Friday, July 25, 2008

If we still drive to lunch, will we accept land use changes?

    The mainstream news is filled with stories and anecdotes about how Americans, to pay for gas, are doing things such as giving up steak and trying to trade in their SUVs for Priuses.  But the big land use policy question remains unclear:  Are Americans willing to change their driving habits?  If not, the much-Gaspump ballyhooed arguments about the end of sprawl and revival of density are likely to be unfulfilled.  Here are two anecdotes that I discovered while driving through moderate income neighborhoods in the all-American auto-loving city of St Petersburg, Fla, over the past couple of days:  (1) people left their engine running while eating burritos in a drugstore parking lot, and (2) there was an extraordinary gridlock of vehicles (SUVs and pickups mostly) at the local gas station at 12:15 p.m.  It appears that Americans in cities such as St. Pete (of which there are a lot more than cities such as New York or San Francisco) still often drive to lunch.

   Here’s a real test of whether the new gasoline paradigm really will lead to changes in land use patterns:  Will Americans give up driving to lunch?

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