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Who you calling cheap?

Posted by Chris Hagerbaumer at Aug 23, 2013 02:30 PM |

A new Car Cost Index says Oregon's the cheapest state to own a car. OEC's transportation expert Chris Hagerbaumer gives us the low-down on what "cheap" really means.

Oregon’s the cheapest state to own a car?! That's what Bankrate concludes in its first-ever Car Cost Index, ranking the average costs of repairs, insurance premiums, gasoline, and taxes and fees in all 50 states.  The average Oregon motorist spends $2,204 a year in comparison to the most expensive state, Georgia, where the average is $4,233. The national average is $3,201.

What does it mean that Oregonians pay less to use the roads than drivers in any other state?  That's troublesome. According to Bankrate’s calculations, the average driver in Oregon pays only $157 annually. Think about it—you pay far more for electricity and water.  Who is paying to build and maintain the road system, if drivers are not? Oregon is feeling the pain of these low, low rates. We have a large backlog of roads in poor condition, and the situation is getting worse. The longer we defer road maintenance, the greater the costs will be. 

Should I run out and trade my bus pass for a car, while they're cheap? Let’s not be too smug about our low cost to drive in Oregon! What we pay to drive doesn’t even begin to cover the “external” costs of driving. Air pollution causes illness and early death, which is paid in missed days of work and trips to the doctor’s office. Polluted runoff from roads makes water treatment more expensive and harms aquatic life. Our addiction to oil adds to national defense costs. And greenhouse gas emissions contribute to climate change, which is fast becoming the most costly calamity we human beings will ever face. The list goes on and on.

Since it’s cheaper to drive here than elsewhere, does that mean Oregonians drive more? We don’t! Why? Because forty years ago, the state designed land use laws to grow compact metro areas instead of sprawling suburbs. Since many of us live closer to the places we typically go, we can drive on average 16% less than the rest of America. This saves us big bucks too.

You know what else is cheap? Biking! Oregon Environmental Council will be in on the Bike Commute Challenge this September, pitting ourselves against other workplaces of similar size to see who can commute by bike the most.  Any Oregon or SW Washington workplace can join in! 

Oregonians pay less to use the roads

Posted by Mary Vogel at Sep 09, 2013 11:03 AM
Great post, Chris! I would like to add that studded tire drivers pay even less of the costs to drive--by far--as they are the ones doing the most damage to our roads. Our Legislature had a bill that would have improved the situation, but its sponsor caved on it at the hearing and it never got out of committee.

Our land use laws now need to be revised to include more about urban design, so that people embrace compactness. And there is always a big battle over the Urban Growth Boundary expansion. Then there is Clark County, WA. Camas, WA is set to approve a zoning change to encourage the development of 5,000 new jobs in business parks and 3,000 new homes around the north shore of Lacamas Lake next Tuesday, Sept 2. I'll be there to testify on what a bad idea this is. Read my blog:[…]/ and join me!

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