Economics and the mid-life crisis have much in common: Both dwell on foregone opportunities

C'est la vie; c'est la guerre; c'est la pomme de terre . . . . . . . . . . . . . email: jpalmer at uwo dot ca

. . . . . . . . . . .Richard Posner should be awarded the next Nobel Prize in Economics . . . . . . . . . . . .

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Drive-Throughs, Anti-Intellectuals, & the Environment

Lake Tahoe, California, has banned drive-throughs at fast-food restaurants since 1987, believing that drive-throughs contribute to air pollution. In Canada, Toronto (pronounced TRAH-nah) and Windsor have banned drive-throughs in residential areas, arguing drive-throughs lower air quality in the neighbourhood. Kitchener, Ontario, is considering the same policy, as are some municipalities in British Columbia.

The stated reason for these bans (air quality) is simply incorrect. It turns out that parking your car, going in to get your food, and then restarting your car uses more fuel and causes more pollution than idling your car while you wait in a drive-through queue. The results of a study done by RDWI showing this result are summarized in the National Post ($ subscription required, thanks for the tip, Jack). Furthermore, banning a drive-through in one area can induce some people at the margin to drive farther to a different area where they can use a drive-through, thus further contributing to pollution.

I expect that some people favour the ban on drive-throughs because they don't want the extra traffic in their residential neighbourhood. Others, however, see drive-throughs as a hated symbol of our North American consumerism. This nefarious group happily asserts that drive-throughs contribute to air pollution, even though the evidence is that using drive-throughs reduces pollution! What a bunch of feel-good anti-intellectuals.

Maybe overall air quality would be improved if we left our engines running while we go into the doughnut shop to get our coffee and bagel?

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