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.