E-scooters, fiscal matters and the bigger picture
Sir, – David Doran cites the loss in tax revenue as a major problem with e-scooters were they to replace cars (Letters, September 5th). However, transport-related fiscal matters extend far beyond issues of tax alone and should be viewed more broadly than he indicates.
The reality is that a significant proportion of the cost of car and truck transport is externalised, with the costs passed onto society at large or government agencies. These external costs are greenhouse gases and climate change, death and injury, health damage due to pollution, congestion and road damage. On top of this, road transport is massively subsidised, with an EU study from 2005 finding the annual subsidy for roads in EU member states to be around €125 billion.
It is not surprising that in his book Mobility, John Whitelegg estimates that for every journey a car driver makes, she or he is paying less than 50 per cent of these external costs. And so, the concept that motorists are somehow paying their way, or are contributing fiscally to the state or society because they pay motor tax, is highly questionable. In fact, studies show that as the modal share of walking, cycling, public transport (and presumably scooters) increases, the costs of mobility overall to a community, as a percentage of GDP, decreases.
What is happening on a global level is that eye-wateringly large sums of money are propping up a mobility growth paradigm whereby governments are devoted to encouraging us to travel longer distances at faster speeds in the belief that this is a good thing. How can this be sustained, is it desirable and where is it leading us to?
Significantly increased levels of walking, cycling and scooting offer an alternative vision of how we might live whereby quality of life is prioritised, the “far” is replaced with the “near” and the ridiculous levels of subsidies and costs currently devoted to fast, private travel can be spent addressing other critical issues our society faces. – Yours, etc,