Monday, June 09, 2008

End of Exurbia

In the long run, this change is for the better.
"At $4 per gallon gas, $125 per barrel oil and $10 per million Btu natural gas, a lot of activity becomes uneconomical,'' says Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's in West Chester, Pennsylvania.

The lifestyle of the exurban commuter may be one casualty.

Emerging suburbs and exurbs -- commuter towns that lie beyond cities and their traditional suburbs -- grew about 15 percent from 2000 to 2006, nearly three times as fast as the U.S. population, as Americans moved further out in search of more affordable houses or the bigger ones that are sometimes derided as McMansions.

``It was drive until you qualify'' for a mortgage, says Robert Lang, director of the Metropolitan Institute at Virginia Tech in Alexandria, Virginia. ``You can't do that anymore. Your cost of transportation will spike too much.''"
Though this blog is mostly about gardening, I wander into related issues of sustainability, community, public planning, and the economy as a whole from time to time. Times are tough for people who made bad choices, like buying cars that guzzled, and houses that were too large and too far to be practical. They were egged on by interested entities in the greater economy, told by advertisers and developers and friends that they deserved everything for nothing. But the consumers share a major part of the blame for their own bad decisions. We'll all pay the price in the long run.

When I moved to my present house almost six years ago, I drew a small circle around my workplace that represented a walkable distance, something I decided arbitrarily was ten minutes or so. This priority was paramount -- and I made it when gas was a couple dollars a gallon. I can walk to work, Publix is less than a mile up the road, and there are a dozen restaurants (some of them even acceptable) within a walk from my house. But I also deal with living on a busy noisy street, in a very old house, on a small plot. All decisions have opportunity costs.

My money could have gone much further had I been willing to live outside my "urban" zone, but I counted other things as more important.


Anonymous said...

A lot of that is California's problem. That drive far away until you can afford things. Florida is so overcrowded and so over-run with subdivisions that there is no where you can go far enough to be too far from work. Want to see what mean about California? I found this:

As for living where you work, can other people do that? Still? We lived at our last house for 13 years. Spouse had about 10 different jobs--and he's not a shiftless white trash handy man either. He's a full on computer programmer with a masters degree (I should know, I helped put him through school those last few years!) but companies go under, get bought out, lay-off, and lose contracts every day. How can you possibly plan your house around something as flighty as a job? We've been in this house for 1 year and he's had 3 jobs already. I tell ya though, as cities go, Oviedo is SO much better than Longwood. I'm walking distance to a bus stop, should I ever feel the need (my truck is paid for so all I do pay is fuel), I can and do bike to Publix when the weather is good, we can bike to restaurants, and until they tear it down after they redo the downtown into something unpleasant, I can bike to a little vegetable stand which is cheaper and better quality than the crap at Publix. Longwood had none of that, just boxed into subdivisons until I couldn't breathe. We stayed until we could afford better, which was so very long, but now we have a bigger house which is still worth more than what we paid, thanks to the economy tanking.

I said this last year, when the price first went up, before everyone was used to it, that yeah, I hope the gas goes up high enough to make people responsible for the first time in their lives. I'm sick of our lazy irresponsible society and I'd love to see it change! So far though, I'm hearing the best way to save money is to stay home and cook. Sigh. People have a loooooong way to go yet.

Central FLA Gardener said...

you're absolutely right to point this out, and there's no easy answer to how one might resolve this problem - i mean, aside from living in a large metropolitan area, with a good transportation system. that would, of course, limit you to about 10 areas in the us. but that comes back to my original point -- the very structure of our lives is fubar. we've been living on cheap oil, and it's come to an end. why we didn't see this coming, and change our ways THEN... (how about, five years ago, a gas tax that would have induced some of these changes THEN, not now... and, instead of going to some middle east oligarchy, it would have gone to rebuilding our infrastructure and subsidizing public transit!)

like i said, this change is rough now, but it will hopefully induce some rational decisions and changes in the ways that we organize our lives.

Anonymous said...

I love the "country", but I made the decision years ago to live reasonably close to downtown and use public transit to get to work. I haven't owned a car in many years, and that has worked out well for me (I'm a confirmed homebody). My house is older than I am (built in '43) and very small. But I see it as a blessing since I live alone now and will soon retire. Hopefully, I'll have some good years to dedicate to gardening after retirement. :)

Love your blog, by the way!