Monday, September 20, 2010

Money, Land Use and Transportation.

Every so often when someone asks me where I live, they are surprised when I say downtown. Frequently I hear "Isn't that expensive?" My reply is when you compare rents, yes it is more expensive, but when you add in everything else, like transportation or utilities, it becomes cheaper.

There are also environmental and health benefits to living in denser areas. When you walk and take transit more, you burn more calories and get more exercise while burning less fossil fuels.

On you can enter your address and see the average transportation costs per household of that area and CO2 emissions. It also gives a regional average below it.

At Main and Akard Streets in the center of downtown Dallas, the average transportation cost is $569 and CO2 emissions are .19 metric tons.The regional average is $836 and .7. That is a savings of near $267 and quite a bit lower CO2.

At UTA in Arlington near where I used to live, the cost is $802 and .39 metric tons.

Now,compare that to my rural roots in a farming community outside of Midland, Texas. On average, they spend over $1,000 for transportation per household and pollute more, 1.1 metric tons a month.

For a comparison, the most urban alpha urban city in the country, New York. Per household in Manhattan, the spend $288 per month on transportation. A monthly pass on the MTA is just over $100.

On, when a region is entered, you can see two graphs comparing housing costs and housing + transportation costs. The housing alone shows those that are under and over 30% of total income. The second shows the over and under for the two costs combined at 45% of total income. In the more urban areas where walking is allowed, the graphs don't change.

However, in the suburban areas, large portions are under 30% housing, but over 45% housing and transportation, illustrating how the higher costs of transportation negate the lower housing costs.

So yes, I do pay more in rent. But, without a car payment, insurance, gas, maintenance, etc for a second car, that is would need if I lived in the suburbs, I think it is a wash at best. Now imagine if that was available on a much larger scale to many more. Many thousands would be able to have a greater disposable income, have a greater health (lowering overall health care costs for everyone) and pollute less.

While I don't think it is for everyone, it should be available for more than just a few percentage points of the population.

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