Having a car I appreciate the ability to come and go whenever I want to almost anywhere in Rhode Island. The trouble is that almost everyone else doing the same is resulting in congested roads, pollution and climate emissions, lots of accidents that kill or injure people, pets, and wildlife, the paving over of much of the countryside, and billions of our dollars leaving the state’s economy flowing to out of state oil interests.
State planners get this is unsustainable, and their officially adopted plans call for trying to reduce vehicle miles travelled, and investing in improving transit, bicycling and walking infrastructure. But in reality we are doing the opposite – RIDOT is mostly putting off the transit and bike plans while spending a fortune to increase capacity on major roads such as I-95, 195, 295, 37, 146 and more. Some corporations, even some state agencies, are moving some of its workforce out of the metro area to sprawl drive-only locations in the boonies, and RIDOT even built a new interchange on I-295 to facilitate such a move
The latest pander to the automobile culture is the plan supported by Senate President Ruggerio to use over $220 million of state revenue each year to eliminate property taxes – not on residences where people live and struggle with high housing costs – but on cars. This would do nothing, zilch, for those with no cars, (about 10 percent of the state’s households) or even with just an older car as the first $5,000 of vehicle value is already exempt. But it would greatly benefit affluent households with lots of expensive cars, the very ones that contribute the most to pollution and congestion. (Over 5 percent of our households have four or more vehicles.)
It’s not too late for responsible office holders to say no to this inequitable and environmentally-dubious idea, and instead prioritize state revenue to help everyone, not just those with lots of cars. We can use that $220 million to help those in need, or to help small businesses, or to make colleges or health care more affordable, or to protect our environment. But the power of the auto culture runs deep and neither social justice nor environmental interests seem willing to take this on. Sad!