Sunday, September 25, 2005

Location, location location

A rather amusing article in the Week in Review section tries to underscore a feeling of impotence in Americans:

So how much can Americans cut back on their driving? How much time behind the wheel is discretionary?

Consider that the average American household used its cars and trucks for 496 shopping trips in 2001, according to an exhaustive survey of 160,000 Americans conducted by the Transportation Department. Trips were 7.02 miles in length, on average, for a total of 3,482 miles per household per year. That much driving could almost get you from New York to Juneau, Alaska, give or take a few hundred miles.

That's a lot farther than in 1990, when the average household's shopping trips could only get you from New York to Denver. Part of the difference stems from the fact that the length of an average shopping trip was 5.1 miles in 1990. Blame greater suburban sprawl for longer trips these days.

But the average household also took just 341 shopping trips in 1990, back in a pre-latte era when there were just a few dozen Starbucks stores and coffee was something to be brewed at home. People are now taking more shopping trips than trips to and from work.

Of course, determining how driving miles are put to use through surveys is hardly an exact science...

In Texas, traffic on the Trinity Railway Express, which links Dallas to Fort Worth, was up 16.4 percent for the first four weekdays of September compared with the same period a year earlier. St. Louis reported a 17 percent increase in mass transit ridership from April to June, compared with a year ago. In San Francisco, traffic on the Bay Area Rapid Transit system was up almost 4 percent during the first two weeks of September, compared with a year ago, and Sept. 15 was the busiest day for the system in a year.

"These are probably the highest growth levels in four decades," said William W. Millar, the president of the public transportation association, a nonprofit group representing transit authorities across the country.

Drivers can only bend so far, however.

"People can't change where they live," said Richard Porter, an economics professor at the University of Michigan. "They can't change where they work, and there aren't any clear substitutes to gas. You can't run your car on much else. It's not like switching from oranges to grapefruits."

Umm...we're the most uprootable population in the industrialized world.

The real issue is the 'burbs we designed on the assumption of cheap fossil fuels.

Seems like there's an answer to that.

It has to do with real estate...

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