For the first time in forever it seems that the price of gas is actually positively affecting traffic in LA. I hope it hits 50 bucks a gallon next month so we can keep all the losers, who drive around aimlessly, off my roadways. There was never any good excuse for the traffic, going both directions, on the 405 every saturday and sunday. Just lame-asses with nothing to do and cheap gas to use doing it.
I’m finding it insane that gas is cheaper in Knoxville than in Baton Rouge. Seriously, if we have to live downwind of the damn refineries, we should have cheaper gas. Well, okay it’s probably related to the summer blend stuff that the EPA admits doesn’t make any sense to force Baton Rouge to use, but they’re stuck because of Congress. (Summer blend’s mandated for the cities with the worst air quality. The other cities with the bad air pollution are caused by pollution generated in the city, where the summer blend gas does help matters. Baton Rouge is screwed by being downwind of Houston, and EPA’s said the gas doesn’t do any real good here, but they have to enforce Congresses rules. No, I don’t have a reference handy)
Though really, I don’t have much of a dog in this fight. It’s not like I actually, you know, drive. But still, this is strange and offputting.
I go to a farmers market stocked by donkey carts and bicycles… No I’m kidding. The question is not to not use fuel per se, it is to use fuel efficiently. The least efficient part of food’s trip from farm to your plate is the ride from the store to your house. Moving large quantities of goods from point to point with a train, or even a truck is reasonably efficient and a good way to move lots of stuff around.
That’s not to say that cars don’t have a place — they do. The question is to use them to their best advantage — to your best advantage instead of letting them take advantage of you. And to use other alternatives to their best advantage. The “I’ve got to take the car” attitude is a large part of the problem. Especially when the trip is a mile or so down the road (90% of trips under two miles are by car. Really, you can’t walk? And people wonder why they are the size of a Ford Focus and have to buy a bigger car?)
As to costs. Yes the house costs more closer in. And certainly there are questions of priorities etc. etc. Clearly you don’t want to be house poor when you buy etc. etc. But commute costs are lower, in some cases much much much lower closer in — the house isn’t the only cost to consider commute costs are much more hidden, but they have a big budgetary impact on how much that house is costing you both monthly and over the life of the investment.
Consider, live close to work — House costs more (but is a long term appreciating asset). Maintenance on car (short term depreciating asset) goes down, fuel use drops significantly lowering monthly gas budget. Depending where you live, local gas prices, roads, traffic, your vehicle etc. you save around $1,000 a year per 5 - 15 miles you move closer to work.
Move close enough to work to walk or ride a bicycle year round. Housing budget increases (probably significantly–large long term investment of capital, that is likely to grow, on a percentage bases, at least as much if not more than the house way out in the burbs. results in large capital gain over life of the investment). Eliminate car (eliminate a short term depreciating asset with high maintenance costs.) Savings, average about $8000 a year per car you can get rid of (A car cost’s approximately double it’s sale price over your ownership of the vehicle no including fuel - add at least $1000 for ever 10 miles more than 10 miles you commute to work per year.)
In short house more expensive, but tends to be a strong long term investment. Daily cash expense to get to work way less expensive offsetting increase monthly payment and uses said cash to build more equity, and thus long term financial stability. Just looking at the house fails to account for total cost. It also fails to account for quality of life. How much would it be worth to you to get home in 5 or 10 minutes without having to fight traffic or wait in a single traffic jam? Seriously, what’s that worth to your nerves, and stress levels. What is getting to spend more time with your kids while they grow up worth? What is getting home before dark worth? What’s not having to go the gym because you got your workout on the way home worth (60 bucks a month in a lot of cases)? What’s getting to go to happy hour with some friends and not having to worry about driving home worth… okay, a higher bar bill, that might not be a good example — but it is a quality of life question.
It is simply a question of the precondition: “I have to have a car.” What if you started with a question instead: “What if I didn’t need a car or was not dependent on a car what would life be like then?” I’ll grant you it is a totally different mentality than were use to here in the US. But if you really are upset about the higher gas prices, stop grousing about it and do something about it. If you have to stop doing stuff you love doing because the price of gas for your car has gotten too high that you can’t afford it, is your car really giving you freedom?
Dane, what about married people who work on opposite directions and cannot move closer? I am taking the metro into DC every day, but Andrew needs to drive to Dulles, basically out of the city. We cannot live closer to to either one of our jobs, we need to live in the middle, plus living by the metro is A LOT more expensive, and even the savings from commuting via metro are not in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, so that we can afford the townhouse in north Arlington, which means bus or car to the metro will be necessary. Let’s not even discuss LA, where there was no public transportation option that was viable from our home, in between Andrew’s job in Seal Beach and mine by LAX. I know I am just one example, but my point is, it’s not as easy as you make it sound. I know you know it isn’t easy, but your tone is a little annoying. Plus, try walking 2 miles in this DC summer! Yeah, I think the 2 mile thing is unrealistic when it’s hot as hell by 6am and you’re wearing a suit to work. let’s get real, people are in love with their cars, but also, it’s not that easy
dcl, I’m afraid you underestimate the costs involved in getting a house close to anything. Even before the crash, trying to get something “near downtown” is expensive. And forget trying to get anything while you’re single.
Also, walking even 2 miles in pouring rain, extreme cold, or heavy snow isn’t exactly a picnic. Suddenly we’re back to taking forever to get to and from work, and not in a climate-controlled environment.
That is, if we COULD walk - lack of sidewalks in places, and let’s face it, crime in others make getting out of the car pretty dicey.
And I’m just talking about cities. It’s even harder on rural Americans.
Doubling the cost of anything essential in the span of two years is nearly impossible to cope with, no matter what it is.
I walked two miles yesterday in DC in the summer (and it’s probably not quite as hot as it’s going to get, nobody looks forward to August here, I like walking here better when it’s cold out, you just need a good enough jacket. But it’s way more of a pain in the ass to ride a bike in the cold) I also rode 30 miles on my bike out Wolf Trap and back. Saturday I went 50 out near Great Falls MD, back past the Mormon Temple through Rock Creek Park back to lovely North Arlington.
However, I’m not saying this kind of thing is easy. Generally it’s not, it takes a fair bit of rethinking. I’m mostly trying to exlpain that it is also a far cry form the “it’s impossible” that a lot of people come up with. Or, oh but it’s way to expensive to do X while ignoring all the costs you would eliminate by doing it. Again, it is a question of life style and your approach to things. Just switching from the default thinking of “I’ll drive just myself” to “what can I do to get this done more efficiently” can make a big difference in the bottom line of a budget. A switch from a big car to a little car can make a big difference in the bottom line (even if you have to rent a truck every so often)–where there are a lot more numbers than just the ones that are easy to see. I will also grant that finding the type of “town” bikes that they use in Europe is next to impossible in the US, especially at the prices they pay for them there (including adjustments for exchange rates–mostly they haven’t sold well here so they are hard to come by and only the ultra high end ones get imported.)
At the same time I have to say that the greater DC area is a remarkably good place to ride a bike. We have hundreds of miles of multi use trails that run along major commute arteries (you can get from Reston to the Capitol building with less that a mile of on street driving (if you want, it’s actually faster to go on the street for the last 5 or so miles of it). We also have hundreds of miles of Bike lanes. signed and posted bike routs etc. And the drivers generally don’t try and run you off the road (of course that’s hard for them to do when you can go faster in the bike lane because they are stuck in a traffic jam at rush hour.)
But even given all that, yes I do own a car. It’s nice, it’s small, it’s fuel efficient and I haven’t driven it in three weeks, mostly because I need to take it to the shop and keep forgetting to make an appointment.
Really, so I underestimate the cost of the condo I own two blocks from the metro in North Arlington as a single 20 something male? Interesting. And I thought I knew how damn expensive the monthly mortgage check is.
But really my only other major expense is food so it’s not that big a deal. And the mortgage is going towards an an asset that, even given the housing crisis has stayed about the same in value because people have noticed your better off if you live closer to stuff. Again, it is a question of your priorities. I have a co worker that lives less than a block from the office. Sidewalks are a question of community priorities. People demand sidewalks and bike lanes instead of 80 lane freeways and you have side walks and bike lanes and safe sidewalks Arlington has spent the last two decades building bigger side walks, more bike lanes and an overall more livable community. And guess what, people walk, they ride bikes and business is nothing but good along the entire area they’ve done this. Because people go out, they feel comfortable and the visit the shops and restaurants. And they walk to the next one down the street. And you realize it’s not that big a deal to walk five blocks to this or even 15 to that. The area has gone for sketch with depressed housing prices to extremely safe and high value property.
Again, priorities, how you envision the community. If all you can see is doing something with a car and success is defined as living in a McMansion then all you’ll be able to do is use a car. If you can realize that making things more sustainable and less car centric also makes them more livable and more enjoyable and a better quality of life you start to change things. And you make people healthier, I believe it was Mike Pollan in In Defense of Food that said there isn’t a French paradox, there is an American paradox, how can a people so obsessed with health and diet and nutrition be so damn unhealthy.
if you insist on a band aid solution that won’t fix the problem. From my understanding of the oil market currently. Supply is fairly precisely meeting demand currently, and the major issue present is oil speculation artificially increasing the price of the commodity. So more drilling would have a small impact and not deal with overall sustainability issues.
Supply is fairly precisely meeting demand currently…
And that’s precisely the problem. When demand hits around 98% of capacity, that’s when prices escalate rapidly because of unstable foreign sources of supply and the relative inelasticity of demand. Oil prices were between $10 and $20 per barrel for 20 years when capacity exceeded demand by only 4% to 5%. I don’t disagree that speculation plays a part in the high price of oil, but increasing the supply-side of the basic economic equation is hardly a “band aid” solution. The Energy Dept says we have proven reserves of 2-8 trillion barrels in shale oil alone, 19-45 billion barrels in ANWR, 9 billion barrels of off-shore reserves, and 15 billion barrels in US oil fields. We need a new energy policy besides We prefer not to pump our oil, so please pump more of yours, thereby lowering its value, for our benefit.
Dane, it’s wonderful that you are so active, with all your wonderful bike rides and walks about town, but come on, that’s not doable for many people. Reston to Capitol Hill on a bike? Gimme a break. Suits, late nights, rain, yeah, really not doable. It takes forever just on metro from Vienna. I was hot and sweaty by the time I got to my work from Foggy Bottom. Actually, I was hot by the time I got to the bus stop that takes me to the metro at Pentagon. And it’s only going to get hotter, and I cannot wear shorts and a tank top to work, even at my nutrition and excersized oriented non-profit. So, really, there is only so much walking I can do. I don’t know what your condo mortgage is, but I can tell you it’s not cheap to get anything in north Arlington close to the metro. Andrew and I have been house hunting the past couple of weekends, for a townhome, and despite the two incomes, it’s a strech. We are not looking for a MacMansion, just a decent townhome. We need the extra space for when we have kids, so a condo won’t work. While prices are going down, it’s not exactly cheap or affordable by most people’s standards (it’s mildly affordable to us when we comapre to LA, but what isn’t). I agree that people need to adjust the way they look at the whole commuting/walking thing,and I am happy to walk/bus/metro/walk to work. But you make it sound like it’s so easy. And it isn’t. Our number one priority as we search for a place out in VA is proximity to the metro–or atleast the bus, and trust me, it’s not that easy. And Andrew, well, he has to drive to work, there is no metro going out to Dulles. I guess one could say we chose our jobs, but really, it’s not that easy either.
By the way, since you’re in Arlington, maybe you want to meet up sometime? I am staying in Shirlington for now, until Andrew comes out next week for yet another house hunting adventure.