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The Full Cost Of Driving: 34 Cents Per Minute, Not 5 Cents Per Minute

I bike because I love to. However, also, every time I get in a car, I have this uneasy feeling that I am taking too much. David Levison did meticulous work taking this issue apart and turning it inside out. It does take too much. His result was that we pay 34 cents a minute (the full cost of driving) instead of the illusory 5 cents per minute. But will that make us stop driving, or just feel a bit uncomfortable?

David Levison, an engineering professor at the University of Minnesota, from Transportationist, breaks it down with this tidy summary of his diligently calculated post:

  • $0.05 fuel (currently paid, including gas taxes)
  • $0.075 vehicle ownership
  • $0.05 Repairs, oil, and maintenance (converting to a per minute charge)
  • $0.05 insurance (converting to a per minute charge)
  • $0.0133 additional fuel tax for transportation infrastructure (replacing vehicle taxes and general revenue)
  • $0.10 externalities (excluding crash externalities – see insurance)
  • $0.34 Total

We pay as we breathe. This is a core issue — a worse cost. The cost to our lungs. Rex Weyler in EcoWatch warns: “A great reckoning awaits humanity if we fail to awaken from our delusions. Earth’s delicately balanced systems can reach tipping points and collapse.”

Although David Levison is unfolding the full cost and delusion of driving and Rex is of honey bees, the point is that we are suffering from a delusion. Both men are on the same page. Are we to become like great civilizations that rise in short-term satiation and collapse?

Wikimedia CommonsCar2Go charges on a per minute basis. Credit: Dirk Ingo Franke (CC BY 3.0 license)


It is not simply how much money we are paying — it is the untold price of our planet, our children’s futures. Levison’s entire post is worth a read and ends in respect to time and money:

As the adage goes, “time is money”, and if we were more directly aware of the cost of our travel, we would spend far less on it. This implies we over-consume travel compared to a system that charged users directly for their full costs. As we move towards more efficient and equitable transportation funding, using road pricing, and an economy with vehicles as a service (car sharing, ride sharing, cloud commuting) we should expect significantly less travel demand.

The full cost of driving needs to be better understood by people, one way or another, if we are truly going to address the climate, environmental, and societal challenges we face from too much driving.

Read Related Articles:

New Report Shows Keystone XL Will Raise Gas Prices in U.S. Midwest by 20-40 Cents Per Gallon

Public transportation & mass transit are keys to smart cities

Proposed EPA Changes Add Just $7 To Cost Of Cars

Economic Council Reports Costs Of Climate Change Delay

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Cynthia Shahan started writing after previously doing research and publishing work on natural birth practices. (Several unrelated publications) She is a licensed health care provider. She studied and practiced both Waldorf education, and Montessori education, mother of four unconditionally loving spirits.


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