UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The cost of the car to the city of Vancouver Dehnel, Patricia Lynne


This thesis was undertaken to identify and determine the costs borne by the municipal level of government to provide and maintain the infrastructure required by the private automobile. Such government expenses are known as subsidies. In 1992, Transport 2021 commissioned a broad study to determine the complete cost of transporting people by all modes of transportation throughout the Lower Mainland. This thesis complements the study by investigating the costs shouldered by one level of government, in one municipality and for one mode of transportation in greater detail. This thesis sets a framework that can be followed by other municipalities aimed at determining their own spending on the private automobile. The underlying assumption of this thesis is that the automobile is perceived as a user pay mode of transportation and, unlike public transit, is not subsidized. Subsidies to the automobile by all levels of government go unnoticed. This thesis demonstrates that cars actually benefit from subsidies. A framework for examining costs of the automobile was developed through a review of existing literature on automobile costs. Both direct costs and hidden costs are discussed. Most of the direct cost dollar figures were derived by examining the 1992 Vancouver City Budget and isolating those funds devoted to car infrastructure and services. The land cost of car infrastructure was determined by estimating its total land area and calculating the usual 1992 tax revenue of a similar sized parcel of land. The hidden costs of the car are discussed but not translated into dollar values. This thesis discovers that, in 1992, the automobile cost the City of Vancouver $185.6 million dollars in both direct expenditures and lost tax revenue. The discussion on hidden costs asserts that the true annual subsidy to the car by Vancouver is even higher. This thesis concludes with recommendations for mitigating city spending on the car. Elimination of free on-street parking is recommended as an equity fair method of cost mitigation that obliges car owners to be responsible for providing, or at least paying for, their own residential and work place parking facilities. This thesis recommends the introduction of an on-street permit parking system. Other user pay systems such as road tolls are discussed but not recommended at the municipal level alone.

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