Stupid, Stupid Suburbanites!

If it’s Thursday, a bunch of the usual New Urbanist suspects have ginned up another “study” “proving” the “costs” of “sprawl”.

Combining the the 50 largest metro areas in the U.S., he found, commuters pay more than $107 billion annually, which is about $1,400 per commuter, on average. Those are the dollar costs of the number of additional hours Americans spend traveling to and from work due to sprawling land-use patterns—which, by their methodology, ends up being around 3.9 billion extra hours total, or 50 hours per worker, per year.

To get to those rather staggering numbers, Hertz developed a unique methodology: He took the average commute length, in miles, for America’s 50 largest metros (as determined by the Brookings Institution), and looked at how much shorter those commutes would be if each metro were more compact. He did this by setting different commute benchmarks for clusters of comparably populated metros: six miles for areas with populations of 2.5 million or below, and 7.5 miles for those with more than 2.5 million people. These benchmarks were just below the commute length of the metro with the shortest average commute length in each category, but still 0.5 miles within the real average of the overall category.

He multiplied the difference between the benchmark and each metro’s average commute length by an estimated cost-per-mile for a mid-sized sedan, then doubled that number to represent a daily roundtrip “sprawl tax” per worker, and then multiplied that by the number of workers within a metro region to get the area’s daily “sprawl tax.” After multiplying that by the annual number of workdays, and adding up each metro, he had a rough estimate of how much sprawl costs American commuters every year.

Wow.  All of those suburbanites sure must be stupid, moving where life costs more!

Except it doesn’t.  City living nickels and dimes you to death; taxes are higher, the cost of non-slum rent or mortgages are higher, city services will get you coming and going, and then there’s the psychic cost of living in a city, almost inevitably run by Democrats with the attendant lousy services, dodgy schools and arrogant, imperious bureaucrats, to say nothing of the psychological cost involved in high-density living; apartment life, mass transit life, and all the other petty miseries of big city life.

No – the free market created the suburbs, as millions of GIs returning from spending the best years of their lives jammed “nuts to butts” on troop trains, troop ships and in barracks sprang for some elbow room for their kids; subsequent generations dabbled in the city, looked around, and skedaddled for the subs when the kids came along.   More on that point tomorrow.

As Kevin Williamson points out, the most powerful word in the free market is “no”; three generations of families have said “no” to “high density” life, and “yes” to the burbs.

14 thoughts on “Stupid, Stupid Suburbanites!

  1. The author is stupid. Apparently, she doesn’t even take into account that suburbanites get more exercise than city zombies. Mowing and yard work are the most obvious. What do city dwellers do; sweep the sidewalks in front of their apartments/condos all day?

    After these revelations, I’m sure that both the author and Hertz promptly sold their cars and moved into the city.

  2. $1,400 per year is about $3 per day, which is a lot to pay for a back yard that my kids can’t use all winter because it’s covered in snow. But all summer the back yard is in constant use – sandbox, swing set, building forts with a sheet over patio chairs, pup tent, camp fire – which simply are not possible living in a converted warehouse loft. I’m willing to pay the price.

  3. If you live in a suburb, you are not represented by people named Phyllis Kahn or Fat Dave Thune. That is worth $1400 a year.

  4. Caution: Gore math at work here. Half of the people stuck in traffic in Houston are doing work, calling up clients, etc. Also, no way no how could I ever afford anything inside the loop in Houston – at least not in an area where I do not have to worry about stray bullets hitting my domicile. It is like money grows on trees for the progressives. What they should do, is go and live in Shanghai, Seoul or Singapore for a year or so – like natives do and not expats. That just might beat sense into these dazzling urbanites. Blithering, clueless idiots.

  5. People choose to live in the suburbs. They believe it worth the cost.
    Where are the studies showing us how much time & money is wasted by mandatory recycling?

  6. I attended a mostly Chinese church for two summers, and one of the blessings was to get to know people who had lived in super-dense cities like Hong Kong, Taipei, and Beijing. The end result was that their commutes were far LONGER than even what people in LA (where the church is) typically experience. One and a half hours each way was not atypical.

    If you want to reduce commute times, the first thing you do is stop subsidizing urban development so employers move to where their employees are instead of concentrating in the urban center. Second thing you do is top subsidizing daycare and watch as millions of moms leave the workforce.

  7. Highly educated Humphrey Institute sycophants I know suggest the following:

    “instead of bringing the 21st century (“superior”) lifestyle of the completely planned urban center to the needy subjects on a city by city or even state by state basis we should instead roll it all up under a federal umbrella organization – lets bring back the National Resources Planning Board

  8. Oh those silly people who vote (with their feet) against their own self interest. We really need to corral them downtown where we can better look after them (and their tax dollars).

  9. Only intellectually vacant head-nodders would not know that many people have actually tried living in both kinds of locations.

    They lived there, they weighed the benefits and costs, and then they chose what suited their needs best.

    Then again, those folks have a “peek-a-boo” relationship with concepts like “economic incentive”: they exist until they cover their eyes, and then they don’t.

  10. Add the inevitable ER visit, and police interview to your mass transit commute time and tell me I’m wasting time and resources.

  11. I expanded on JD’s ROI comment and stole your last sentence, and I left a comment there. DISQUS is one of the very very few social-media type platforms that still is not blocked by my work’s firewall :(.

  12. Lileks had a brilliant take on this topic a few years ago:

    Look, I live in the city. A very walkable part, hills aside. I prefer to patronize local restaurants, not chains . . . .But I tire of the endless articles that say, in essence, “I like this style of living. I conflate my appreciation with larger issues that have the appearance of a moral dimension, and therefore believe it would be better if more people shared my view of the primary organizing principles for a society.” Fine; preach it all you like. But when you tell people this is the best way for everyone to live, instead of saying “to each his own,” then you set up competing models, each with their own higher standard of ethics, and you’ve nothing to say to the person who believes everyone should live in blocks of flats with 700 square feet per family. Really, the case can be made. Your objections can be dismissed, easily – by your own standards, smallness and deliberateness and localness and “sustainability” are ethical matters, and there’s always someone who’ll be holier than thou.

  13. We’re supposed to avoid sprawl and move into the big city while at the same time subsidizing a train that folks in Elk River use to commute to the big city. And everyone wants to expand the line so that folks in St. Cloud can commute to the big city.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.