traffic congestion premature deaths slugging commuters

Slugging -- The People's Transit & Antidote
carbon dividends pesticides dams

Smog kills 2200 people near cars each year

Traffic is worse than inconvenient; it's deadly. Yet society can resolve it with cooperation and revenue reform. We trim, blend, and append five 2011 articles from: (1) USA Today, May 25, on lethal smog by L. Copeland; (2) Los Angeles Times, May 27, on Parkinson's by M. Healy; (3) Miller-McCune, March 7, on slugging by E. Badger; (4) Miller-McCune, May 19, on taxing carbon by J.D. Schwartz; and (5) Los Angeles Times, May 25, on floods by P. VanDevelder; his book, Savages and Scoundrels: The Untold Story of America's Road to Empire Through Indian Territory, won the 2011 Oregon Book Award.

by Larry Copeland, by Melissa Healy, by Emily Badger, by Judith D. Schwartz, and by Paul VanDevelder

Congestion in the USA's 83 largest urban areas last year led to more than 2,200 premature deaths and a related public health cost of at least $18 billion.

"Our estimates of the total public health cost of traffic congestion in the U.S. are likely conservative, in that they consider only the impacts in 83 urban areas and only the cost of related mortality and not the costs that could be associated with related morbidity -- health care, insurance, accidents, and other factors," the researchers at the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis at the Harvard School of Public Health report.

People at risk are those sitting in traffic and others exposed to the polluted air.

To see the whole article, click here .

More fatal pollution:

People whose workplaces were close to fields sprayed with chemicals -- not just those who live nearby -- are at higher risk of developing Parkinson's.

To see the whole article, click here .

JJS: Back to other airborne pollution. Federal Highway Administration studies suggest that free-flowing traffic can be restored on a clogged highway simply by removing 10% of its cars. Some societies are taking thousands of cars off the highway.

People in Washington DC have created their own transit system using their private cars. About 10,000 strangers every day are “slugging” along the arteries, I-95 and 395, where the nation’s first lanes for only High Occupancy Vehicles (HOV) were completed in 1975. San Francisco has a similar casual-carpooling system, and there’s a small one in Houston.

Every morning, these commuters meet in park-and-ride lots. They then ride, often in silence, without exchanging so much as first names, obeying rules of etiquette. No money changes hands. For the passenger, it’s a free ride; for the driver, a pass to the HOV lane, and both get a faster trip than they would otherwise.

According to the slugs’ creation story, drivers realized they could get people in their cars and qualify for the HOV lanes by poaching waiting passengers from bus stops. Bitter bus drivers are credited with coining the term “slug,” originally a derogatory reference that has been amiably reappropriated.

The first organized slug line formed with a destination to the largest single employment center in the country: the Pentagon, where 25,000 people work.

“Parking is subsidized,” says Marc Oliphant, a facilities planner with the Navy. “We pay for the land we live on, but we expect the parking spot to come free of charge.”

The federal government has lately encouraged drivers with tax breaks to buy, variously: a new car, a hybrid or clean-diesel vehicle, a truck or SUV weighing more than 6,000 pounds, or any upgrade from a “clunker.” Then, regardless of what we drive, the IRS invites lucrative tax deductions for work travel, now at 50 cents a mile.

Your average Joe or Jane thinks things are the way they are because that’s what society wants, Oliphant says. “That’s not really the case.”

To see the whole article, click here .

JJS: Burning oil creates other problems and suggests other solutions.

Cap and trade is dead -- long live the Green Dividend.

That was the consensus of a conference on pricing carbon held at Wesleyan University that produced the “Wesleyan Statement”.

According to the statement, an effective pricing strategy would be “upstream” (i.e. paid by the supplier). A price on carbon spurs reducing fossil fuel use.

Up for debate was whether to use the revenue for a direct payment (a “green check”) or tax reduction (“tax shift”).

Two key arguments for pricing carbon are that emission-spewing oil and coal are cheap relative to renewables because the fossil fuel industry is subsidized by tax breaks, and does not pay its products’ environmental and societal costs.

Carbon pricing would make the fossil fuel industry pay its own costs.

One common argument against putting a price on carbon is that pricing is too expensive. But the damages from unchecked climate change would amount to 5% or more of the global gross domestic product and would increase over time; yet, almost all of these damages can be avoided by spending 1% of global GDP on mitigation.

Peter Barnes, co-founder of the Working Assets Money Fund, suggests sending the money to taxpayers. He noted that Obama lowered payroll tax withholding and no one noticed. “This is a strong argument why dividend is the way to go,” Barnes said. “It also gets the discussion out of the tax box, which is a very bad box to be in.”

A price-and-dividend model could bend political reality. The people who are sick and tired of going to wars for oil might support the tax and dividend.

To see the whole article, click here .

JJS: Another tax shift that might do even more good would be to shift the property tax off buildings, onto land. Having to pay such “land dues”, owners would not let prime sites lie fallow but keep locations at best use. Efficient land use makes cities compact so buildings side by side would need less heating fuel and shorter trips would need less vehicle fuel.

Paying rent, rather than receiving subsidy, should also spur owners to use land wisely.

This is a man-made disaster, the legacy of an earlier generation of politicians, farmers, and ranchers who made a lot of bad (and very expensive) decisions when the best available science -- including findings in a 1934 corps report -- warned Congress that those decisions would create dire long-term consequences. The plan was sold to members of Congress with the promise that Indian lands only -- no white lands, towns and cities -- would be inundated by the dams.

The devastation caused by the 2011 flood is a direct consequence of the five huge dams built on the Missouri River. Had we not built them, had we refrained from building homes and cities on Missouri River floodplains, periodic floods would have occurred, but without the catastrophic consequences we see today. Floods would have replenished the river bottoms with alluvial silts (producing bumper crops) and deposited nutrients on the barrier islands in the gulf.

To see the whole article, click here .

JJS: May society at last consense that government interference is wrong and stewarding -- conserving and sharing -- Earth is right.


Editor Jeffery J. Smith runs the Forum on Geonomics.

Also see:

Simple solutions that can change the world

Paris Metro's cheaters say …

The US President Going Green?

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