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Why do Cities, States Have so Many Big Cars, SUVs?

Yet another reason I vote down most government funding ballot measures, as if they would just quite spending like idiots, there wouldn't be a problem. Al's Morning Meeting sent out this excellent story on Philly.com about why city governments have so many big gas hog cars. Granted, it's not local, but this is a problem all over the place. The paper says, "In an unwritten but expensive policy that has evolved over the past decade, Philadelphia city government has replaced much of its fleet of smaller, economy sedans with sport utility vehicles that cost $25,000 and up.

"One of them -- a diesel-powered Hummer that the airport uses to scare birds from the runways - cost more than $100,000."

The paper said that while other cities and some states have recently begun shedding themselves of the money-wasting luxury vehicles, Philadelphia has spent millions assembling its SUV fleet. In the past seven years, it has bought an average of 100 SUVs a year at a cost of $17 million. And that doesn't include the cost of fueling the gas-guzzlers, estimated at more than $1.5 million a year.

Before the SUV craze erupted nationwide in the mid-'90s, city employees typically drove smaller cars, like the Ford Taurus and Escort. Today, though, the city fleet looks more like the parking lot at a suburban shopping mall. More than half of its passenger vehicles are SUVs.

Philly city officials say the four-wheel drives are needed so employees can respond to emergencies regardless of the weather. Yet, many of the SUVs are assigned to departments with no apparent emergency responsibilities. The city commissioners, who oversee elections, have two. The city controller's office, which audits financial records, has nine. The clerk of quarter sessions, in charge of criminal-court records, has two. And the First Judicial District, which runs the city's court system, has 23. The Planning Commission has three. Traffic Court has five. The commission on human relations has one. Even the Philadelphia More Beautiful Committee tools around in an SUV.

Posted by Jake on 03/03/03 @ 10:01 AM
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