $2.4 billion, of which 17 percent ($0.41 billion) are assumed not to have been borne by drivers.
  • Travel delays from accidents are estimated at $2 billion per year. Motor-vehicle drivers pay these
  • Emergency services for accidents ($0.9 billion)are covered entirely by governments. (To avoid double counting with earlier cost estimates made under the highway services category, these costs are excluded here.)

The costs of pain, suffering, and lost quality of life ($228 billion) fall almost entirely to accident victims and their families. Again, the assumption here is that 17 percent, or $39 billion, was borne by pedestrians and cyclists. The total cost of accidents not borne by drivers comes to approximately $55 billion. (See Table 3.)


The Costs of Noise              

Noise is often overlooked as a side effect of motor vehicle use, even though it bothers people living or working near roads and highways and causes stress and fatigue. Often, noise barriers—the costs of which are accounted for in highway-construction budgets—are erected between roads and homes or businesses. But roads can’t be totally soundproofed—witness property value losses near roads throughout the country. By one estimate, even after mitigation, traffic noise was reducing home property values by $6 to $182 per decibel.53 By another, that of Douglass Lee of the DOT, the average cost of noise pollution to housing units is $21 (1981 dollars) per housing unit per year for each excess decibel of noise.54 University of Iowa researcher Barry Hokans on developed noise cost factors for both cars and trucks on urban highways.55 Using updated values for these factors and 1989 figures for total vehicle-miles-traveled (VMT) in urban areas, in this report we have estimated noise damages to property in urban areas from cars and trucks at about $9 billion (1989 dollars)per year. Trucks cause about 85 percent of this damage. Researcher Brian Ketcham obtains essentially the same result, ascribing almost two thirds of the road damages to heavy trucks.56 (See Table 3-) Motor-vehicle users are not directly footing these costs.Like noise, vibration in homes and businesses along highway rights-of-way and the damages it causes are rarely acknowledged as a side effect of motor vehicle driving. Yet, when heavy vehicles hit potholes, they can shake and damage nearby buildings (as well as underground pipes), the repair costs of which fall upon the building owner or, in the case of large mains, municipalities or utilities. For the people who live in such buildings, vibrations can also cause stress and fatigue.


Not much statistical information on vibration costs due to motor vehicles has been published. But Ketcham has made a very rough estimate. Assuming the cost of vibration damage to be one half of the structural maintenance costs for buildings in urban areas, he calculates the national loss in property value (mostly along local streets) due to vibration to be about $6.6 billion for 1989. By his reckoning, heavy vehicles are responsible for most of this damage.57 (Since no data are available by which to judge this estimate, we do not include it in our tabulation of costs.)


Land Loss

Not all land used for roads has a highly valuable alternative use, but construction of highways, inter-changes, and other transportation facilities has caused the loss of wetlands, watershed regions, aquifer recharge areas, parklands, scenic areas, and historic and cultural areas. By some estimates, nearly half the land in a typical American city is used to accommodate motor vehicles.58 More than 60,000 square miles of U.S. land is paved over—2 percent of total surface area and the equivalent of 10 percent of all arable land.59 The costs of land loss are partially reflected in the costs of land bought for roads, though the true social costs would also include the full environmental or historical values, which have not been estimated.




Although exact calculations are subject to any number of qualifications and uncertainties, U.S. motor vehicles almost certainly impose very large annual costs on the country, many of which drivers do not shoulder. Costs hidden until now include both market costs (those reflected in prices paid for specific services) and externalities (those that fall out-side of normal market transactions). Summarized in Table 2, estimates of market costs not paid by drivers (including road construction and repair, high-way services, and parking) amount to about $170 billion per year. Summarized in Table 3, the external costs—those stemming from pollution, climate risks,

a military presence in the Middle East, oil storage costs, accidents, and noise—come to about $126 billion per year. Together, the market and external costs of motor vehicle use that are not reflected directly in user charges to drivers amount to almost $300 billion per year, more than 5 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product. Clearly, how these costs are paid will influence how much we use motor vehicles and, in turn, what social, environ-mental, and security problems stem from vehicle use.


Together, the market and external costs of motor vehicle use that are not reflected directly in user charges to drivers amount to almost $300 billion per year, more than 5 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product.


It’s only fair that those who enjoy the benefits of motor vehicle use should pay for the costs of that use directly. But there is no single best mechanism for charging all the now-hidden costs of driving to users of motor vehicles. Ideally, the price would be paid as close to the place and time where the cost is incurred as possible. In practice, this pay-as-you-go approach is not always technically or economically feasible. As an alternative, some of these costs (those related to fuel consumption or miles driven by a car)might most easily be included in existing federal and state gasoline taxes. Others might be more reason-ably and usefully incorporated into user fees or

insurance premiums.


Some pricing options, however theoretically attractive, may simply be too expensive or difficult to implement.


Such user charges could be further refined, considering that not all users of roads cause the same amount of damage to the transportation infrastructure, health, buildings, or the environment. If the”polluter pays” principle applied to environmental problems is invoked, the heaviest users or worst offenders should bear the greatest burden. In the case of road repair, for instance, trucks should pay a higher charge than other motor vehicles, one based on axle weight and distance traveled. Of course, as noted earlier, the costs of assessing charges or fees to cover the costs of driving cannot be ignored:some pricing options, however theoretically attractive, may simply be too expensive or difficult to implement.


No attempt is made here to evaluate in detail all the possible policy options for establishing user charges that reflect the cost burdens of driving. But the measures highlighted below illustrate the range of potential policy responses.



Increased Fuel Taxes

Many of the general costs identified in this report—those stemming from air and water pollution, global warming, security risks, and accidents—are associated with gasoline and diesel fuel consumption. Some could be shifted to drivers by increasing fuel taxes because total fuel-tax revenues increase directly with fuel consumption and thus at least partially reflect the risks associated with fossil fuel combustion in motor vehicles. A large fraction of other costs—including those of providing vehicle-related emergency police, fire, and medical services, and the costs of highway construction not now covered by user fees—could also be covered by fuel taxes, even though the rationale is weaker for paying these costs at the pump.


Even with a $2 per-gallon rise in the price of fuel—increased gradually over a decade to soften the blow—U.S. gasoline prices would still be below those of many other industrial nations.


Figure 9. Comparison of Gasoline Prices (1990)


The costs of automobile insurance could also be partially paid at the pump through an insurance premium levied on gasoline. The money collected would be placed in an insurance fund that would be used to help cover the costs of accidents. Proposals along these lines have been made in California. They have two clear advantages: they provide more complete accident coverage (reducing the problems posed by uninsured motorists), and they more closely reflect the actual risks that specific drivers face since motorists who drive more would pay higher premiums. If all of these fuel-related costs were added to the price of gasoline, fuel taxes would have to be increased over present levels by well over $2 per gallon. However, even with such a steep rise int he price of fuel—increased gradually over a decade to soften the blow—U.S. gasoline prices would still be below those of many other industrial nations. (SeeFigure 9.)


A common objection to higher fuel taxes is that they hurt low-income families, who spend proportionately more of their income on energy. But new analyses suggest that, for gasoline at least, the biggest tax burden won’t fall on the poor.60 MIT economist James Poterba argues that while the poor do spend a large fraction of their income on gasoline, overall household expenditures are a better index than  income for measuring the regressiveness of higher gasoline taxes. According to Poterba, such benefits as food stamps, medicaid, and other programs give low-income families more purchasing muscle than their total income would suggest. If this hidden power is taken into account, he found, the poorest 10 percent of households spend less than 4 percent of their total outlays on gasoline—less than any other income bracket except for the very wealthy. “For the poor in inner cities who use public transportation,” Poterba says, “a tax increase will yield higher income with little offsetting change in the cost of living.”61The greatest burden falls on middle-income house-holds. For this group, according to Poterba, between 4 and 6 percent of all household spending goes for gasoline.


Even so, it wouldn’t be hard (administratively anyway) to take the sting out of higher gasoline taxes. For low- and middle-income families, income taxes could be cut to offset the burden. For those so poor that they pay no taxes, a refund could offset any losses. For retirees, social security benefits could be increased to make up the difference. On balance, the overall change in taxes could be made progressive and still nudge consumers to reduce their fuel consumption.


For low- and middle-income families, in-come taxes could be cut to offset the burden of higher gasoline taxes. For those so poor that they pay no taxes, a refund could offset any losses. For retirees, social security benefits could be increased to make up the difference.


Increased Taxes on Trucks

Since heavy trucks cause most of the damages to our roadways, they are responsible for the damages that cars and other vehicles suffer on deteriorating roads. The best way to cover these costs would be to impose an annual charge on trucks that would vary according to a vehicle’s weight-per-axle and annual mileage—better indicators than fuel consumption of a vehicle’s potential to destroy a road’s surface.


Parking And Tax Reform

The land-use and environmental problems caused by subsidies for commuter parking can be ad-dressed through a variety of policies.62 One would be to require employers who offer free parking to give all employees the option of taking a tax-free travel allowance of equal market value. A variant of this option would be to put a ceiling on the tax-free portion of the subsidy. Any such move should go hand in hand with the development of other policies affecting commuting, such as van pooling incentives, free parking for bicycles, preferential parking for car-pools, providing rides to public-transit nodes, guaranteed rides home to workers when emergencies arise, and so forth. At shopping malls, a more equitable way to supply parking would be to charge shoppers who drive for parking instead of hiding the cost in the prices of goods sold.


Tolls And Time-Of-Day Pricing of Roadways

Governments at various levels have long attempted to accommodate growth in motor vehicle use by building more roads instead of addressing the economic forces behind traffic growth and congestion. Gradually, highway construction replaced mobility as the paramount goal. The drive to build more roads may once have been appropriate, but today such a strategy is destined to fail: ample evidence shows that every time a roadway is built or widened, more drivers appear and the new or expanded roads soon become as congested as the old ones.63 Congestion on major urban roads takes a substantial economic and environmental toll on all Americans. Even if drivers bear most of these costs already, introducing congestion pricing would make drivers squarely face the costs they impose on others by driving when traffic is heavy. It would encourage them to reschedule or reroute trips, try alternative modes of travel, or carpool.



Introducing congestion pricing would encourage drivers to reschedule or reroute trips, try alternative modes of travel, or carpool.


The technology for rapidly scanning vehicles for billing purposes already exists. Electronic number plates have been successfully tested in Hong Kong.64 Sensors in the road read each vehicle’s code as it passes over the toll site and a monthly bill listing the charges is sent to each driver. Electronic license plate systems are already in use on the North DallasTollway and on the Coronado Bridge in San Diego. An alternative proposal would use prepaid “smartcards,” available at gas stations, from which tolls would be deducted as the car crosses a metering point. Similar electronic billing technology is being tested on Interstate 190 near Buffalo, New York: a device reads special windshield tags and automatically deducts the toll from the driver’s prepaid account. According to a new World Resources Institute study recently summarized in Congressional testimony, if congestion tolls were set just to reflect the costs of traffic delay, they would range (according to local conditions) from $0.25 to 11.25 for a typical ten-mile urban trip.65 Time-of-day tolls represent an important step toward easing congestion and reducing such associated economic and environmental costs as wasted fuel, excessive air pollution, and carbon dioxide emissions. Congestion can, of course, also be mitigated directly through various technological and traffic-management programs financed through user fees. The Institute of Transportation Engineers has evaluated many options for reducing congestion—HOV lanes, improved traffic signals, motorist information systems, reversible traffic lanes, ramp metering, parking management programs, and many others—on the basis of overall effectiveness, cost, and barriers to implementation.66 No single solution, the authors found, is most effective against congestion problems in every region. Rather, each area of the country has to be evaluated separately and an integrated program developed to fit local conditions and satisfy local needs.Unfortunately, no combination of technological fixes can prevent congestion permanently. As noted, adding or widening roads merely invites more motor vehicle use—a strategy that contains the seeds of its own failure. Another technological chimera is expanding infrastructure to increase average travel speeds to conserve fuel. Australian researchers Peter Newman and Jeffrey Kenworthy have shown that although energy use and emissions are both lowest at travel speeds of 45 mph, free-flowing un-congested traffic actually encourages more driving within a re-gion or city, resulting in more aggregate emissions and energy consumption.67 So-called smart highways may reduce congestion for a while, but over the long term they too will probably just attract more traffic by improving driving conditions.


Reform of Zoning and Land Use Planning


Over the longer term, technological fixes and user charges alone are unlikely to break up growing urban congestion. For that, a more efficient transportation system based on changes in land use and development patterns is needed. According to John Holtzclaw, a California planner and engineer, a doubling of residential population density is associated with a 25- to 30-percent reduction in the number of miles people need to travel by car.68 European cities are living proof that a high standard of living is compatible with a reduced need for cars and that the key to both is fairly high residential densities combined with mixed zoning and integrated public transporta-tion planning. Public transportation will never be viable in the United States if the ideal remains three or four dwellings per acre. Densities above 7 housing units per acre are needed for cost-effective bus service while densities of over 9 housing units per acre are needed for cost-effective light-rail service.69 Similarly, by changing zoning to allow mixed residential and commercial development, the number of daily auto trips per household could be cut up to 25 percent.70 The need for auto trips can also be reduced by rearranging our cities so they support not only public transit but bicycling and walking as well.


European cities are living proof that a high standard of living is compatible with a reduced need for cars and that the key to both is fairly high residential densities combined with mixed zoning and

integrated public transportation planning.


The development of a balanced transportation system is likely to require a number of policy re-forms, including gradually increased fuel taxes; changes in federal funding formulas to favor—or at least not to disadvantage—public transportation; the wider introduction of road tolls and other forms of highway pricing; technological fixes to reduce congestion; changes in tax policies that now encourage solo commuting; and the adoption of land-use and zoning reforms to encourage the denser urban development that is more compatible with walking, bicycling, and public transportation. A few of these reforms were adopted in the newly enacted Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991. This landmark law authorized $151 billion for highway and public transit over the following six years. Of this, $32 billion was specifically earmarked for mass transit—twice the previous annual spending and twice the amount recommended by President Bush. And—except for the completion of a small portion of the interstate system—for the first time, the same ratio of federal to local funding will apply to both highway and transit projects, removing the previous bias toward building roads.The Act broke new ground, giving states and local governments more leeway in how they spend federal funds. For example, states may transfer up to half of their National Highway System funds ($21 billion) to mass transit or other transportation projects. (States that aren’t meeting federal clean air standards—in1989, some 39 states—may shift all of their NHS funds to other projects.)Yet, the new transportation bill fails to address the basic issues of making drivers pay the full costs of motor vehicle use—a key to developing a more efficient transportation future. The Administration and Congress have ignored the need to adopt higher fuel taxes and offset parking subsidies, for instance, and have neglected the potentially powerful roles that toll roads and road pricing could play in alleviating congestion. Without such reforms, the motivation needed to change driving and travel habits so that people will switch to more efficient transportation modes just isn’t there.







  1. The data for this chart come from “Energy Use in Passenger Transport in OECD Countries:Changes Between 1970 and 1987,” Lee Schipper et al., Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, LBL-29830.
  2. John Pucher, “Urban Travel Behavior as the Out-come of Public Policy: The Example of Modal-Split in Western Europe and North America,”APA Journal, Autumn 1988, p. 510.
  3. “The Costs of Highway Crashes,” prepared by the Urban Institute for the U.S. Federal HighwayAdministration, Pub. No. FHWA-RD-91-055,Technical Summary, June 1991.
  4. “Managing Mobility: A New Generation of National Policies for the 21st Century,” Report of the American Public Transit Association Transit 2000 Task Force, p. 7.
  5. Managing Mobility, Transit 2000, p. 7.
  6. Testimony by Harvey Gantt, American Institute of Architects, before the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Energy and Environment of the Committee on Interior and InsularAffairs, June 27, 1991.
  7. Quoted from “The Costs of Unplanned UrbanSprawl,” by Jessica T. Mathews, The WashingtonPox?, January 14, 1991.
  8. James J. MacKenzie and Michael P. Walsh, “Driving Forces: Motor Vehicle Trends and their Im-plications for Global Warming, Energy Strategies, and Transportation Planning, ” WorldResources Institute, December 1990.
  9. United States oil consumption as a fraction of world consumption from “International Energy Annual,1990,” Energy Information Administration, Department of Energy, DOE/EIA-0219 (90), January, 1992.Fraction of U.S. oil consumed in motor vehicles from “Annual Energy Review, 1990,” Energy In-formation Administration, Department of Energy,DOE/EIA-0384 (90) May 1991, Tables 23 and 51.
  10. “Highway Statistics, 1989” Federal Highway Ad-ministration, U.S. Department of Transportation,FHWA-PL-90-003, p. 39.
  11. “Highway Statistics, 1989” Federal Highway Ad-ministration, U.S. Department of Transportation,FHWA-PL-90-003, Table HF-10, p. 39.
  12. “Highway Statistics, 1989” Federal Highway Ad-ministration, U.S. Department of Transportation,FHWA-PL-90-003, Table HF-10, p. 39.

13- “The Status of the Nation’s Highways andBridges: Conditions and Performance,” Commit-tee Print, Committee on Public Works and Transportation, U.S. Government Printing Office, September 1991.

  1. “Making Transportation Choices Based on RealCosts,” October 6, 1991 (Revised), paper byBrian Ketcham at the Transportation 2000 Conference “Making Transportation a National Priori-ty,” Snowmass Colorado, p. 9.
  2. Small, Kenneth, et al., Road Work, a New High-way Pricing and Investment Policy, 1989, The Brookings Institution, Washington, D.C., p. 11.
  3. “Hidden Costs,” 1991, draft report by Konheimand Ketcham, Inc., Brooklyn, New York, pp. 9-10.
  4. Small, Kenneth, et al., Road Work, a New High-way Pricing and Investment Policy, 1989, The Brookings Institution, p. 11.
  5. In 1989, state and federal user fees on trucks amounted to $22.7 billion, 47 percent of total motor vehicle user fees, but only 32 percent of total highway disbursements ($71 billion).Source: “Facts and Figures, “91” Motor VehicleManufacturers Association of the United States, pp. 80 and 82.

19- “Understanding the Highway Finance Evolution/Revolution,” American Association of State High-way and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), Jan.1987, p. 9.

  1. Stanley Hart, “Huge City Subsidies for Autos,Trucks,” California Transit, September 1986.
  2. A.E. Pisarski (1987), Commuting in America, Eno Foundation for Transportation, Inc., p. 48.
  3. Shoup and Willson (1990), “Employer-Paid Parking: The Influence of Parking Prices on Travel Demand,” Proceedings of the Commuter Parking Symposium, Seattle, Washington, p. 10.
  4. Association for Commuter Transportation and the Municipality of Metropolitan Seattle, “Proceedings of the Commuter Parking Symposium,”Seattle, Washington, December 6-7, 1990, p. v.
  5. See, for example, “Proceedings of the CommuterParking Symposium,” sponsored by the Association for Commuter Transportation and the Municipality of Metropolitan Seattle, December 1990.
  6. Donald C. Shoup and Richard W. Willson, “Employer-Paid Parking: The Problem and Proposed Solutions,” DRAFT, July 1991.
  7. “World Resources, 1990-91,” World ResourcesInstitute, Washington, D.C., 1990, Chapter 12.
  8. “Rethinking the Ozone Problem in Urban andRegional Air Pollution,” National Research Council, National Academy Press, Washington, D.C.1991, page 7.
  9. “Efficiency and Equity of a Gasoline Tax In-crease,” Mark French, Paper #33, Finance and Economics Discussion Series, Federal ReserveBoard, Washington, D.C. July 1988.
  10. “Catching Our Breath, Next Steps for Reducing Urban Ozone,” Office of Technology

 Assessment, OTA-O-4l3,July 1989.

  1. “Transportation Energy Futures,” Daniel Sperling and Mark A. DeLuchi, Annual Rev. Energy, 1989.14:375-424.
  2. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change,1990, “Climate Change, The IPCC Scientific Assessment,” Cambridge University Press, NewYork.
  3. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change,1990, “Climate Change, The IPCC Scientific Assessment,” Cambridge University Press, NewYork. p. 5.
  4. “Reducing U.S. Carbon Dioxide Emissions: the Cost of Different Goals,” Dale W. Jorgenson andPeter J. Wilcoxen, CSIA Discussion Paper 91-9, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, October, 1991.
  5. Fuel use in U.S. motor vehicles in 1990 was about 133 billion gallons. A gallon of oil has a carbon content of about 5.3 pounds.
  6. Personal communication with Peter J. Wilcoxen by James MacKenzie, December 6, 1991.
  7. “Monthly Energy Review,” US DOE, July 1991,p. 13.
  8. “National Energy Strategy, Technical Annex 2,”U.S. DOE, 1991/1992 Edition, page 11.
  9. “Slide Seen for Non-OPEC Oil Production,” Oil& Gas Journal, April 29, 1991, pp. 75-76.
  10. An overview of these issues and additional references can be found in: Toman, M.A., The Economics of Energy Security: Theory, Evidence, Policy, Resources for the Future: Washington,D.C. 1991.
  11. “Designing Defense For a New World Order,”Earl C. Ravenal, The Cato Institute, Washington,D.C, 1991, p. 46.
  12. For an excellent summary of various ways of measuring congestion see pages 35 through 49 oft he GAO report “Traffic Congestion: Trends,Measures, and Effects,” GAO/PEMD-90-1, November 1989.
  13. “Transportation and Land Use, Bridging the Gap,” Developments, the Newsletter of the

National Growth Management Leadership Project, Spring-Summer 1990, p. 2.

  1. U.S. Federal Highway Administration, “The 1991 Status of the Nation’s Highways and Bridges: Conditions, Performance, and Capital Investment Requirements,” July 2, 1991, page 5. The 8 billion hours is the difference between congestion at D and F levels of service, and is based on FHWA models of travel speed decline for given vehicle densities and travel conditions (phone interview with Harry Caldwell of the FHWA, Aug. 12, 1991).
  2. Committee Print, Committee on Public Works and Transportation, “The Status of the Nation’s Highways and Bridges: Conditions and Performance,” September, 1991, page 21.
  3. U.S. Federal Highway Administration, “The 1991Status of the Nation’s Highways and Bridges:Conditions, Performance, and Capital Investment Requirements,” July 2, 1991, page 24.
  4. California psychologist Raymond Novaco, as quoted in Time, September 12, 1988, p. 55.
  5. “Roadway Congestion in Major Urbanized Areas 1982-1987,” Texas Transportation Institute in cooperation with the U.S. Federal Highway Ad-ministration, 1989.
  6. Robert L. French, as quoted by the GAO, “SmartHighways: An Assessment of Their Potential toImprove Travel,” May 1991, GAO/PEMD-91-18,p. 10.
  7. “Traffic Congestion, Trends, Measures, and Effects,” General Accounting Office, GAO/PEMD-90-1, pp. 63-64.
  8. “The Costs of Highway Crashes,” prepared by the Urban Institute for the U.S. Federal HighwayAdministration, Pub. No. FHWA-RD-91-055, Technical Summary, June 1991-
  9. “Accident Facts, 1990 Edition,” National Safety Council, Chicago, Illinois.
  10. “The Costs of Highway Crashes,” prepared by the Urban Institute for the U.S. Federal HighwayAdministration, Pub. No. FHWA-RD-91-055,Technical Summary, June 1991.

53- Gary Allen, “Highway Noise, Noise Mitigation and Residential Property Values,” Journal of TRR #812, pp. 21-26, 1981.

  1. Douglass Lee, “Efficient Highway User Charges,”Appendix E, p. E50.
  2. Hokanson, Barry, et al., “Measures of NoiseDamage Costs Attributable to Motor VehicleTravel,” Technical Report 135, Iowa City. Institute of Urban and Regional Research, University of Iowa, December 1981, as cited in Douglass Lee, “Efficient Highway User Charges,” Appendix E, p. E49, Table 11.
  3. “Making Transportation Choices Based on Real Costs,” October 6, 1991 (Revised), paper byBrian Ketcham at the Transportation 2000 Conference “Making Transportation a National Priority,” Snowmass, Colorado, p. 8.
  4. “Making Transportation Choices Based on RealCosts,” October 6, 1991 (Revised), paper by Brian Ketcham at the Transportation 2000 Conference “Making Transportation a National Priori-ty,” Snowmass, Colorado, p. 9.
  5. Kirkpatrick Sale, Human Scale (New York: Coward, MacCann, & Geoghegan, 1980), as cited in Michael Renner, Rethinking the Role of the Automobile,” WorldWatch Paper 84, June 1988, p.46.
  6. “Policy Implications of Greenhouse Warming,”Report of the Mitigation Panel, Policy Implications of Greenhouse Warming, National AcademyPress, 1991, Prepublication Manuscript.
  7. “Is the Gasoline Tax Regressive?” James M.Poterba, Tax Policy and the Economy, 5, 1991.See also “A Gas Tax Hike Might Not Clobber thePoor. . .” Business Week, April 8, 1991, p. 16.
  8. “A Gas Tax Hike Might Not Clobber thePoor. . .” Business Week, April 8, 1991, p. 16.
  9. See, for example, “Proceedings of the Commuter Parking Symposium,” sponsored by the Association for Commuter Transportation and the Municipality of Metropolitan Seattle, Dec. 6-7,1990.
  10. Institute of Transportation Engineers, 1989, “A Toolbox for Alleviating Traffic Congestion,”Washington, D.C., p. 11.
  11. For a more complete discussion of toll metering see “An Analysis of Tolls to Reduce Congestion on Urban Highways in the United States,” World Resources Institute, DRAFT, 1992, J. Geoghegan and R. Repetto.
  12. Roger C. Dower and Robert Repetto, Testimony before the Committee on Ways and Means, U.S.House of Representatives, February 6, 1992.
  13. Institute of Transportation Engineers, 1989, “A Toolbox for Alleviating Traffic Congestion,”Washington, D.C.
  14. P.W.G. Newman, J.R. Kenworthy and T.J. Lyons,”Does Free-flowing Traffic Save Energy and Lower Emissions in Cities?” 1988, pp. 267-271, Journal ANZASS.
  15. John Holtzclaw, “Automobiles and Their Alternatives: An Agenda for the 1990s,” 1991, Proceedings of a Conference sponsored by the Conservation Law Foundation of New England and theEnergy Foundation, p. 50.
  16. Pushkarev and Zupan, 1977, “Public Transportation and Land Use Policy” Indiana University,pages 141 and 190.
  17. Cervero, Land-Use Mixing and Suburban Mobility, 42 Transportation Quarterly 429, 431.






A Complete Turnaround of the Transport Sector is Absolutely Imperative

A Complete Turnaround of the Transport Sector is Absolutely Imperative

Public Goods  •  April 9, 2021  •  International Committee of the Fourth International

In order to fight climate change the whole system of transportation has to be reversed and reconstructed as it is currently responsible for one fifth (in some countries up to one quarter) of the production of greenhouse gases. From 1970 to 2004 the oil-based transportation sector (cars, SUVs, trucks, ships, aircraft) increased its CO2-emissions 222%. Predictions indicate by 2030 it will increase another 80%.

Between 2015-19 at least 90 million vehicles were produced annually. Yet the individual vehicle sits idle 90% of the time, necessitating the construction of parking spaces and garages. These vehicles create 78% of the CO2-emissions caused by the construction, maintenance and use of streets and highways (the rest comes from buses, trams and trains). Further, this mode of individual transportation is market driven and therefore reinforces inequality. We can no longer afford the ‘car culture’ that has dominated society over the last 75 years.

Despite the need to substantially reduce the traffic and storage of the individual motor car, converting the auto industry into one that produces for mass transit will be a difficult struggle. Nonetheless we have a partial model: during World War II all US auto production was halted as Washington requisitioned the plants for wartime production. An even more wide-reaching industrial conversion is necessary today with the necessity of drastically reducing our dependence on fossil fuels.

Central Driver of Industrialization

Further, auto accidents are a major problem. According to the World Health Organization, 1.35 million die from auto accidents each year while 50 million suffer non-fatal injuries. Approximately seven million die from air pollution, perhaps one million or so from vehicle fossil fuel emission or their maintenance.

The car industry has been a central driver of industrialization over the last century. The industry depends on a downriver network that drills or fracks for oil and mines for minerals. These are transformed into chemicals, tires, glass, steel, plastic and then shipped to assembly plants. It creates an upriver market of showrooms, repair shops, gas stations and junk yards. In analyzing how the drive for profitability is bound up in the need to expand production, we recognize that we must do much more than decarbonize our world. We also need to evaluate and reallocate the other natural resources that go into its manufacturing processes. Given that private ownership and the profitability it generates got us into this crisis, the business elite are clearly incapable of managing the turnaround.

Insofar as they recognize the seriousness of the crisis, these capitalists have responded by offering electric vehicles as the solution. While this does reduce the use of fossil fuel in the gas tank, it doesn’t deal with the totality of the vehicle’s life span. Instead we propose worker-community teams that can manage an efficient transport system available to all.

E-Cars Constitute No Solution for the Existing Ecological Problems

Mainstream media, parts of the bourgeoisie and large parts of the general public consider the switch to electric vehicles a solution to the problems produced by greenhouse gas in the transport sector. But there are fundamental reasons why this does not work and why this may even add to the ecological problems we already have:

  • Before they are even driven, the electrical vehicle brings along an enormous “ecological backpack”: The production of the batteries demands high levels of energy consumption and an extensive use of raw materials so that you have to drive an electric car for 8 years before there can be a cutback of CO2-production as compared to a fuel-driven car.1
  • Even these 8 years of achieving a cutback of CO2e-output would only be valid if the electrical energy to be consumed were 100% ecological, which is completely illusory. The existing electricity mix (mainly coal, gas, oil, regenerative resources) will not be substantially changed in the coming years. So, if a considerable number of e-cars (even disregarding e-trucks and e-buses with batteries) were to be used, more carbon-based electricity (fossil fuel) would have to be produced. Furthermore, an enormous amount of new infrastructure would be needed (millions of charging stations etc. which require a lot of additional CO2e-production) as well as continued maintenance of highways and roads as part of the infrastructure (in the United States, 2014 the average cost of reconstructing an existing lane of a major urban freeway was $7.7-million per mile and on a collector street in a small urban area it would be $1.5-million).
  • There are important rebound effects:
    • The use of e-cars would produce more traffic, as people think this is an ecological vehicle (because it does not burn fuel). All the more so, because such a car is substantially more expensive and people may think they have to use it more frequently in order to make it “ecologically effective.” At the same time those people would use public transport less frequently.
    • Because of the small range of those cars (around 200 km, only the big Tesla reaches 400 km, in winter all those figures are even more modest) and because you need several hours for recharging the battery, 59 % of the e-cars are second cars. These additional cars add to the general disadvantages of what you can call the “car society.”
    • And there is a rebound-effect already visible today: E-cars will prolong the increasing production of SUVs.

Apart from the fact that all the other disadvantages of the car-based transport system (see below) would persist, there are some additional ecological disadvantages of which one should be aware and that are completely denied by the supporters and users of e-cars:

  • Important raw materials would be massively exploited. You need four times as much copper for an e-car (up to 80 kg per car). By 2027 the excavation of copper will increase tenfold (the main countries concerned are Brazil, Peru, Chile and Argentina.
  • The production of the batteries demands the processing of vast amounts of very precious raw materials: lithium, graphite, cobalt and nickel. Today’s production of lithium amounts to 200,000 tons, by 2025 this will increase to 600,000 tons. Tesla engineers project a need of 2 – 3 million tons.2 One ton of lithium demands the use of 1.9 million liters of water.
  • Number one of the main contributors to the production of greenhouse gas in the transport sector is motorized private transport. But other contributors are very harmful as well: the shipping of containers around the world, cruise ships and aviation, the latter for instance being three times more harmful than the use of a car and 19 times more harmful than the use of a train (measured in passenger kilometers). Not only cars used by individuals are devastatingly detrimental, the increasing use of trucks (while dismantling the railways) for the carriage of freight is appalling and not only on an ecological level.

Furthermore, changing the transport sector is not only urgent because of ecological reasons.

Why Motorized Private Transport is Deadly, Even Disregarding the Ecological Effects

  1. Above all we must be aware of the fact that this type of transport system causes a very high death toll. In the EU alone 25,000 people died from car accidents in 2018, 135,000 were badly injured. Figures of Road Safety Report 2018 (figures for 2016) published by the WHO indicate that in the USA more than 39,000 people died, in India more than 299,000 and on the world level 1,323,666 (these are only the officially registered deaths). This high death toll is only to be explained by the high danger of what can be called “the car-society,” i.e. motorized private transport and the excessive use of trucks, aircraft and container shipping. In order to get the proportions right, we might take the example of Japan in the years 1966-1975: At that time there were 190 deaths caused by train accidents but 46,486 deaths caused by car accidents, although those trains transported more people than those who travelled by car during this period. That equates to 1: 245.3 Since the invention of the car the death toll has amounted to more than 48 Million which is equivalent to a world war.
  2. In addition: The long-term effects of noxious substances emitted by cars and trucks must not be forgotten. Particularly devastating are particulates (to a large extent caused by emissions from cars and trucks, mainly from tires and brakes) and NOx. In most of the big cities the boundary value defined by the WHO is largely exceeded.4 In Shanghai till the end of the 20th century doctors had to operate on 1000 lung cancers per year. 15 Years later numbers grew to more than 10,000. The WHO figured that on the world level about 4.5 million people die every year of particulates (to a large extent due to street traffic).

And there is another factor that affects our health: The use of cars and air traffic is an important factor for the increasing noise that provokes considerable numbers of heart attacks, sleeplessness, high blood pressure, nervous breakdowns and other serious diseases.5

  1. Priorities of investment and infrastructure are given to those sectors where capital can realize a maximum of profits, which ‒ for the transport sector ‒ concerns not only the construction of highways but of all of our towns and cities. The structure of cities has been completely deformed, making them suitable for cars, not for pedestrians or cyclists. This obstructs public transport and makes the cities not only unhealthy but also places in which one does not really want to live or pass one’s free time. Urbanity is largely compromised which makes the fight for the “right to the city” (Lefebvre) all the more urgent.

At the same time the car-centered transport system affects the infrastructure also on a regional, national and international level. Almost every journey (every locomotion) is getting longer. In the 1970s a Western European completed motorized every day journeys of about 9,000 km per year. In 2006 this amounted already to 14,000 km. Essentially this is not due to more travelling but to the longer distances to the workplace, to go shopping and so on.

The urban planner Martin Wagner (exiled to the US) compared Berlin at the end of the 1920s with New York 1957. The results of those studies are quite clear: The number of journeys (i.e. any locomotion) a person has to (or wants) to complete during one year has not considerably changed within these years. They amounted to roughly 1,000 per year and 650 of those could be within walking distance, if…, if the urban planning were made meeting ecological and social criteria. Recent German statistics counted an average number of journeys of 1216 per year. The increase is mainly due to the discovery of new journeys such as accompanying small children, which would ‒ to a large extent ‒ not be necessary, if the distances for the children were short enough, i.e. were as short as they were one hundred years ago and if rational urban planning were implemented.

  1. The car-society is also very space-consuming, above all for the use of the domestic vehicles since they need eight times as much space for transport as the one needed for a train-based system (measured in passenger kilometers). Compared to cars the tram needs 40 times less space. On short distances trucks need 15 times as much space as trains, for smaller lorries (and shorter distances) the proportion is 70:1.

The space consuming effect is true on two more levels: First there is the endlessly ongoing highway construction, the building of car parks, requiring more and more land where raw materials are extracted etc. The second additional level: The Worldwatch Institute (Washington) discovered that the production of ethanol needs an enormous amount of land: For a car which runs on ethanol, agricultural land is needed that is 16.5 times larger than a small farmer needs to produce the goods for his living during one year. Today almost 900 million people are starving while every year 142 million tons of cereals and canola are transformed into “biofuel,” enough to feed 420 million people. Since a growing amount of arable land is being transformed into areas for planting “crops for the tank” these areas are lacking for the production of food. Not to be forgotten: Depending on the region up to 3,500 liters of water are needed in order to produce one liter of “biofuel.”

  1. Because of the uninterrupted growth of the “car-society” not only have journeys (the average locomotion) got longer, people also have to spend more and more time in travelling, most of all on the way to the workplace. In the cities ‒ from Mexico-City to Peking, from LA to New Delhi ‒ people spend hours in the daily congestion. Already in 1998 German statistics counted 67 hours of congestion per year for people in the cars (that is more time than they spend making love). In 2018 the average time consumed by congestion amounted to 120 hours per year and driver.6

Furthermore, the number of cars will increase worldwide. In 2010 we had one billion cars; in April 2019 1.24 billion; by 2025 recent studies expect 1.8 billion and by 2050: 2.7 billion (that is 2700 million!). Including trucks, buses and so on we will have 2.1 billion vehicles on the roads in 2025, which is the double of those in 2010.7 Add to this the fact that the cars produced and used(!) are equipped with steadily more horse power. In 2017 in the US 11 million SUV were sold, not including the growing number (and growing horsepower) of pickups.

Taken all this together we are confronted with climate collapse unless we enforce a thorough reversal of the philosophy of the whole transport sector.

  1. The “car-society” is expensive.

Buying and maintaining a car is much more expensive than the use of a rational public transport sector. Separate from the ecological and other above-mentioned effects, every car is highly subsidized by society (that is by the taxpayer).

Although the widely used term “external costs” is in fact misleading (since these costs are not coming from the outside and are structurally inherent to the car-based transport system) the results of different studies are quite clear and reasonably allied. The most important one is the research External Effects of Transport. Accident, Environment and Congestion Costs of Transport in Western Europe. In the study of 2004, the figures are given for the year 2000. According to that these costs amounted in the then EU-15 together with Norway and Switzerland (we call it EU-17) to 7.3% of its GDP, without counting the costs of congestion. The shares that counted most were the effects on climate (30% of the “external costs”) and the effect on healthcare mainly in hospitals (24%).

In the meantime ‒ with cars, especially SUVs, getting bigger all the time, road building getting more expensive ‒ we are now seeing up to 10 % of GDP for the costs that are allegedly “external,” all the more so if we account for congestion costs and the rising costs for the greater infrastructure needed for the trucks (such as the “gigaliners” etc.).

This corresponds to the research made at the university of Dresden, that (in Germany) every car is subsidized by 2,000 Euros every year. This amounts to 45,000 Euros of subsidies for a car by society. Other studies estimate even higher figures such as those of IWW/INFRAS. For 1996 this institution calculated already yearly subsidies of 4,000 DM (= €2,250) for every car8 every year! In fact, only a small part of the population would be able to add €25,000 to the price they pay for a new car. So, the existing system is a huge subsidizing system for the whole of the oil-based economy, above all the car industry.

Capitalism Cannot Solve the Problems

The existing social and political system is dominated by a majority of powerful fossil companies, that have lots of capital invested in this particular part of the economy which makes it an oil-based economy. For decades already among the ten biggest trusts in the world five to seven have been “fossil” (the following ranking is that of 2017 when again seven have been “fossil”): Royal Sinopec (in the oil sector, No. 3 of the ten biggest companies); China National Petroleum (oil; No. 4); Shell (oil, No. 5); Toyota (car industry; No 6); Volkswagen (car ind.; No 7); BP (oil; No 8); Exxon (oil; No. 9).

This mighty sector of the capitalist economy is at the same time the impulse generator of capitalist development: Since the reestablishment of a “normal” cycle of capitalist development (in the middle of the 1970s) we had five cycles and those were always at the same time the cycles of the car industry (at this moment we are at the end of cycle 6). Most importantly, new production and transportation methods since the 1970s have built a global supply chain that employs trucks, planes, rail and ships to cut production costs. These various forms of transit transfer standardized containers from one part of the world to another. This space-shrinking technology is built on lowering tariff barriers and improved communication. Technology allows for the coordination of a globally dispersed set of activities, permitting an increasing division of labor. It begins with sourcing raw materials but assigns material assembly and component production to the lower-wage areas, while also imposing strict standards (a process known as fissuring). Management also emphasizes lean production and just-in-time delivery to drastically reduce the need for inventory. Although the logistics of the global supply chain differ by industry, in auto it has resulted in an 11% reduction of the total cost in the OECD countries alone. However some corporations are rethinking globalization given the disruption that the COVID-19 virus has caused.


A Complete Turnaround of the Transport Sector is Absolutely Imperative

The range of the oil-based economy (the fossil economy) goes far beyond the car industry: the shipping sector, aviation (air traffic) and of course the energy sector (electricity, heating). The whole infrastructure of the economy and our way of life (ranging from the way our cities are built to the entire transport sector) are determined by the fossil sector of economy.

Turning away from this type of economic functioning will not be made possible by strong arguments alone. A majority of the population will have to be convinced that we need a complete turnaround if we, our children and grandchildren, are to have a future worth living. Broad coalitions of ecological and social forces will have to fight the interests of those companies. That ‒ by the nature of all the implications ‒ means that this fight will have to be linked up with fighting for a different type of economic and social system. For that turnaround a total reversal of all investments will be needed. Only society as a whole will be able to afford and execute it. Expropriating capital will be a precondition but by itself will not be enough. This is similar to what is true for the liberation of women, oppressed nationalities and so on: Without abolishing the car-society socialism will not be possible and abolishing car-society will not be possible without socialism.

Key to the transformation of the auto industry into a mass transportation system is the workforce and the larger community at every stage of the process of extraction, production, transportation and maintenance. That is a network of worker-community organizations will need to analyze, plan and construct the new system. These committees will also implement the working conditions with attention to worker and community compensation and safety This will include reducing and equalizing work hours, maximizing the ability of all to participate in planning and reconfiguring jobs to spread knowledge and satisfaction. Paid time off would be guaranteed for a broad range of needs. The differential between the Global North and South would be ended and other forms of discrimination eliminated by the democratic participation of all. Of course, there will be mistakes, but these can be corrected through the transparent processes of democratic analysis, evaluation and decision making.

What Are Our Objectives?

By putting forward our demands we don’t appeal to governments (or to the ruling class as a whole as a matter of fact) but we clearly spell out the changes we think are necessary to fight for. This fight has to be staged from below by all the dominated classes.

Our demands, our short-term and long-term objectives are:

  • Massive upgrading of the public transport systems with emphasis on reintroducing, building and massively expanding the tram-based transport sector and ‒ where feasible ‒ the reintroduction and spreading of trolleybuses.
  • Convert the car industry into building public transport vehicles (trains, trams, trolley buses etc…).
  • Make all public transport in the cities and surroundings free for the users.
  • Restructure the cities, so that most destinations (workplace, shopping…) will be within walking distance.
  • Along with the implementation of these measures, ban the car from the cities (except for emergency services).
  • Tax air transportation adequately, so that aviation will drop by at least 70 to 80%. Ban all aviation under the distance of 1000 km.
  • Suppress the world-wide supply chain for industry to a large extent so that container shipping will be cut to a tiny dimension.

In the fight for a different transport system, the conversion of the automotive industry is absolutely key. Since the production and operation of public transport (bus, train, etc.) is far from achieving profits comparable to the mass production of cars, it will never be possible to persuade the affected capital owners to make such a conversion. Thus, the struggle for a compensation-free expropriation and socialization of those means of production is the great challenge in the fight against climate change and for a social and healthier transport system. •

This article first published on the Fourth International website.


  1. To produce one kilowatt hour of storage capacity of the batter you have to produce 150 -200 kilo CO2-eqivalents (CO2e). For the production of the batteries for a small e-car you have to produce 6 tons of CO2e, for a Tesla S (85 kwh) this amounts to 17 tons of CO2e. In order to have an idea of those proportions: An average citizen in Germany has an CO2e-output of 8,9 tons (in Austria 6,9 tons, USA 15 tons) per year.
  2. To get an idea of the proportions: For a smartphone you need 3 grams, for a laptop 50 grams, for a Tesla e-car: 50 kg.
  3. The Economist, 31-8-1985.
  4. The threshold value for particulates defined by the WHO is 45μg/m3 on 35 days per year.
  5. The threshold values defined by the EU: 45 – 50 dB(A) for the night and 55 – 60 dB(A) for daytime are exceeded in many cities especially those near an airport.
  6. In Berlin: 154 hours, in Munich: 140 hours. The costs were calculated by different researchers: €80,000-million for Germany alone.
  7. The maximum number of e-cars is expected to reach 150 million, which means that the increase of number of fuel cars will be more important than that of e-cars.
  8. In Germany (1996) car owners paid 63,7 billion DM taxes but at the same time society spent 301 billion DM for the car part of the existing transport system.