November 4, 1989
150 Van Ness Avenue
San Francisco, California 94102
Re: Brian Hill's Editorial in the November/December Motorland on the Governor's Proposed Gas Tax
Brian Hill's editorial was offensive for several reasons. The most offensive part was the assertion that spending $15.5 billion to expand freeways will "by relieving congestion in our urban areas ... strike a blow for clean air". Anyone who thinks about this for half a minute will realize that you can't achieve cleaner air by widening freeways. Common sense (and recent scientific research) indicates that providing expanded roads not only speeds up traffic (temporarily, until the freeway fills up again!), but, more importantly, causes people to drive farther and more often. It also opens up new areas for development, further expanding the auto-dependent areas of the state and further increasing traffic. The inevitable result is more air pollution and more fuel consumption, not less. If freeway expansion could clean up the air, Los Angeles would be a paradise.
The heading "CSAA supports two ballot measures to improve transportation" is, quite simply, not true. I am part of the CSAA, and I have never been asked for my opinion on this issue.
Rather than being a "long range solution", the gas tax will just dig California deeper into a hole containing Greenhouse Effect droughts, more skin cancer caused by the Ozone Depletion (due, in large part, to automobile air conditioners), intolerable air pollution, and economic blight due to squandering scarce transportation funds on the most inefficient form of transport.
Yes, we need a gas tax, but only if the proceeds go toward environmentally sound projects like electric trains or reducing the national debt!
Readers would be better advised to vote for the Planning and Conservation League's Rail Bond Initiative, which will do much more to relieve congestion, without the environmental defects of freeways.
Michael J. Vandeman, Ph.D.