Ozzie Zehner

Author of Green Illusions

Tag: Sprawl

Can’t Drive? Can’t vote.

Can’t Drive? Can’t vote.

OZZIE ZEHNER

In the United States, democracy is designed for those who can drive – especially in states with new voter ID laws.

Suburbia is upping the bar of democracy for poor Americans according to a study by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law [PDF]. For instance, a third of Mississippi residents without vehicle access live more than ten miles from an ID-issuing office. In a state with little public transit infrastructure, the stresses on democratic representation become monumental.

The report points out that “voter ID laws are especially burdensome for citizens in high-poverty areas. Not only are these eligible voters among the least likely to have photo ID, they are also among the least likely to have access to government services, such as public transportation.”

Of the voter ID states, Pennsylvania is the largest investor in transit at $94.77 per resident. Compare that to New York, which invests $224.85 per capita in transit, the nation’s highest.

Meanwhile, Wisconsin spends $22.31 per capita on transit.  Indiana just $8.63. Mississippi and Georgia invest less than a dollar. The State of Alabama invests nothing.

Fran Taylor from DC Streets Blog claims that “new state laws mandating photo ID for voters threaten to disenfranchise nondrivers, and the skewed elections that would result could lead to political control by forces hostile to transit, cities, and even Safe Routes to Schools.” As fossil fuel prices become more volatile, so may legislative support for the very transit investments we’ll need to deal with the shocks – investments that citizens overwhelmingly support.

The United States is a country of freedom and democracy for all. If you can get there.

Read reviews of my new environmental book:

Green Illusions

Video: 5 Reasons to Bicycle

This is a recent Danish video from the city of Aarhus, which may offer a glimpse into the future of bicycling through North American cities. Here are the translated points:

  • Reason 674: Big smiles
  • Reason 762: Fitness and fresh air
  • Reason 2,548: Speed through traffic
  • Reason 6,237: Quality time with the kids
  • Reason 94: CO2-neutral transport

See more about the the future of transportation here.

Green Illusions

The Real Costs of Car Use

I enjoyed this 4-minute video from the Mexican office of the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy that exposes some of the basic injustices behind transportation funding. The video explains why building more roads won’t reduce congestion and uncovers the real impact of free parking. Thanks to StreetsBlog and Copenhaganize for bringing this video to my attention.

Discover more about Green Illusions here.

Green Illusions

How Congress is Bribing You to Drive in 2012

Glorious Parking (photo by Faris Ali)

How Congress is Bribing You to Drive in 2012

By Ozzie Zehner

These are the final few days for public transit riders to receive the same federal transportation benefits as drivers.  Starting on January 1, 2012, the IRS will reduce the allowable pre-tax contributions to transit users while increasing benefits for drivers. This tax subsidy supports car culture with twice the gusto of transit.

The Senate could have extended the transit benefit this week.  But it failed.

Senate Republicans linked the transit benefit extension to a vote that would require Obama to approve or deny the Keystone XL pipeline within 60 days. In response, the editors of the Washington Post ran an  editorial on December 19th claiming Congress is taking Americans for a ride:

“Whether the federal government should give a tax break to workers to help pay for their commutes is a question that is certainly worthy of discussion. What shouldn’t be on the table is giving a bigger edge in any subsidy to those who drive, as opposed to those who use mass transit — since there is no reason to encourage more traffic, more pollution and more gas consumption…increased use of public transportation benefits everyone — even those who choose to drive because there are fewer cars on the road. No such argument can be made in subsidizing the parking costs of those who drive to work. Workers can choose to drive and park — but there is no public interest in government picking up part of the tab.”

The IRS has announced the following limits for pre-tax contributions and reimbursements on 2012 Commuter Benefits Accounts:

  • Transit pre-tax contributions: Decrease from $230 to $125 per month
  • Parking pre-tax contributions: Increase from $230 to $240 per month

 This outcome, intended or not, is clear: Congress will be bribing us to drive in 2012.  That is unfortunate news for both public transit agencies and their riders.

 

History: The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) increased the monthly pre-tax reimbursement limit for Commuter Benefit Transit accounts temporarily from $120 to $230. That limit expires on December 31, 2011.

Status: Congress has not acted to extend the current deadline.  Unless they take action by January 1, 2012, the monthly pre-tax contribution and reimbursement limits for transit accounts will drop to $125, roughly half the limit for drivers. There is a small chance, according to Transportation For America, that the benefit could be reinstated within the first few months of 2012.

Shameless Plug: Read about hidden car culture subsidies in my upcoming book: GreenIllusions.org

DIY Bike Lane for $1000

Photo from thisbigcity.net

Five years ago, Mexico City pledged to paint 300km of bike lanes on existing streets throughout the city by 2012 but the government has been slow to respond.  Only 22 km have been painted so far. So, Mexico City bikers raised $1000 to buy some paint.

Political science student Jimena Veloz reported on the one-day event at thisbigcity.net:

“We bought paint, brushes and rollers. We built wood signs. We cut stencils. We borrowed a tricycle to carry everything. We invited everyone we knew and told them to come help…We worked for 8 hours. We painted 5 kms. We spent less than 1000 dollars. How much would it cost to actually build the bicycle infrastructure the city needs?”

See more about the book John Perkins is endorsing here.

Green Illusions

Why the IRS Awards Driving Over Transit for 2012

Glorious Parking (photo by Faris Ali)

Why the IRS Awards Driving Over Transit for 2012

By Ozzie Zehner

Starting on January 1, 2012, the IRS will reduce the allowable pre-tax contributions to transit riders while increasing benefits for drivers – an economic tax subsidy that will end up supporting car culture with twice the gusto of transit.

The IRS announced the following limits for pre-tax contributions and reimbursements on 2012 Commuter Benefits Accounts:

  • Transit pre-tax contributions: Decreased from $230 to $125 per month
  • Parking pre-tax contributions: Increased from $230 to $240 per month

History: The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) increased the monthly pre-tax reimbursement limit for Commuter Benefit Transit accounts temporarily from $120 to $230. That limit expires on December 31, 2011.

Status: Congress has not acted to extend the current deadline.  Unless they take action by January 1, 2012, the monthly pre-tax contribution and reimbursement limits for transit accounts will drop to $125, roughly half the limit for drivers.


Shameless Plug: Read about hidden car culture subsidies in my upcoming book: GreenIllusions.org

Eco Porn: Revenge of the Electric Car

“Environmentalists generally object to battery-powered devices and for good reason: batteries require mined minerals, employ manufacturing processes that leak toxins into local ecosystems and leave behind an even-worse trail of side effects upon disposal. Though when it comes to the largest mass-produced batterypowered gadget ever created—the electric car—environmentalists cannot jump from their seats fast enough to applaud it.”

–Ozzie Zehner (as quoted in The Economist)

See images from my upcoming book at GreenIllusions.org

New: Dutch Cycling Embassy Video

The Dutch Cycling Embassy, a coalition of bike ambassadors from, private companies, non-profits, bike manufacturers and government entities, released this new video on the perhaps surprising history of Dutch cycling. (Well, surprising for those who did not read my recent post on the history of Dutch bicycle infrastructure.) The video is by Marc van Woudenberg.

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