Automobile Subsidies Are Regressive


One of the really strange conceits of DC local politics is that policies favorable to car owners are often claimed to be a distributively progressive policy in contrast to all these rich yuppies who favor less auto-centric policies. This is totally backwards:

To me, this is common sense. Cars are expensive. Metro and the bus are cheaper. Walking and bicycling are even cheaper. Consequently, car ownership is most widespread in the highest income Wards—one, two, three, and six—and lowest in the poorest Wards, six and seven. Obviously this doesn’t prove that the relationship holds on an individual level basis, but it’s suggestive empirical confirmation of the theoretically predicted result that ownership of expensive items (cars) should correlate with income. Higher parking fees, lower regulatory parking minimums, and greater investment in non-automotive transportation are both distributively progressive policies as well as being good for the environment.