By Ryan McGreal
Published July 09, 2012
A piece just published in Better Cities and Towns has assigned a transportation price tag to that cheap suburban house over the past decade.
The latest figures from the Housing + Transportation Affordability Index, the nation’s most comprehensive assessment of housing and transportation costs, show that the difference between living in a compact, well-connected place and living in sprawl rose significantly between 2000 and 2009.
Transportation costs increased by $1,400 a year for the typical household in a location-efficient neighborhood. They jumped by approximately $3,900 in locations heavily dependent on driving. The difference in transportation cost between neighborhoods where things are easy to get to and places that are more isolated grew by about $200 a month.
Transportation costs in the least "location-efficient neighbourhoods" of 20 selected American cities are between $3,000 and $10,000 higher than in more compact pedestrian-, bicycle- and transit-friendly neighbourhoods.
The most cost-effective neighbourhoods in New York City cost as little as $5,053 a year for transportation, rising to a crushing $17,807 in suburban Olympia WA.
Note also that the gap in transportation cost between compact and sprawl neighbourhoods has grown bigger in the past decade, as energy costs have trended upwards.
It's already understood that prospective home buyers tend to underestimate the cost and misery of commuting to far-flung suburbs, while simultaneously overestimating the happiness they will get from the added space of a suburban home.
Drive-'til-you-qualify turns out to be a false economy: the higher transportation costs - in money, time, and stress - offset the lower housing prices of far-flung suburbs.