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Public transportation appears to be densely related to the ecological issues that federal-owned temperate forests of the U.S. and Canada undergo. The subsidies extended to those areas by the governments are aimed at improving the environmental situation as well as aiding the economic sectors. The following paper is aimed at outlining the major benefits and costs of public transport subsidies in the temperate forest zones of the U.S. and Canada.
As per the recent guidebook published by Transport Policy Institute, Victoria, BC, the benefits of government subsidies can be subdivided into the categories of direct and indirect benefits, respectively (Litman, 2015). Among the direct benefits, one could enlist, primarily, travel time saving and improved access to a job; the benefits are experienced by those who either have no other means of traveling or shift from cars to public transit. This category can be deemed the most relevant for Portland, where frequent river overflows occur (American Forests, n.d.). In Canada, mainly in British Columbia, there has been an outburst of economic activity in relation to timber production.
The community-based approach to timber processing and the emergence of new businesses required local transit improvement (Berry, 2006). By subsidizing the transport, the government benefited indirectly from the way the businesses flourished. Indeed, with better access to the establishments on the local level, companies such as Revelstoke got the ability to harvest and process sustainably and – more importantly – without sending the timber outside the community to be processed. Implicitly, the subsidies proved to be beneficial in terms of job creation and business development from the 1990s and further on (Berry, 2006). As a consequence, among the indirect benefits, the major ones are an agglomeration of businesses and job creation in places where public transportation is functioning.
In their turn, the subsidies result in expenditures or costs which can be further subdivided into direct and social (Litman, 2015). The major direct costs that the government has to refurbish are infrastructure construction and maintenance costs. An example of such expenditures can be Washington, D.C., with its goal for tree-lined avenues and canopy coverage. The government has to take into account the improvement of the roadway so as not to affect the spaces taken up by the city-owned trees that are planted in the streets (American Forests, n.d.).
The infrastructure costs include bus shelters and the maintenance of the vehicles, as well. As to the social costs, these encompass mainly the traffic delays during road construction and transfer. Such a situation is relevant for Milwaukee, WI, where the roads are likely to be numbed by the 50 inches of snow, yearly (American Forests, n.d.). The roads, thus, have to be either cleaned up promptly, or the expenditures for traffic delay will run high. Finally, considering the city’s sustainability goals, the subsidies are quite likely to result in noise pollution and emission costs. The latter is inescapable due to the high value of trees in the rough climate that Wisconsin has (American Forests, n.d.).
To summarize, the direct benefits of transport subsidies include travel time reduction and better job access. Indirectly, the government benefits from increased business activity and job creation in areas where transport is cheaper. The direct and social costs include, correspondingly, infrastructure construction, and maintenance in the first respect and the expenditures related to traffic delays in the second.
American Forests. (n.d.). Urban Forests Case Studies: Challenges, Potential, and Success in a Dozen Cities.
Berry, A. (2006). Branching Out: Case Studies in Canadian Forest Management. Boseman, MT: PERC.
Litman, T. (2015). Evaluating Public Transit Benefits and Costs: Best Practices Guidebook.
Victoria, BC: Victoria Transport Policy Institute.