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Old 04-22-08, 08:30 AM   #1
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Car subsidies, insurance and YOUR money...

The NY Times magazine ran an article by the authors of "Freakonomics"

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/20/ma...ne&oref=slogin

Crux being that cars are subsidized by way of "negative externalities" (economist speak for "passing the pain to someone else") in three ways:
1. Congestion: $78 Billion/year
2. Pollution: $20 Billion/year
3. Accidents: $220 Billion/year

They cede the first two as near impossible to combat, but cite Progressive Insurance for attempting a pilot program on a pay per mile basis -- thus rewarding those who ride bikes, for example.

Not sure how to translate this into direct action such as what brought State Farm around on their ads, but certainly would be interested in ideas. . .
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Old 04-22-08, 08:40 AM   #2
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As bad as congestion, pollution, and accidents are, I've alway maintained it's the sedentary lifestyle that is the far bigger killer.

http://health.iafrica.com/features/969849.htm

"World governments focus too much on fighting terrorism while obesity and other "lifestyle diseases" are killing millions more people, an international conference heard on Monday. "

A guy riding a bike is a friend to all.
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Old 04-22-08, 11:31 AM   #3
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I do like the intro: that we drive too much.

What can we do?

Bunch of us observed a good year ago that people were waxing evangelical about the environment, but the thought of incorporating a bicycle into their life was simply not on their radar. I've been doing a little surfing and that's a common thread.

"examinations of conscience" are common - and the examination goes as far as "what do you drive?" and maybe whether you carpool or take public transportation to work.

We all know what non-riders think of riding... since we can ride 50 miles at a time we are another species, since3 to them riding 5 is beyond ken. They have no idea that honestly, we're not genetically altered.

I think it's time we invaded their turf and started questioning those assumptions. Get on treehugger and get some cycling threads going. Any other green online communities out there? Find the local greenies and ask when you can give a little chat on a "two mile challenge." Get the religious establishments to do "first SUnday of the Month is Bike to Worship Sunday."

So. While freakonomics guys are saying "we drive too much. How can we tax it?" we can say "they're going to start taxing you! Find your bicycle!"
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Old 04-22-08, 04:25 PM   #4
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I totally agree health and driving are related, but I think that with healthcare (for now) basically "free" through work for most folks, there's no traction to be gained. Personal opinion -- REI, 24 Hour Fitness and Performance and some other "member" organizations should offer health insurance. The risk pool has got be pretty good except for injury.

My thought on this article was to hit Progressive as State Farm was assailed about their "anti-biker" ads. In this case though, to demand that their pilot program roll-out to other cities quickly. The promise of insurance on a pay per mile basis means potentially several hundred bucks in my pocket and most likely yours.

That's the accident component to the article -- we all pay the same rate regardless of whether somebody drives 100,000 miles a year and you and I drive only 4,000. That being the case, people who don't drive much end up subsidizing those who do.
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Old 04-22-08, 04:46 PM   #5
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The promise of insurance on a pay per mile basis means potentially several hundred bucks in my pocket and most likely yours

Uhh, all you have to do is tell your insurance agent you commute to work on a bike and your car mileage is limited. They'll adjust your rates accordingly.

The big bad State Farm reduced my premium from 650 to 440.
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Old 04-22-08, 06:09 PM   #6
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Uhh, all you have to do is tell your insurance agent you commute to work on a bike and your car mileage is limited. They'll adjust your rates accordingly.

The big bad State Farm reduced my premium from 650 to 440.
my insurance company reduced my premium by less than 10% for using my car for "pleasure use only"

Big woop.

I'm all for distance based insurance.
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Old 04-22-08, 06:17 PM   #7
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I totally agree health and driving are related, but I think that with healthcare (for now) basically "free" through work for most folks, there's no traction to be gained. Personal opinion -- REI, 24 Hour Fitness and Performance and some other "member" organizations should offer health insurance. The risk pool has got be pretty good except for injury.

My thought on this article was to hit Progressive as State Farm was assailed about their "anti-biker" ads. In this case though, to demand that their pilot program roll-out to other cities quickly. The promise of insurance on a pay per mile basis means potentially several hundred bucks in my pocket and most likely yours.

That's the accident component to the article -- we all pay the same rate regardless of whether somebody drives 100,000 miles a year and you and I drive only 4,000. That being the case, people who don't drive much end up subsidizing those who do.

It's not how many miles a year you drive, it's how many accidents you have. Actually, the better drivers that drive more miles subsidize the bad drivers that drive fewer miles.
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Old 04-22-08, 06:38 PM   #8
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how about a bad driver that drives lots of miles? wouldn't that be worse for pay outs by the insurance comp?
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Old 04-22-08, 06:49 PM   #9
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It's not how many miles a year you drive, it's how many accidents you have. Actually, the better drivers that drive more miles subsidize the bad drivers that drive fewer miles.
Yes and no. There is a huge alertness and skill component, but luck is also involved, and the more one drives, the more likely one is to become involved in a collision.

My insurance company (ACSC, the original AAA affiliate) does give my wife and me a break because we drive our cars less than 5k mi / 8k km per year, and because we have spotless driving records.
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Old 04-22-08, 06:56 PM   #10
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.. we have spotless driving records.
I'm not surprised. So do I.
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Old 04-22-08, 08:45 PM   #11
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Yes and no. There is a huge alertness and skill component, but luck is also involved, and the more one drives, the more likely one is to become involved in a collision.

My insurance company (ACSC, the original AAA affiliate) does give my wife and me a break because we drive our cars less than 5k mi / 8k km per year, and because we have spotless driving records.
Also interesting that you responded.....from California. This state made it illegal for insurance companies to charge less for people that live and drive in areas where there are fewer accidents. The rural drivers are subsidizing the urban and suburban drivers.

When I recruited for the Navy in Michigan, we would drive thousands of miles a year in the central and western part of the state. Our cars had no dents. There wasn't a recruiting car in Detroit without a dent, and they drove much less than we did.
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Old 04-22-08, 09:07 PM   #12
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Living Car Free thread: http://bikeforums.net/showthread.php?t=410042
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Old 04-22-08, 11:26 PM   #13
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This is a little off-topic and a bit of a rant... please bare with me.

I own a car and a bike. I use my bike as much as possible, but for longer trips the car is just much faster. Call me what you will. I need to be able to get from work to guitars lessons that I give. If I rode, I would have to move the lessons to 10pm and midnight or so. No one wants lessons at those hours. Cars have their place, but they are overused.

Also, for many people, riding a bike to work means getting up at 1am, and getting home at 11pm.

You'll never get everyone to ride a bike to work. I think a better answer to pollution and cogestion is to combine public transportation with walking/biking.

In my area we have a new West/East train (where previously there was no option). It's been a big hit. Many people at my work are now walking or riding to the train, putting their bike on the train (there are MANY spots for passengers to put their bicycle on the train itself), and then biking to work. But my company is very eco-friendly (we are putting solar panels on the roof right now), and we happen to have a train stop right down the hill from the building.

More trains and busses = good
More bike-friendly trains and busses = better

We have one main East/West train, and one main North/South train. The further people are from these rail lines, the less likely they are to use them. I think public transportation (combined with walking or biking) should be more the "norm" for commuting with driving a personal motor vehical more for running errands around town. We need rails along every major road artery, not just one in each direction.

Let's face it, when running errands around town, taking your car instead of a train or bus can save you hours and hours- to the point that without a car, such errands are actually impossible due to work schedules and such (banks close early, so do many other businesses that people need to get to after they get off from work). But these exceptions which call for a car should and could be more rare than they are.

Using food as fuel is more effective and cleaner when it is consumed by a human engine than when it is distilled into ethenol.
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Old 04-23-08, 01:28 AM   #14
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This is a little off-topic and a bit of a rant... please bare with me.

I own a car and a bike. I use my bike as much as possible, but for longer trips the car is just much faster. Call me what you will. I need to be able to get from work to guitars lessons that I give. If I rode, I would have to move the lessons to 10pm and midnight or so. No one wants lessons at those hours. Cars have their place, but they are overused.


Let's face it, when running errands around town, taking your car instead of a train or bus can save you hours and hours- to the point that without a car, such errands are actually impossible due to work schedules and such (banks close early, so do many other businesses that people need to get to after they get off from work). But these exceptions which call for a car should and could be more rare than they are.
l.
THat's all nice, but you are comparing biking to your car based car centralized life. I do all that except guitar lessons (substitute teaching, coaching) and more, with next to no car driving because I have set my life up; where I live, work, things I do, to do it that way. Many of the things I do, places I go, it would be downright inconvenient to ride the car,i.e no place to park, too slow to get across town, so forth. You have set your life up to be car friendly and with less thought to being bike friendly.
You are right some people will never change until one day they can not go into the gas station and get gas. Then they will panic.

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Old 04-23-08, 09:26 AM   #15
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my insurance company reduced my premium by less than 10% for using my car for "pleasure use only"
Big woop.


Me too. I was underwhelmed.

Progressive's plan isn't purely mileage based, so driving habits are taken into account (and more fully than by "points" for infractions).

The plan calls for some form of recording accelerometer: "...transmits to Progressive not just how many miles they drive but also when those miles are driven and, to some extent, how they are driven: the device measures the car's speed every second, from which Progressive can derive acceleration and braking behavior." (ital in the original).

I don't know how the statistics break out for risk and mileage in urban versus rural. Fewer of the deadliest animal in North America (deer, actually) in a city. And dents under the deductible amount don't trigger a claim and like that.

My own opinion is that living car-free simply won't work for lots of folks -- not in this society. Combinations of public transit and cycling may well be the best alternative. From what I saw in Portland OR, "permanent" systems are what spur private investment. It's easy to sink money into a project next to rail. The "flexibility" that rail opponents cite when touting bus systems means that developers are more reluctant to put an office/mall/apartment in place.

Mass transit and urban planning type solutions are long-lead and require moving some hefty bureaucracy much less overcoming public complacency. Start offering a discount on auto insurance to folks, however . . . and they might just want to save some bucks.
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Old 04-23-08, 10:06 AM   #16
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My own opinion is that living car-free simply won't work for lots of folks -- not in this society. Combinations of public transit and cycling may well be the best alternative. From what I saw in Portland OR, "permanent" systems are what spur private investment. It's easy to sink money into a project next to rail. The "flexibility" that rail opponents cite when touting bus systems means that developers are more reluctant to put an office/mall/apartment in place.

Mass transit and urban planning type solutions are long-lead and require moving some hefty bureaucracy much less overcoming public complacency. Start offering a discount on auto insurance to folks, however . . . and they might just want to save some bucks.

But living car lite, can work... and urban planning needs to consider that there are other means to get about beyond the car, and that those other means can actually help improve one's life.
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Old 04-23-08, 12:07 PM   #17
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But living car lite, can work... and urban planning needs to consider that there are other means to get about beyond the car, and that those other means can actually help improve one's life.
Couldn't agree more. . .

I managed car-free for many years, but it's pretty tough to do. And for the whole of society (or even anything like a majority) to go car free is only going to happen about the time Soylent Green hits the shelves of the grocery stores.

Limited use, though, is so practical and realistic that I think it's just a matter of giving folks a nudge or two. Higher gas prices and a break on insurance for reduced mileage might be enough to start some radical change.
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Old 04-23-08, 12:25 PM   #18
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...Limited use, though, is so practical and realistic that I think it's just a matter of giving folks a nudge or two. Higher gas prices and a break on insurance for reduced mileage might be enough to start some radical change.
and I think the point of the article is that mortor vehicle users are getting away without paying the full costs of their use of their motor vehicles. Imposing some sort of cost that would reflect the full impact of their vehicles would be a better way to manage their use.

As it is, the public at large subsidizes over-use of vehicles and that should change

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Old 04-23-08, 03:45 PM   #19
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That's certainly my take on it.

Mother Jones magazine makes a strong case that there's no way to get to "energy independence" either, that we should just shoot for "energy security."

http://www.motherjones.com/news/feat...ependence.html

Among other factors -- the current infrastructure and the "fleet" will take 12 years to replace, so we're stuck with oil for the short term. And all that that implies -- many other hidden subsidies. But I'm cynical enough to wonder if MPG means "Marines per Gallon."
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Old 04-23-08, 04:12 PM   #20
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The plan calls for some form of recording accelerometer: "...transmits to Progressive not just how many miles they drive but also when those miles are driven and, to some extent, how they are driven: the device measures the car's speed every second, from which Progressive can derive acceleration and braking behavior." (ital in the original).
Thats going to be a hard sell for a lot of drivers.
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Old 04-23-08, 04:45 PM   #21
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Thats going to be a hard sell for a lot of drivers.

who isn't going to cry when their "sweet" deal gets cut off?
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Old 04-23-08, 04:58 PM   #22
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who isn't going to cry when their "sweet" deal gets cut off?
Well how about cyclists that already minimize their use of fossil fuel...
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Old 04-23-08, 05:04 PM   #23
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All I know is I make it cheaper for those motorists to move around. Life is a b**ch.
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Old 04-23-08, 05:19 PM   #24
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The article says that, "drivers should probably be taxed at least an extra 10 cents per mile if we want them to pay the full societal cost of their driving".

That's fine. We could raise the taxes by that amount, and people would complain, but it wouldn't get people out of their cars.

Here's a typical scenario for how much it costs to drive a new car ( based on my own experience ):

Monthly car payment for a 5 year loan on a "nice" new car ( nicer sedan, most SUVs, etc): $600
Insurance cost per month: $150
Gas Mileage: 25
Miles driven per month: 1000
Cost of gas: $4/gallon

1000/25 = 40 gallons of gas per month, or $160.
160 + 150 + 600 = $910/month.
910/1000 = $0.91/mile.

So. Drivers of new cars are currently paying about $0.90 per mile.

Gas prices have doubled in the last few years. Gas used to cost about $0.08/mile, now it costs about $0.16/mile. That increase of 8 cents hasn't really made much impact in how much people drive. I doubt another 8 (or 10) cents would.

It doesn't really matter if this is charged as a tax, or as a part of insurance premiums, or whatever. People will grumble about it, pay it anyway, and continue to drive.

And personally, I wouldn't subscribe to "PAYD" insurance if it meant my speed was continuously reported to the insurance company, regardless of whether it saved me money.
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Old 04-23-08, 09:59 PM   #25
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THat's all nice, but you are comparing biking to your car based car centralized life. I do all that except guitar lessons (substitute teaching, coaching) and more, with next to no car driving because I have set my life up; where I live, work, things I do, to do it that way. Many of the things I do, places I go, it would be downright inconvenient to ride the car,i.e no place to park, too slow to get across town, so forth. You have set your life up to be car friendly and with less thought to being bike friendly.
You are right some people will never change until one day they can not go into the gas station and get gas. Then they will panic.
You make a lot of very incorrect assuptions about me. I have not set up my life to be car-centric. Not at all.

You admit you do drive, right. So do I. I drive as little as possible, for many reasons. Maybe you drive less than I do, but that isn't because I have set up my life to require a car, nor because I am lazy. We live in different places and under different circumstances. Why are you jumping to conclusions?
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