Yes, we already knew that living in a home that's far away from work or from city services can be costly because of transportation costs. Now, we have a slightly better idea of how costly.

Better Cities, an Ithica, New York-based advocate for growth of mixed-use and more urban communities, commissioned the Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT) to do a study on the cost of sprawl in 20 U.S. metropolitan areas.

CNT found that the difference in transportation costs can be as high as $10,000 a year, and those costs are rising with gas prices. Urban neighborhood dwellers spent about $1,400 a year more on transportation than they did a decade ago, while suburban folks spent about $4,000 a year more.

As for specific cities, New York City dwellers near transportation lines spend about $5,000 a year on transportation, the lowest in the U.S., while those who lived in the suburbs of Olympia, Washington, spend almost $18,000 a year, according to the study.


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  • 42 Comments
      atc98092
      • 2 Years Ago
      Olympia? The population there just isn't that high. Unless they are referring to the fools that live that far south and still work in Seattle or Tacoma. Just looked at http://www.city-data.com/city/Olympia-Washington.html and the vast majority of people have a commute time of under 20 minutes. Not sure how much faith I have in this study. I live much closer to Seattle with a 16 mile commute that takes 20 min in the morning and 30 min in the afternoon.
      fred schumacher
      • 2 Years Ago
      In 1950 Minneapolis, over half the jobs and retail were downtown; thus, its hub-and-spoke trolley system served the city well. Today, jobs and retail are isotropic. Only 3% of retail is downtown. Most commuter traffic runs from suburb to suburb, not suburb to core city. Developing a public transportation system to serve this kind of distributed travel is much more difficult. Reorganizing the city to make it more dense would be breathtakingly expensive. The CNT study focused on 20 metro areas, and, although more people are now living in concentrated urban environments, a study like this misses the reality of life for a huge sector of the population. The U.S. is a huge country with a comparatively low population density. When my son tries to explain to his European friends what it was like growing up in rural northern Minnesota and the distances involved to go anywhere, they have no way to grasp what he is trying to say. It is beyond their realm of reference to have to drive 28 miles for bread and milk; 90 miles to a department store; 230 miles to a shopping center. There is no public transport, no taxi system.
      Rob J
      • 2 Years Ago
      While I am no means an expert, I am interested and somewhat well read on urban expansion and have therefore come to the conclusion that I never want to live in a suburb and will gladly sacrifice a big house for proximity to services/transit. I wish more people felt the same way.
        Letstakeawalk
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Rob J
        Here's some good reading on the subject: http://www.amazon.com/Geography-Nowhere-Americas-Man-Made-Landscape/dp/0671888250/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1341870631&sr=1-1&keywords=the+geography+of+nowhere http://www.amazon.com/Home-Nowhere-Remaking-Everyday-Century/dp/0684811960
        PR
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Rob J
        Not everyone can live next to mass transit. The suburban homes have already been built, and people are going to live in those homes. In most places, the mass transit runs through areas that are already built out, so the only way to increase how many people live close to mass transit is to tear down existing housing and replace it with higher density housing. That isn't cheap, and there isn't money to pay to do it. Choosing a lifestyle where you live close to mass transit or can walk to everything certainly is a good option for those who can do it. But there certainly is a need for cars too that isn't going to go away any time soon. Providing greener alternatives for these people is much more realistic than tearing down the suburbs and telling everyone they all have to live close to services/transit.
      JP
      • 2 Years Ago
      Ithica ->Ithaca http://www.visitithaca.com/
      diffrunt
      • 2 Years Ago
      Best advice my daddy ever gave me, live close to the job. Not easy, I admit.
        PR
        • 2 Years Ago
        @diffrunt
        Definitely not easy these days. Times were different back in the old days. Back when women didn't hold jobs outside the home, it was much easier to be close to one job. Now it is hard enough to find a job for one person in a home that is close to work, much less find 2 jobs for two people that are both close to the same house.
          fred schumacher
          • 2 Years Ago
          @PR
          Finding a job close to home is very difficult in these times, especially since job security has become a thing of the past. My son goes 15 miles west for three days a week and 10 miles east for two; my daughter-in-law goes 20 miles north to work. They are about as centrally located to work as they can be. And if they wanted to move, what are their chances they could sell their house without losing money? Virtually none. The other consideration is quality of life for children. Dense cities may work for young adults, but kids need space and nature. I take care of our grandchildren. Within easy walking distance of their suburban home are five parks of 20 to 160 acres in size. Their yard backs on to a woods with no view of other homes. Deer come through the yard. When we look around we see green plants, not concrete.
      Vlad
      • 2 Years Ago
      Large collectives of people usually figure out best financial arrangements for them pretty well. America moved to the 'burbs because it made financial sense, at least in the short term. Several people already mentioned, transportation costs are more than offset by cheaper real estate, lower taxes, and such. We can argue all we want that there are hidden costs (health, environment, etc.), and I fully support making those costs less hidden, and thus denser development more attractive. But on a pure $$ basis, with a current cost of energy, suburbs still make sense. For how much longer - that's a million dollar question.
      Eideard
      • 2 Years Ago
      It's worth $2600 a year to me to avoid living crammed next door to someone who whines about people who don't want to live next door to him.
      American Refugee
      • 2 Years Ago
      800 Euro a year for a transport pass good on the metro, bus, and tram all over the city, plus an occasional inner-city ticket. I'm spending about 70-80 euro a month on transport. Last year in the US I spent 3 grand on car repairs and about 2 on gas, insurance and registration, and that wasn't that high because I chose to live within a couple of miles of my work. I love cars, but damn if they aren't becoming a luxury. Also, I now have hot bicyling thighs :)
      taser it
      • 2 Years Ago
      Yeah, compare the taxes in the city to the suburbs. I'll bet you'll find that the majority of that is eroded.
      2 Wheeled Menace
      • 2 Years Ago
      Uh.. these numbers seem a little high. I never spent more than $100 in gas a month commuting back-forth to work, 15 miles away, driving a paid off economy car. Insurance was $100/mo. I'm not sure how you'd spend $800-$900 a month doing this.
        Rotation
        • 2 Years Ago
        @2 Wheeled Menace
        You did have to buy the car. And they are also including the costs of driving to places other then work. IRS depreciation right now is $0.51/mile.
        GoodCheer
        • 2 Years Ago
        @2 Wheeled Menace
        Well, $3.50/gal @ 35mpg is $0.10/mile $1200/yr insurance for 12000miles/yr is $0.10/mile $20k depreciation over 200,000 miles is $0.10/mile $25 oil change every 5000 miles is $0.005/mile $200 in tires every 80,000 miles is $0.0025/mile So that's about $0.31/mile before worrying about piles of regular maintenance items, and not even thinking about repair items that will crop up in the course of 200,000 miles.
        Robdaemon
        • 2 Years Ago
        @2 Wheeled Menace
        Try living in Los Angeles. Commutes of 40+ miles each way are not that uncommon if you want to own a decent home.
      Dan Frederiksen
      • 2 Years Ago
      I work from home : )
        EZEE
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Dan Frederiksen
        Myself as well. Except when I travel, then I have a company car. And gas card. :)
      2 Wheeled Menace
      • 2 Years Ago
      Well, my car was about $4,000 used :p
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