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Thursday, June 6, 2013

Tax Breaks for Pedestrians

Posted by on Thu, Jun 6, 2013 at 2:24 PM

Let's begin with a passage in a book, Green Metropolis: Why Living Smaller, Living Closer, and Driving Less Are the Keys to Sustainability, by David Owen:

Energy Star program, which was introduced by the Environmental Protection Agency in 1992 and which has transformed the market for all kinds of power-consuming devices in the United States and a number of other countries, including Japan and Australia, as any consumer who has shopped for a household appliance in the past fifteen years probably knows. The U.S. Energy Star program was extended to residential and commercial buildings in 1995, and the EPA expects that by 2010 more than 2 million new U.S. houses will have received Energy Star labels. The EPA also estimates that, in 2007 alone, Energy Star saved Americans $16 billion in direct energy costs and reduced greenhouse-gas emissions by an amount equivalent to those produced by 25 million cars.

Now, recall that Section 179 of the United States Internal Revenue Code still (in the age of Obama) gives Americans money for buying SUVs (the expense limit: $25,000; weight of vehicle: 6,000 lbs; business use: 75% ). With this in mind, let's consider the most eco-friendly mode of transportation in our uncertain times of climate change:


Because only two percent of Americans walk or cycle to work (that figure is taken from P.D. Smith's book City: A Guidebook for the Urban Age), and because the future will not happen in the way we understand or desire it unless that terribly low figure dramatically improves, should we not be offering substantial tax breaks for those who walk to work? A smartphone app could make the claims on such a tax benefit easy to verify. But as it currently stands, it is totally unfair that pedestrians and cyclists are not rewarded for not only reducing their impact on the environment but also on the health system. One more from Green Metropolis:

A British study concluded that every minute spent walking extends life expectancy by three minutes.


Comments (15) RSS

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lark 1
I wholeheartedly agree with your idea. As you know, I don't own nor ever have owned an automobile. I walk, ride and cycle. I, too believe that an award like a tax break for walkers or at least people who don't own cars would be in order. Not everybody can walk or cycle. I acknowledge that. But, your point is excellent.
Posted by lark on June 6, 2013 at 2:34 PM · Report this
Fifty-Two-Eighty 2
Pedestrians already get multiple tax breaks. They're not paying vehicle taxes, registration fees, gas taxes, tolls, etc.
Posted by Fifty-Two-Eighty on June 6, 2013 at 2:41 PM · Report this
@2 Walking/cycling to work does not prohibit someone from owning a car.
Posted by searunner on June 6, 2013 at 2:46 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 4
Other studies show longer life expectancy and better overall health for those over 50, more than those for the general population.

Unless you LIKE paying for sick Boomers.
Posted by Will in Seattle on June 6, 2013 at 3:29 PM · Report this
Max Solomon 5
@2: you seem confused as to what a tax BREAK means. if you don't utilize a taxable service, i.e. a car, then you're not liable for that tax at all. it's not a BREAK, which would mean you use the car, but don't have to pay the full tax, it's reduced for this or that reason.

Posted by Max Solomon on June 6, 2013 at 3:33 PM · Report this
Not to mention road wear and tear costs and accident costs (medical and property damages).
Posted by nullbull on June 6, 2013 at 3:33 PM · Report this
Max Solomon 7
does this mean that if you never stop walking, you live forever?
Posted by Max Solomon on June 6, 2013 at 3:40 PM · Report this
Mattini 8
I wish I could walk to work, but finding a job within a reasonable walking radius is a limiting prospect, as is finding a job in a good neighborhood and then moving there.
Posted by Mattini on June 6, 2013 at 3:57 PM · Report this
So what you're telling me is this: If I walked 32 miles today, I'd receive one bonus day as an octagenarian in return.

Posted by RonK, Seattle on June 6, 2013 at 5:11 PM · Report this
Twilight Sparkle 10
Regional thinking about walkability is important too. Consider that no matter how dense and walkable Seattle is, it accounts for about a fifth of our region's population. In 1993 we established growth management with legal boundaries. The region needs to work on what's boing on in the other 80% of our region. No matter what happens in Seattle, if the rest of our region does nothing to reconfigure its morphology, we'll still be an auto dependent region.

I'm only stating this because the work of making Seattle more ped friendly is picking the low hanging fruit. A much greater challenge is retrofitting the rest of the region to reclaim it from the car.
Posted by Twilight Sparkle on June 6, 2013 at 5:15 PM · Report this

The car is an extension of the home.

It is a horizontal elevator.

Posted by Supreme Ruler Of The Universe http://_ on June 6, 2013 at 5:32 PM · Report this
@9 no no no! clearly every minute walking extends the life 3 minutes. For my new immortality plan I just need to walk 8 hours a day
Posted by tal on June 6, 2013 at 5:59 PM · Report this
keshmeshi 13
How would the IRS determine eligibility for such a tax break?
Posted by keshmeshi on June 6, 2013 at 6:21 PM · Report this
Not everyone has a job at the Stranger where you needn't show up at a particular time and it doesn't matter if you show up looking like you walked to work in various types of weather.
Posted by sarah70 on June 6, 2013 at 8:21 PM · Report this
stirwise 15
I feel like not spending any money on a car is in its own way a tax break (no registration fees, gas taxes, sales taxes on oil changes, etc). No need to give me more money for using my feet to get everywhere.
I guess what I mean is: not owning a car is its own reward.
Posted by stirwise on June 7, 2013 at 2:25 PM · Report this

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