Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Why a "super-commute"?

Freeway   What forces push people to super-commutes -- daily auto commutes of two hours or more -- a category that seems to be on the rise, despite gas pressures and land use laws to discourage such super-sprawl?

   There are a number of factors.  Cheaper housing costs certainly is one.  The quest for "better" schools (I'll let you fill in what this means) is another.  The growth of two-career couples often leads to working in different towns, necessitating that one or both workers making a super-commute.  And there remains the 20th century American ideal, no matter how often it is criticized by environmentalists and urbanists, that highway travel and gas usage are essentially unlimited resources -- or, perhaps, resources that are limited only by the patience of the driver.   

  An interesting story by Michael Leahy of the Washington Post explores the incentives, and drawbacks, to super-commutes.  The long commuters don't necessarily think that they are enjoying a better "quality of life."  Nor are they doing it solely "for the kids" -- a phrase one used to hear a lot about moves away from one's job.  If any single factor seems prominent, it's one of the oldest and most venerable (despite high gas prices and warnings of global climate change) -- the desire for a big house for less money, regardless of the hassles (and harms) that it creates.  This phenomenon is a lesson that will complicate land use laws that encourage high-density living, for years to come …

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