Are Americans Finally Tired of Commuting?

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davew
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I was greatly heartened by this piece on NPR this morning. The essence is that the housing downturn is having a unequal effect on housing prices. In the nation's major urban centers, houses close to jobs and mass transit are more-or-less holding their value. Housing prices if far-flung burbclaves are crashing. It seems as though American's are finally figuring out that sitting 4 hours a day in a car while spending $3.50 per gallon for the privilege is no way to run a life. The cynic in me believes the latter reason was more persuasive than the former, but I'll take what I can get.

In our neck of the woods, Weld County's MUD (Mixed Unit Development), hopefully meet a similar fate. This is a bunch of houses out on the prairie with no nearby jobs whatsoever unless you're a farmer, but plowing a cul de sac is pretty rough going. Call it what you want it is the living embodiment of sprawl. Fortunately it was just getting started and high gas prices might just nip it in the bud.

So if Americans abandon urban sprawl as a birthright, what's next? Will former SUV devotees start advocating for better mass transit? I dare to dream.

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racermike39
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Re: Are Americans Finally Tired of Commuting?

I know I am tired of commuting!

From 1987 until 1993 I travel 120 miles per day
From 1998 until 2005 I travel to a different job 120 miles away.
The second job I drove 210000 miles commuting. Using 8400 gallons of gas, at approx $1.75 per gallon.
for a total of $14,700 dollars spent on fuel. ($2100 per year)

For the past 3 years, my commute has shortened to 62 miles round trip. Half of what it used to be. Now with gas @ $3.50 per gallon, it costs the same as the 120 mile commute used to. (actually $20 more).

(Average MPG was/is 27 MPG.)

I am very fortunate that my company is moving to within 6 miles of my home. Between my bicycle and my electric motorcyle I should not use any gas for 8 months out of the year.

What I gained and treasure the most by shortening my commute is the 1+ hour of my life I got back by cutting my commute in half 3 years ago. Now I will get an additional hour per day as of mid June when the new building is ready. 1 hour per day for 250 days. 250 hours per year to do..... whatever I want/should do.

Now, with the increased cost of commuting, it almost makes sense to change jobs, get more of your personal time back, and take a cut in pay. Some may break even with a pay reduction, subtracting out fuel, vehicle maintanence, and possibly reduced insurance costs. A good used vehicle that does not require big monthly payments and full insurance coverage can get the job done with a shorter commute and help make up for the pay cut also.

We will do what we have to do to provide for our families, but now I feel it is time for all to do some re-calculating. Is it really worth the $ and time?

I know I had to stop and think about what was more important. Time or $. I am able to spend much more time with the family. The rush out the door after I get home from work to go to Scouts or Youth group is no longer an issue, and the activities are enjoyable now. I can actually eat & taste dinner!

I never could use public transit. (None is in place out here). I did run 2 commuter vans for 4 of the years I worked at the first job. That was my attempt at getting to work for free. It also provide my extra cash to keep the race car on the track!

So it is all going to come down to the willingness to make life style changes. This is a repeat of the early 80's. Scooters, motorcycles, heating with wood, tiny gas sipping cars, tightening up the house, turning lights off. There will be a slight boost in solar and geo thermal. Some boost in EV sales. Most will trim spending here and there, and hope the gas prices eventually drop.

Just my dos centavos.

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Racermike
5 years ago I met Jesus and he total ruined my life. I have never been happier.

sgmdudley
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Points: 211
Re: Are Americans Finally Tired of Commuting?

I was raised in San Francisco. I could walk the mile to school. (there are enough schools so all kids could make it to school without being bused or car pooled). I rode my bicycle even though I had some steep hills, but in the 50s we were tougher(?). I
rode the streetcar or bus if I needed to go downtown.

Fast forward to today. People want to live as far away from work as possible. So they
elect to commute a long distance. This was OK when gas prices were reasonable. Now
these folks are stuck in the boonies with Gas Guzzling SUVs. And at this point in time no reasonable EV to get to work on.

I have the Zapino Scooter and have not tried getting to work. I live in Longmont and work @ IBM Boulder. It has SLAs and I CANNOT charge at work so the batteries would sit in a partially discharged state for 11 hours. I would have to ride in at 20mph to get maximum range for round trip. (20 miles). If I could charge at work, I could scoot in at 35mph.

So the bottom line is people need to make some drastic changes in their life style regarding where to live and what to drive. I suspect this won't happen until gas gets way more then $4.00 a gallon.

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Robert Dudley
E-Scoot Tech

reikiman
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Re: Are Americans Finally Tired of Commuting?

I just heard the piece.. and it was interesting how it closed with "...don't sell your lawnmower just yet" which was clearly a message to the mainstream subconscious that no matter how they spun the story, don't change how you live your life.

A few years ago I had a period with a long commute on the road. A 30-5 mile each way between Fremont and Cupertino. This was in 1999-2002 which was the height of the .COM bubble up to the beginning of the burst of the bubble. One of the things the .COM bubble meant here in silicon valley was really thoroughly crowded roads.

I had nearly an hour each way every day and spent a lot of time in the car being present with a lot of thinking about the problem I was trapped. The "car" is a trap of sorts. It's size corrals drivers into enforced lanes that make very poor use of the land. And the behavior of stop-and-go driving was, to me, a constant danger of making a slight mistake that would result in great pain and perhaps death. And I had already started seriously thinking about EV's by that time and came to the conclusion EV's don't solve the whole of the problem I faced.

EV's would solve only for environmental issues. But if you replace all the gas cars with EV's of equivalent performance the roads would still be the same, just with no poisons spewed in the air from burning gasoline.

The full picture that I saw is a multivariable problem: time spent driving.. poisonous results from driving gasoline/diesel vehicles.. economic issues with importing massive quantities of oil.. inefficient land use based on cars requiring so much room to park & drive.. etc ..

Anyway, back to the story.. I have been seeing in Silicon Valley that most of the new housing I see is more dense. In San Jose they're having a gentrification process going on with tall luxury condo developments going downtown and in other areas it seems the tendency is for townhouse developments rather than detached single family homes. Historically Silicon Valley has done spread out developments with short buildings of 1-2 stories height. This means low density per square mile of people and that results in bad mass transit infrastructure.

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- David Herron, Green Transportation Examiner, Green Transportation Info, The Long Tail Pipe, Electric Race News, davidherron.com, 7gen.com, What is Reiki
- Charger bike (rebuilt), Electrified Electra Townie, 1971 Karmann Ghia

Alias
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Points: 307
Re: Are Americans Finally Tired of Commuting?

davew wrote

Quote:

It seems as though American's are finally figuring out that sitting 4 hours a day in a car while spending $3.50 per gallon for the privilege is no way to run a life.

Gas is getting ridiculous;
I work in Palo Alto (now) and I just happen to pass a fuel station with a high rating of $4.05 for regular unleaded today! :jawdrop:
If we are running out of oil then we need to start spending money on better mass transit facilities
instead of constantly building fleets of gas vehicles that a lot of us can't afford.
Not only this but it will enable more people to get more jobs with the mass transit systems.
We need to find ways of making long commutes with more mass transit facilities.
I always wonder when they will expand BART in the south bay ??? Even though we have cal-trans down there.

reikiman
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Re: Are Americans Finally Tired of Commuting?

Quote:

We need to find ways of making long commutes with more mass transit facilities.
I always wonder when they will expand BART in the south bay ??? Even though we have cal-trans down there.

BART, by the way, is an electric vehicle. Many of the commuter / subway trains are electric, as is BART, and is a great example of how EV's can do any duty given enough power.

Anyway BART to the south bay is planned ?to be finished? 8 yrs from now but they're having funding problems.

__________________

- David Herron, Green Transportation Examiner, Green Transportation Info, The Long Tail Pipe, Electric Race News, davidherron.com, 7gen.com, What is Reiki
- Charger bike (rebuilt), Electrified Electra Townie, 1971 Karmann Ghia

Alias
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Points: 307
Re: Are Americans Finally Tired of Commuting?

reikiman wrote

Quote:

BART, by the way, is an electric vehicle. Many of the commuter / subway trains are electric, as is BART, and is a great example of how EV's can do any duty given enough power.

Anyway BART to the south bay is planned ?to be finished? 8 yrs from now but they're having funding problems.

hrmm, I kind of figured just as much that BART is an electric vehicle 8) ehemm

BART is having funding problems, I guess that doesn't suprise me with the way the economy is right now.
(ie hint: "The economy is going bankrupt - thread") :)
I just can't wait to have full BART facilities running through the south bay all the way up to
Morgan Hill, one of these decades.

One fact, I wouldn't mind taking mass transit all the way to work. If only I could be deprived from being Independent
of my own transportation, (being able to get to work on time etc). I miss taking BART when I worked in SF

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