Sunday, June 2, 2013

Op-Ed: Paying for the Environment

Driving a vehicle imposes many costs from the production of the vehicle to its use, service, necessary infrastructure, and environmental effects. Oil, brake dust, and metals released from vehicles settles on roadways then are washed into drains and waterways when it rains. This is storm -water runoff, it is one of the key causes of water pollution. The pollutants from vehicles cause major issues in rivers, streams, the ocean, and ultimately make it back to humans. All of these issues require money for prevention, mitigation, and restoration efforts. Some of the costs of transportation are paid through gas taxes, others through property or income taxes but some are just dealt with by society. Not every person on the planet drives a vehicle, yet they all breathe oxygen; automobiles are decreasing air quality then everyone suffers. Environmental impacts of vehicles should be included in transportation costs. The money produced from the transportation fees could be used towards storm water management and treatments. Climate change is occurring more rapidly than some may be aware of. If we make changes and take action now it can help alleviate the changes we are bound to see in the very near future.
Some solutions for decreasing vehicle caused air pollution include charging state-wide higher mileage fees for more polluting vehicles and lower fees for less polluting vehicles (Sorenson, Ecola, & Wachs 2012). User fees make people more aware of the cost of vehicle travel; doing so could cause people to only drive when necessary, or use public transportation (Taylor & Norton, 2009). If people know they have to pay more money to drive they might be more inclined to walk or bike which increases their health and the health of the environment. Increasing public knowledge of the impacts of vehicles on the natural environment is a starting point. If people are more aware of what they are paying for and creating they may be more likely to find alternate modes of travel. The money raised from the higher mileage fees could be used to build green infrastructure. Green infrastructure includes bio swales, rain gardens, and using trees to manage storm-water runoff. Putting transportation money into this type of infrastructure would alleviate some of the environmental impacts caused by a combination of automobile pollution and storm-water.
Alternative fuels and vehicles that run on them are a big focus right now, there is an increased demand for alternative fuel vehicles. These help alleviate greenhouse gases and emissions that damage the ozone and deplete air quality. On the other hand, they still contribute to metals and oils running off into nearby waterways. No matter what solution, suggestion, or fee is accepted and put in place there will always be storm-water runoff filled with debris and other small materials polluting our waters. The need to include environmental issues in transportation pricing is based on the fact that vehicles are producing hazardous materials for the environment. These suggestions may not be accepted easily by the public, but something has to be done to help slow the impacts of climate change. 
Increasing transportation prices, whether it be through mileage fees, increased gas, property, or income taxes, is necessary in order to incorporate the price of vehicle impacts on the environment. 

                Sorenson,P., Ecola, L., & Wachs, M. (2012). Mileage-based user fees for transportation funding. RAND Corporation.

Taylor, B., & Norton, A. T. (2010). Paying for transportation what’s a fair price?. Journal of Planning Literature,24(1), 22-36.

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