As we sit and watch the events in Washington unfold regarding the massive debt and deficits that need to be tackled, have we ever wondered how much we spend on transportation both at the government level and on a personal level.
More specifically, there is a strong correlation between living in suburbia and a high proportion of a family budget devoted to transportation.
When we spend 18 per cent of our personal budgets on transportation (Statistics Canada, 2011) just to sit in traffic — we need to react. This figure does not even include the detrimental impact on our productivity.
A recent UITP (an international network for public transport authorities and operators, policy decision-makers, scientific institutes and the public transport supply and service industry) publication estimated that in North America, the costs of trips as a proportion of GDP is 12.7 per cent whereas in Hong Kong, Japan and Singapore it is only 5.4 per cent. The difference is a productive advantage for the Asian economies.
At the government level, transportation authorities are spending ever increasing amounts of funds just to service the next subdivision. This includes transportation budgets for service professionals, medical personal, increasing road construction and rehabilitation costs, and so on. Governments should not be in the business of promoting and financing urban sprawl.
Mass transit and higher urban density will allow for greater mobility (for employment, health, social connections and so on) for those currently hindered by high transportation costs.
Coincidentally, President Barack Obama has been pushing for these measures for the last couple of years.
Unfortunately for him, these measures should have been implemented decades ago just to curtail the negative productive and debt impacts of urban sprawl.