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Great Divide in How Americans Commute to Work (citylab.com)
130 points by jimmybot 24 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 196 comments



I don't think there is such a great divide. The greater divide is between people who own a car (or cars) and who do not, however, seems for USA it is a divide between New York City and the rest of the country.

Also, I can comment on one thing I personally enjoy a lot – walking. I lived in many European cities, and recently moved to USA, so I can comment on it. To be able to walk, you need to live close enough to your work / some places of interest (like ~3–4 km is a threshold usually), the path should be interesting and beautiful.

USA fails miserably at "interesting and beautiful" part. Grid system makes it super boring, a lot of buildings are just a relatively small building and huge parking space around. There are no parks in between, no yards – moreover, you can bump into unsafe places!

Architecture (in downtowns) is straight up horrible (although it is subjective). So, after couple of walks I have no desire altogether to walk around anymore – it is dirty, ugly, in some places overcrowded (since everybody works at the same spot in the downtown and time, essentially).


You probably should specify the city you're talking about. Those seem like pretty specific complaints. I think the main thing that can be generalized across most of the US that you mentioned is the grid system, with parking lot islands in second place, but they're not common in the center of many cities. They are quite common on the edges.

For example, many readers here may be familiar with San Jose, and itis not a good walking city, but it is not true that it has no yards or parks, and I think the residential architecture is lovely. In portions it suffers very much from parking lot islands, and the businesses are very centralized, not much mix of housing and business.

But if you want to stroll nowhere in particular it ain't bad. On the near north side you can look at the foothills from that park by the elementary school on 22nd ish, then walk down Empire, stop at 13th street, grab a donut and watch people play tennis, handball or volleyball in the park. Then you couldstay there or head south to Naglee Park Garage for dinner (well, maybe that place closed), southwest to downtown for a drink, or just over to 6th street and get groceries or walk around in the little japantown.


> grab a donut

Funny question, but in the US does 'grabbing' something not have a bad connotation? When I hear 'grab a donut' my English mind sees you smashing your fist through the glass of the counter, taking a doughnut, and running off.


"Wanna grab a beer/drink?" is one of the most common invites I've heard for going out. So no, no negative connotations.


'Snatch' might be more of a negative connotation? Grab feels pretty neutral.


It definitely depends on context, and possibly locality/dialect. I have heard (and used) "snatch", "snag", "grab", and "steal" here quite often.


It has no negative connotation to my born-and-raised-in-the-US mind. The only thing it implies to me is being in a hurry.


It may even have that connotation, but even so, using it for flair is perfectly acceptable. In fact, there's nothing bad about your mental image, as it would only be humorous.


I legit got a laugh out of that. Thanks.


There is however, a "smash-and-grab" phrase in the US which fits your imagery perfectly.


Not at all. It convey's minute commitment; both brief and trivial.


I too enjoy walking around European cites much more than US cities. On a Brussels trip I commented on how interesting and winding the streets were to a family friend, she pointed out that it made it harder for tanks to drive through a city. That matter of fact response brought into sharp focus the disparity between cites that had been rebuilt several times and those which haven't.

There was also the adaptation from cities that were built when walking and horses were the main transportation modes which remain amenable to walking today.

All said, it seems like a renewed interest in the impact of urban design on things like walkability and livability have come back into fashion and some cities are taking their cues from that with their urban renewal projects. As a really interesting example of that has been the evolution of zoning laws which allow for mixed use buildings (commercial and residential) which are sprouting up all around the Bay Area. This is something that was pretty much unthinkable in the late 90's.


There are more reasons:

- For pre-tank times, makes it a lot harder for strangers (e.g. intruding enemies) to get oriented.

- For more modern neighborhoods, make the roads confusing so cars won't take a shortcut through and bypass the main road. (--> keep unnecessary cars out of living areas since they are dangerous to kids on the street and the noise and air pollution is bad)


> For more modern neighborhoods, make the roads confusing so cars won't take a shortcut through and bypass the main road.

Alas Waze and its ilk are breaking that system in a lot of European cities. It's now quite common to have quiet residential streets suddenly turn gridlock when some algorithm has correctly-but-malevolently decided it's a good shortcut for everyone getting from the office to the freeway.

When I think of a future powered by AI, I think of that kind of logic casually extinguishing all life on the planet.


Those who live by the algorithm will die by the algorithm.

I wonder when it is going to be fashionable to intentionally do shit again rather than passively half-living through digital agents.


I lived in Berlin for a while and when I came back to the U.S. the two things that stood out were the massive parking lots and billboards. American cities are hostile to humans. Way too much space taken up by ugly parking lots. Go out West and so much land is fenced off. Access to lakes and rivers is hard since so much of the surrounding land is private and fenced off.


Outside of cities like NY, it is actually dangerous to walk. There aren't sidewalks, drivers are actually hostile towards those on foot and on bikes. American cities are built for cars and cars only.


The one city I know well definitely has sidewalks, both downtown and in the suburbs. (I can't comment on hostility to bikes, though.)


Almost every city in America has sidewalks. I guess you might be technically correct that "Outside of cities like NY" if "like" means "has sidewalks", but that would exclude almost 100% of cities.


I have lived exclusively in the Western Coastal states and 100% of the cities I have lived in do not have consistent sidewalk coverage. For example: Seattle, Sacramento, Olympia, Portland and especially other rural cities I have lived in.

American cities are designed for cars. Not people or people on bikes.

You would think that new developments would not continue this insanity and yet they are still allowed by city planners to cut corners.


I grew up in/around Sacramento. The new residential construction is almost always accompanied by new sidewalks, from what I've seen. It's usually the older areas that have spotty sidewalk coverage, but those are getting patched up (especially now that Sac's more-or-less recovered from the housing bust).


How far do you have to go out to reach an area without sidewalks, though? Even many suburban developments don't necessarily have those.

I went to a college in the suburbs of Long Island and the road outside campus was a two-lane road with a speed limit of 55 with no sidewalks. To walk outside of the cities is to invite death.

And this is before we get into things like the lack of adequate marked, signalized crosswalks that are common throughout America: https://usa.streetsblog.org/2018/01/17/between-your-bus-stop...


Nearly all suburban developments I've seen that were built within my lifetime have had plenty of sidewalks and signalled (sometimes even stoplighted!) crosswalks. The exceptions are old rural roads that became suddenly suburban when they got surrounded by housing developments, but the developments themselves always had plenty of sidewalks, and quite a few of the roads in my hometown of Elk Grove have sidewalks even when they didn't before (though sometimes with gaps, admittedly).

I've spent nearly all my life in (Northern) California and Nevada, though, so YMMV elsewhere.


Normally, you just step off the road when a car comes. I suppose this doesn't work for high heels, but those can't handle storm drains either. You can even walk off the road.

Sidewalks, signals, and crosswalks all give the illusion of safety. Either the cars are behaving well and you can just step aside, or they are misbehaving and you'll need a concrete barrier to stop them. The signals and crosswalks mean that cars are revving their engines near me, making the air I breathe worse, so I'd rather do without.


> Normally, you just step off the road when a car comes. I suppose this doesn't work for high heels, but those can't handle storm drains either. You can even walk off the road.

This is assuming that the road something you can walk next to. And it's not amazing advice for roads with blind corners and such.

Sidewalks do actually help; drivers respond to their built environment, and most drivers do not want to scuff their cars by hitting the curb or other obstacles in the road.

The real crux of the problem is that the suburbs have become surrounded and cut across by massive high-speed traffic moats which are inherently unsafe for pedestrians because of the speed differential. Yet to walk in the suburbs you can't avoid these moats. And dissuading people from walking is near impossible, since the poor are now migrating to suburban areas and they are the ones least likely to have cars due to the cost.


Depends on how far West, and which parts. A lot of Nevada is publicly-accessible, for example.


It's not just New York; there are a few other urban areas with significant numbers of commuters by transit -- Boston and San Francisco (with the crowd traveling on the "Google buses", and the number of tech jobs downtown) both come to mind. But there are lots of cities (Los Angeles most notoriously) where a car-free life is nearly impossible.


I did car free in LA for awhile, it’s becoming an increasingly popular option actually. I did it by living close to work in a mostly urban area (Westwood), but one of my colleagues commutes in from Hollywood somewhere, he seemed happy with how it worked out.


The only city I lived in which resembled the pedestrian friendliness I grew up in Europe was Portland. Although distances are generous, a combination of public transit - bicycling and walking made Portland a pretty nice and safe place to be a pedestrian.


Lots of parts of Portland do not have sidewalks. Luckily, for now, there is not enough traffic for it to be dangerous.


In my experience, grid systems actually facilitate walkability, at least in contrast with curvy subdivision streets that are common in any US neighborhoods built in the last 60 years. US subdivisions tend to be anti-mixed-use. Grids encourage mixed use, for example by zoning one big commercial street for every three smaller residential streets.


Our country is only 243 years old, we didn't have hundreds of years of master craftsmen making stone buildings. We fast forwarded from log cabins to awful steel buildings and strip malls made as cheaply as possible. You'd have those same ugly steel buildings if there were no stone cathedrals etc. standing there already.


In the 19th century many American urban centers become quite densely built up with all manners of buildings. These urban centers were also prone to fire. A number of cities experienced major fires that wiped out large swaths of what had been built. So they got rebuilt with more modern structures.


Most of the terrible modernism comes from the postwar era, when city planners would drive concrete highways through minority neighborhoods and bulldoze "slums" for modernist housing projects that were supposed to cure society's ills.


I’ll take “what is Scollay Square “ for $500. The point being that it’s not a linear progression. And we won’t mention what two world wars did to cities in Europe.


For a great example of this, check out some of the buildings that survived the Great Chicago Fire: http://chicago-architecture-jyoti.blogspot.com/2009/02/six-s...


Agreed, a walking commute needs to be reasonably safe. I'm fortunate enough to live and work somewhere that has a few "interesting and beautiful" places along the way, but still, a significant portion of my walk goes through places where armed robberies and property crimes are a common occurrence.


>USA fails miserably at "interesting and beautiful" part.

It depends on where you are. I lived in downtown Boston and walked everywhere. I had a choice of walking along the river, down the Commonwealth Avenue mall and through the public gardens, etc, etc.


This made me think of this documentary

https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/the_world_before_your_feet


"Playing in select cities" - from the official website.

That's what's wrong with indie cinema, documentaries and small movie projects. Another film I'm interested in, I'm ready to purchase and watch, yet I can't since it's not available anywhere, except for some screenings in a handful of places worldwide. So it ends up as an easy to miss entry on my ever growing to do list hoping to be re-discovered and some day.

I understand (though not agree with) the argument for theatrical windows for big, mainstream blockbuster movies. However what is the point of artificially and severly limiting the availability of niche releases like these? Your target audience is already tiny - unnecessary barriers certainly don't help.


I think part of the problem is that low budget indie releases have to _pay_ theaters to be shown. The consequence of their small budget is they can often only afford to screen in a small number of theaters in major cities.

In contrast theaters literally beg studios that make blockbusters to let them project the film on as many screens as possible since these movies are expected to draw large crowds and popcorn and drink purchases.


That's an even bigger argument for the point I tried to make. I don't want the see the film in a theater, which (in my case) would require about an hour of driving, overpriced drinks and all the other annoyances of a theater visit. Meanwhile I have a projector and good audio system at home, which is why I want to buy and download the film digitally to watch on my own terms.

And needless to say that it doesn't require a fancy projector to have a fine movie experience - most households have a big TV that comes close enough. For this kind of movie, however, audio/video equipment shouldn't be a concern at all.

What I'm trying to say is: Why screen the film at a very limited number of cinemas, which you might even have to pay when you could get paid by viewers directly?


Screening at a theater is a required step before a film can be considered for certain prestigious industry awards, qualify for certain production tax incentives or fulfill cast/crew contractual requirements. There exist theaters the sole purpose of which are to fulfill that specific function (they generally screen low budget indie films each for a day or so-- it is not usual for the size of the audience to be zero).

Personally I don't really disagree with you; it would be great if good films were available on Amazon, Netflix, etc sooner.


Columbia SC has some nice walks. It does depend on the neighborhood and you have to contend with the car traffic but I would say I walk a lot. It is not like Montreal or Bergen for sure but im not so unhappy


> USA fails miserably at "interesting and beautiful" part.

> Grid system makes it super boring

> Architecture (in downtowns) is straight up horrible

Sounds like you've never been to Boston! Come on over, you'll love it. :)


biking in Boston is... interesting? drivers are not outwardly violent, but don't seem to appreciate bikes much. People seem to (reluctantly) tolerate you but can't resist some passive-aggressive behaviors and lots of honking.

It was still better than cities where the drivers are so oblivious of bikes (and pedestrians) that they wouldn't even notice if they ran you down. (looking at you Montreal)


Where do you live in the US? It sounds like California, specifically the concrete desert of LA.


do you live in LA and know this firsthand or are you repeating a cliché?

i live in LA and walk often. it's great. the weather is awesome (60's and sunny today, in the middle of winter), i have dozens of good restaurants and cafes within walking distance, as is most of my shopping needs. parks, theaters, museums, bars, and other entertainment can be easily reached by walking. LA is a big city so not everything is right there, but everything i need day-to-day is.


Sounds like you live in downtown, as that's the only neighborhood that fits all of those things within walking distance.

The majority of people who live in LA, live somewhere nestled into the bigger sprawl that is the region. While there are plenty of neighborhoods that have walkable aspects, the city is by no means walkable (even with transit) to huge portions of the city.


Actually, it sounds like he/she doesn’t live downtown.

I had all that when I was living in Westwood, which is far far far aaay from downtown, but I could have had that in belverly hills, or Culver City, or even (but just barely) Brentwood.


What museum is walkable from westwood?


That is kind of a weird question to ask when Westeood is right next to UCLA. So besides the hammer, there are a bunch of smaller galleries on campus, including one with meteorites.

There is also a giant robot art gallery in sawtelle japan town, which I think is walkable, definitely bikeable.


I was overlooking the hammer, I was too caught up on the miracle mile, downtown and expo center museums.


the hammer (it's free now too): https://hammer.ucla.edu/


i don't. downtown is dense but isn't remarkable for walkability in LA (until relatively recently it wasn't even particularly walkable).

my listed criteria wasn't even complete, just what came to mind in the 30 seconds i thought about it. there are plenty of neighborhoods that are walkable in LA (silverlake, hollywood, highland park, even north hollywood, etc.). the whole city doesn't need to be reachable by foot to be a walkable neighborhood.

sounds like your bar may be set particularly high or your assumptions about what you need to walk to may be extraordinary.


None of those neighborhoods are walking distance to museums unless I'm forgetting something. Additionally, I wouldn't call silverlake a walkable neighborhood but I'll give you the other ones.

My definition would be could you live comfortably without ever using a car, such as being able to go grocery shopping without having to walk a ton, be near enough to the rail system such that you can get around easily, be in a neighborhood where going clothes shopping doesn't mean an inconvenient trip to a mall, ect.


silverlake: https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/holyland-exhibition

i'll leave it to you to find the others, but one of my faves in culver city is the museum of jurassic technology (has a rooftop aviary): http://mjt.org/

> "My definition would be could you live comfortably without ever using a car"

that's a pretty high bar. how would you move in/out without a car/truck/van? carry everything by hand? i don't own a car but i use one periodically.


West Hollywood, Hollywood, Sunset, Santa Monica, there are a lot of walkable areas in the LA metro.


Sunset is hardly part of a broader walkable neighborhood, it's a single street where there are various gaps along it where there's little built for the pedestrian. Parts of Hollywood, Downtown Santa Monica, Koreatown, Downtown, and Westlake are in my experience the only truly walkable areas. There are a few more where you can walk for some things, but you'd likely still need a car unless you were to order everything you buy online.


Who can afford to live in those areas?


You can find a 1br all over LA for ~1500 you know. Studios even less. Go on craigslist and check it out.


I lived in San Diego, and would visit friends in LA somewhat frequently. My interpretation is based off of my experiences in the northern slice of the area, San Bernardino to Venice Beach. Also I had to drive through LA to go anywhere, which might have colored my experience a bit.


Your interpretation is based on a slice that's 80 miles long, so I'm going to go out on a limb and say that you don't have a good sense of even that slice. LA is fantastic. There's plenty of suburbia to be sure, but living there is a choice some people make. Others make a different choice.


I suppose you are correct. Similar to the original comment, who was shocked coming from a European perspective to US, I was a bit shocked coming from an East Coast perspective, and have made too broad a generalization. What areas would you suggest I visit in the future?


Depends on what you want to see; the city is incredibly diverse. The denser, more urban areas are the ones developed before the car was the dominant form of transportation. Downtown, Macarthur park, koreatown, hollywood, etc are very dense. Some parts of the westside are too. The trains generally go through the denser areas. Much of it is gritty, but the architecture is cool, there's lots of fantastic food everywhere, and it's generally interesting. Go explore :)


gotcha. san diego is probably the only place with better weather, if that's possible, and seemingly with more intermingled trees (a good portion of LA's trees are in the hills dividing the valleys and basins).

venice is super-walkable, and i'd guess it's better to live in the venice/santa monica bubble without a car than with, because getting out of the westside is awful by car for large parts of the day. within the bubble you can walk, bike, run, skate or scooter to just about anything you need.

but outside of LA proper, it's true that san bernardino, the inland empire, and the san fernando and san gabriel valleys generally are car-oriented, and it's unwieldy to live in those areas without a car (although there are pocket exceptions, particularly in the valleys).


Venice is far from super-walkable, it's just walkable by American mid-density standards. I don't know how much time you spend there, but the sidewalks in Venice are pretty poor quality, walking to and from the grocery store would be difficult depending on what part of Venice you live in, and getting to other parts of the city is incredibly difficult to do so by public transportation in Venice. Some of this stuff can be supplemented with a bike, but it's still not an area I'd recommend not having a car in, especially should you not have a job in the immediate area.

The problem, is that Venice is what a regular suburban area should be like in terms of walkability, when for the most part, suburbs have nowhere to walk too.


How many people can A) afford to live in Venice Beach and B) manage to get a job within walking distance?


a bunch on HN? those two things are now correlated since tech took over venice (particularly snapchat) and prices skyrocketed. venice was actually somewhat affordable for a beach area not that long ago (unlike santa monica or malibu).


> i live in LA and walk often. it's great.

Doesn't LA have literally the most polluted air in the country? Doesn't sound great for walking.


I visited Santa Monica (basically LA unless you live in LA) several times and walked almost everywhere, only taking a Lyft when I really wanted to go across town (the Blue Bus comes eventually, but it isn't fast). Air quality was fine and there was a 4-mile beach to walk on if you wanted to really Walk.

I know people who live in Downtown LA and don't own cars.

I get the impression there are several parts of LA you can live in without regularly driving, and still have a very normal lifestyle. Not sure about the air quality downtown but my friends didn't complain about it.


> Air quality was fine

> Not sure about the air quality downtown but my friends didn't complain about it.

I think unhealthy air quality is dangerous long before you actively notice it. I'd rely on measurements instead of subjective impressions.


It is incredibly expensive to live in downtown LA or Santa Monica. Especially if you actually want to own something.


It isn't great, but it is not any worse than other large cities since the 90s. You can see the current and forecasted cities with the worst air quality here. https://airnow.gov/


No, not unless there is an inversion or a nesrby forest fire going on. LA has really cleaned up a lot since the 70s, even SLC has worse air now.


nearly - 4th according to the american lung association annual study (via cbs): https://www.cbsnews.com/pictures/air-pollution-worst-us-citi... (fairbanks is #1)

but it's the worst for ozone, where it's 80's reputation for smog comes from. to be fair, LA's air quality is far better than the 74 major cities in chinaa: https://www.latimes.com/world/asia/la-fg-china-la-smog-stats...

which is where a significant portion of the air polution comes from (enough to go from good to bad): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Air_pollution_in_the_United_St...


Its not like there are black clouds of smoke hanging in the air or anything... Your average person is more likely to have allergies and asthma, but it's not like breathing the air hurts or your skin burns or anything...


Sounds like practically anywhere in the country to be honest.


The only place where I've lived that didn't have yards, parks within walking distance, and could be considered overcrowded was in California. I briefly visited Dallas once, and I could see that as being similar.


There are parts of any city (including California cities) that are walkable. There are parts of any city that are not walkable (this includes Europe). In some areas the walkable area is pretty large, and others it is tiny.


> moreover, you can bump into unsafe places!

Can you elaborate on this? Are there places that are unsafe because they're full of knife-wielding maniacs? Or unsafe because they're full of un-signposted holes in the ground? Or some other kind of unsafe?


Unsafe, when side walk suddenly ends, but you see that it continues after the next block and you have a choice: turn around or walk on the road and get hit by a car potentially. I live in such a neighborhood now. I can walk to work, but sidewalk ends a block from my house and there are no street lights, so it is MUCH safer to take a 2 minute drive.


It’s also that motorists are often times hostile to pedestrians. Case in point - the elementary school my daughter goes to is a quarter mile away. So I’m trying to get the second grade kid to come back home on her own. She needs to cross streets in a subdivision. There is a crossing guard to help. But still - people honk at my 8 yr old when crossing. Ultimately I’ve decided to drop and pick her up myself.


Warning: speculation. Suppose that a city’s value and economy descend in large part from connectivity.

A transit system is extremely useful at a few very specific points, but your connectedness drops off sharply as you get even a few blocks away from it, due to the extreme inefficiency of walking or (worse) waiting for a connecting bus.

A road network’s utility is broad and diffuse, with gentle gradients of utility from place to place, as an extra few miles means little. Two points have to be very far apart indeed before they are noticeable different in terms of access/connectedness.

So it makes complete sense to me that transit-oriented cities should be higher-maximum-value, higher-variance, while car oriented cities should be lower—maximum-value but much more equal. Exactly what the article finds.


Related anecdote: I was recently looking at home prices in Chicago, and it seems that people place an enormous value on easy access to the train system. Just eyeballing it, it looked like a house that's less than 1 mile from the nearest train station commands about a $150-$200,000 premium over one that's more than 2 miles from the L.


Yea, Chicago is an older city by US standards and it’s clear when you compare it to cities built after the car was widely adopted (mostly Sun Belt cities). I think it’s one of the reasons Europeans tend to enjoy Chicago when they visit, it has much of the walkability they are used to. Cities like Atlanta, Houston and LA seem built around the idea of everyone driving a car.


Driving in downtown Chicago during rush hour is awful. I remember it taking something like 15 minutes just to move a handful of city blocks due to how backed up the on-ramp onto the highway was.

Also, are you controlling for the housing type? Condos in high rises (which are much more expensive than detached single family detached) tend to be concentrated near the trains.


I am going to generalize your statement: driving in Chicago is awful.

Ive consistently had it take an hour to move ten miles regardless of the day of week to visit family in Milwaukee. At least a third of the drive I could see the Sears tower in the rear view mirror. Amtrak/metra is far superior to car ownership. Uber for local travel and is quite frankly cheaper with less aggravation because I don't have to deal with it. apparently honking your horn and not using a blinker is standard. Also just generally driving like a complete asshole. And don't get me started on the taxis. That entire industry in Chicago should go out of business. And cyclists seem to vary. Some are very respectful and will quickly stop for a j walker and politely say they shouldn't do that. Others run red lights and get pissed when you call them out for riding on the sidewalk.

Some startup should come with a device that is required for Chicago drivers... every time you honk your horn it costs 5-50 dollars. What are you fucking honking for there is 25-100 cars ahead of you not moving.


I don't know that that's where I was going.

These sorts of land desirability drop-offs happen very quickly in Chicago, but that could just be a function of density. Commutes in Chicagoland aren't necessarily any worse (in terms of commuting time) than they are in other places I've been - you just end up with the pattern spreading over a much wider geographic area because cars spread everything out so much.

For example, Milwaukee's rough equivalent of Chicago's West Rogers Park is probably Menomonee Falls, which isn't even in the same county. But you've got a similar pattern where it's kind of off the beaten path, transportation-wise, which makes it relatively inexpensive compared to a more well-connected area like Tosa or Whitefish Bay.

I've noticed similar patterns in North Carolina, too - plenty of people I know in the Triangle have commutes that are well over an hour, and the communities from which it's easy to get to the major employers command a premium.

If anything, I feel like this is more argument about Chicago needing a less hub-and-spoke design to its rail transit. Out on the periphery, it's possible to get very far away from the rail lines. In a city this size, it's a major failing that anyone ends up living more than 2 miles away from rapid transit.


==And don't get me started on the taxis. That entire industry in Chicago should go out of business.==

This would lead to even more Uber/Lyft drivers which already make traffic considerably worse in my experience.


It's bad, but compared to SV, for example, it's a breeze. Manhattan's worse, too, and let's not talk about what Boston drivers are called...


Yeah, this was just comparing within a specific kind of housing. So I didn't even compare 2 and 3-flat condos to high rise condos.

I would not drive to work just because the train isn't within walking distance, because, yeah, not worth the time and stress and expense. Having to take a bus or ride a bike to get to the nearest train station doesn't add that much time to a commute.


You can see this effect pretty drastically along the Blue Line where many of the neighborhoods it passes through do have a relatively large inventory of single family homes and as you get further Northwest you have fewer good transit options to downtown and the Loop. It applies to renting as well. Rentals close to transit command noticeably higher rent as well.

There's so many factors that it's hard to make direct comparisons, but for example you can look at homes near the Irving Park blue line stop (which also next to a Metra stop) and then similar home just a few miles West where there are fewer transit options. It's a pretty drastic drop off in home prices for relatively comparable neighborhoods.


More realistically: being able to live without a car is desirable for enough people and rare enough in the US that places where it is possible have their rents driven up by demand, pricing out the people who were living there before.


The phenomenon you're describing gives rise to the last mile transport problem, which is notoriously hard to solve. You either want something which is compact enough to fit on existing transit systems or exists in a sufficient quantity at transit nodes to augment human mobility and smooth out the gradients between transit nodes. I'm hoping that as battery and motor technology advance we'll be able to miniaturize personal transit technology enough to make such devices ubiquitous.


> miniaturize personal transit technology

This was the segway model.


This is also now the e-scooter and e-bike model, which seems to be faring better.


Ironically, some are actually made by Segway.


Doesn't a transit system complement a road network?

Rapid transit serves the most trips when either the source or destination (or both) are in the urban center. The road network is typically most congested in the urban center. Thus, transit reduces congestion in the areas that would otherwise be most congested, making the road network more useful.

Perhaps "car-oriented cities" simply haven't yet reached the density (and size of the high-density area) where transit becomes necessary.


This is kind of a chicken-egg situation. You can't reach the high-density requirement when cars are the primary means of transportation. Cars are an extraordinarily low-density means of transportation. And some evidence, based on city age, seems to suggest that cities built with cars in mind (e.g., non-east coast cities in the U.S.) tend to sprawl quite a bit.


That's true, I guess that ties back into a counterargument to the parent's point, that the connectedness issue with transit would be mitigated had the city been planned differently.


Isn't it wonderful how the car allowed a large number of families to own a home with a piece of land, yet have access to the amenities of a city? Nice and spread out living spaces with concentration for work and culture. Now we just need some tunnels or something to deal with the problems that fast above ground car transport causes (mostly noise, pollution, and using up precious surface land).


>Isn't it wonderful how the car allowed a large number of families to own a home with a piece of land, yet have access to the amenities of a city?

That was an illusion. House prices are soaring in the inner suburbs (case in point: the Bay Area) to the point of complete unaffordability, forcing people out further and further from where they work and, consequently, creating situations where commuters drive for hours every day because there is no other choice.

To drive to the city, you have to find a place to park your car. As more people want to drive to access the amenities of a city (and they have to, because they might live more than an hour away as they can’t afford anything closer), they will need to pay more and more to park, because of the costs of real estate.

And tunnels are no panacea. The congestion created by single occupancy trips created by people who might be living an hour or more away from their destination will persist.

Density would go a long way to solving some of these problems. Simple things from lowering minimum lot sizes, to mid size apartments and condos, would increase access to home ownership. But we can’t have anything lowering those property prices, can we?


A tunnel can have any kind of transport running in it as you want. Cars, buses, and trains at the same time. A toll tunnel that is run full will be wildly profitable and would inspire others to build them. "The Boring Company" already has the tech, we just need to work out the regulatory system so that they can build across the multiple small cities in the LA basin. Below a certain depth you can't even tell the tunnel is there.

A controlled tunnel system would be easily driven by today's automatic cars. It pick you up and goes back home (no parking problem), runs on electricity from your sunny California rooftop solar array, and works as a peaker power source for the grid when you aren't using it. Bring me a future that is better than the past please.


The problem is that digging a tunnel is expensive even when amortized over the 30,000 passengers per hour that a subway line can carry. When you amortize it over the 2,000 passengers per hour that a lane of single-occupancy vehicles maxes out at, the expense is completely outrageous.


Is that true? The U.S. doesn't have a particularly high percentage of home ownership (64.5%) compared to other countries. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_home_owne...


I don't have numbers to back it up, but home RENTAL rates are quite high in many places. A home with a decent sized lawn, say, a dozen blocks from downtown will often rent for about the same (or even cheaper) than a smaller downtown apartment.


The problem is, is that car orientated cities tend to grow out, rather than densify. So you never get the critical mass, where transit becomes required.


There are major exceptions to this, usually involving the city's potential expansion zone being bounded by water on multiple sides. Manhattan, San Francisco, and Seattle all have this feature -- and they've all developed into critical mass, where transit becomes required.


Manhattan and San Francisco at least, developed before the car, so may well have already had the critical mass before the car came along.


You cannot actually say that. non car oriented cities have been growing for hundreds of years, while car oriented cities only for about 80. You could well be right, but we will all be dead before we can actually state it with confidence.


Look at a 1900 city that was 80 years old, you will find it significantly denser, you can't have a 50 mile wide city, when the main mode of transport is a horse.

Northern British industrial cities fit into that age bracket at the turn of the century. Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle weren't spread out at that time.


That makes sense.

Cities are basically gathering places. Shops, jobs, accommodation all gather there in a self reinforcing manner.

It follows that transport connections would influence that.


> We are cleaving into two nations—one where daily life revolves around the car, and the other where the car is receding in favor of walking, biking, and transit.

Walking, biking, and transit are not actually the same thing, except that they are "not driving". So it's more accurate to say that there are two kinds of commuters, those that take cars and those that don't. There's absolutely nothing new about this though. It's likely true that more people are not driving these days, but that's got more to do with the fact that more of us are living in large cities where it's simply not possible for everyone to drive, and where transit is more practical because of the density.

This notion that at some point in the future there will not be people commuting in cars is just dumb, and kind of tiresome. There's a lot of noise being generated by people who think driving a car is flat out immoral, and I'd contend this isn't a moral issue it's just a practical one, and I really wish it were treated this way.


Ignoring all the other problems, like car crashes, urban land-use, infrastructure spending to support them, etc, their emissions alone should be a clear moral issue when talking about cars. When the alternatives (walking, public transit, and bicycling) are orders of magnitude more efficient, it's absolutely a moral issue.


From the math I've seen, bicycling is 1 order of magnitude lower CO2 emission than driving. Here is one source https://ecf.com/news-and-events/news/how-much-co2-does-cycli...

I was surprised it wasn't a bigger difference myself.

It also appears buses are in the 1 order of magnitude range: http://www.dnrec.delaware.gov/dwhs/info/Pages/OzonePublicTra..., https://www.citylab.com/transportation/2012/11/can-we-please...


I don't trust that this calculation went into sufficient depth. People who drive cars still eat food.


Walking, public transport and biking are orders of magnitude more inefficient if you have kids or have to transport anything bigger than a backpack.


As someone who grew up in New York, kids are actually much easier with walking, public transport, and biking. I was able to go out to school, head to team sports, go to restaurants and shopping, hang out with friends, etc. all independently.

When I went to college, all of my suburban friends hadn't done too much of any of that, because being in the suburbs before driving age requires a parent available to be your chauffeur. Anecdotally, they were also more prone to underage drinking before college, because they just couldn't go out and do much.


As someone who raised three children in Manhattan, walking and public transit are fine with small children. Biking, while a great source of recreation, is simply not an option for transportation with small children. And the ability to fall back on a cabs or Uber on rare occasions is also sometimes necessary.

That being said, at an older age, I never had to take my children anywhere. Like you said, they walked, rode or took public transport.

Finally in my experience, city kids are just as prone to underage drinking as their suburban counterparts, possibly moreso because of the increased opportunity. What they don't do however, is drink and drive.


You can get bike trailers for very cheap that carry small kids.


Living in the suburbs meant I met up with friends outside of school so few times I could count it on my fingers. Everyone was ~20km away and the bus system only comes during school start and end times.

I'd say this is one of the main reasons for the popularity of video games and child obesity. Kids have no way of getting around so they are stuck at home.


I think the issue is that most cities are nothing like New York. The density is just completely different.


I didn't live in a very dense part of New York; I lived on the border between Queens and Long Island, and pretty much my entire neighborhood, and all the neighborhoods for miles, basically consisted of single-family detached homes with small yards and backyards.

The main ingredient that you need for carfree kids to work is usable transit. And by usable, I mean it was frequent; if I missed my bus I would only ever be waiting 10-15 minutes for the next one. Everything I could want to go to would be reachable by bus in 40 minutes or less.

If you were to take a map of most American cities' bus networks and only showed routes that ran every 10-15 or better throughout the middle of the day on weekdays, an awful lot of them would be mostly blank. Even more if you were to require that for Saturdays as well, and pretty much all of them for the entire week. Provide the transit and people will ride; it's how Seattle managed to buck a national trend of declining bus ridership.


Queens has a population density of 20000 per square mile. The average US urban area is 283 per square mile.


Millions of New Yorkers (and billions worldwide) have kids, no car, and get along just fine. Subway trains are quite capable of carrying virtually anything you can carry. And bicycle trailers are pretty impressive specimens. And when you need to haul anything truly massive, sure, rent a Uhaul. But to pretend you need a 2-ton vehicle because you've got a couple little kids and a load of groceries for the week... c'mon.


It could work for a kid or two, but that family size isn't enough to prevent extinction. Somebody needs to have more kids.

For me, a load of groceries fills 3 shopping carts in the store (packed to the top and overflowing) and 4 once bagged. That seems to be about 42 cubic feet (1.2 cubic meters) of food, with weight likely approaching a ton. I still have to buy a bit more during the week, since we go through about 2 gallons of milk per day and I'm just not going to attempt bringing home and storing 14 gallons of milk.

I use a 3-ton vehicle by curb weight. It can be a 5-ton vehicle when filled. The 5.4L V8 gets 11 MPG in the city. It's actually fuel-efficient on a per-person basis when I fill most of the 15 seats with people; think of it as 3 times a 5-seat vehicle that does 33 MPG.


There is no way you can fit a week's groceries for a family of four in a bicycle trailer.


...yea https://bikecart.pedalpeople.coop/gallery.html

Most people fit their week's worth of groceries in a grocery cart, and manage to push that around the store. I really don't understand why it's crazy to think you could tow them home with a bicycle. Plenty of people do this. It's a bit out of the norm in the U.S., yes. But don't for a second think it's impossible, or even particularly challenging.


Those 600 dollar strollers tend to work pretty well for dragging kids around, also at least in manhattan, you can get virtually anything delivered.


I think that walking, biking, and transit are a lot harder to cleave apart than car/non-car; many transit users also walk and bike, many cyclists also walk and take transit, etc. This is even more true once you expand this out to all trips, e.g. I take transit to work but walk to the grocery store, I take transit to work but bike to the park, etc.

So they aren't the same, but they do go hand in hand quite a lot. I don't think there's any implication in the article that they are the same.


Would be really interesting to see this done on a map of Europe. You'd think there's a lot more public transit used.

As a visitor to the US, the main thing that strikes me is always the vast amount of car related space there. Wider roads, massive car parks. Places with no sidewalk!

And I'm also surprised at the two places I thought would have more public transport usage. Really, only 30% of NYC? I guess it's sparse outside Manhattan? SF I kinda understand because what I saw of the underground looked way too small for a city of several million.


The mass transit systems outside of NYC proper are designed to feed people in and out of the city core in two large waves, and [are] not designed to move people around the larger urbanized region (the "Tri-State area") outside of those two waves.

So for the large majority of residents, a car will still be a necessity. Even Manhattanites will eventually feel the need buy/rent a car so they can do things like go to a forest or a quiet beach for a day.


When I lived in Manhattan, I used ZipCar regularly. It was provided free as a "benefit" by my employer. If I had to pay for it or monthly parking or anything like that, I would have just stayed in town.


In my experience a lot of people only find Manhattan tolerable because they can get out of the city on a regular basis. Assumes a certain income level of course. But those I know who live in Manhattan, SF, etc. without cars rent Zipcar and conventional rentals a lot. As well as Uber, etc.

Many people are just largely stuck to public transit lines of course. But the demographic that is actually moving into cities (college educated professionals) mostly doesn’t think that way.


That is true of all public transit systems, period. If you want to get from Bayonne to Yonkers, you're going to have to go through the central hub of Manhattan, just like if you want to get from Garching to Unterschleißheim, you're going to have to go through the central hub of Munich.

This is just the nature of public transit outside city centers: they will have a hub-and-spokes shape. That's because this shape suits the needs of pretty much everybody: travel from one spoke to another is way less common than travel to and from the center, and if you really need that route and can't afford the time of going through the hub, most metros cover the concentric routes it with lighter options (like two-digit NJTransit busses and the Hudson-Bergen light rail).

The corner cases of suburb-to-suburb trips and short distance vacations aren't important enough to necessitate complete infrastructure capitulation to drivers.

And for the vast majority of New Yorkers, a car isn't necessary. Car ownership is around 45% in New York City, and that number goes way down if you exclude Staten Island and the outer parts of Queens and Brooklyn that don't get subway service.


The population of San Francisco itself was actually only about 880,000 as of 2017. The Census Bureau calculated a net 20% increase in SF's daytime population from commuters in 2010[0], so that would bring the number of people up to just over a single million at the lower bound.

[0] https://www.quora.com/What-is-the-weekday-population-increas...


> And I'm also surprised at the two places I thought would have more public transport usage. Really, only 30% of NYC?

Taxis don't count as "public transport" here.


I think the less ambiguous name is "collective transport". Taxis are public transport almost everywhere.


There is also the term "mass transit" that excludes taxis exactly because they don't help solving the congestion and pollution problems.


"collective transport" is a great name for it. Has the same root as collective farming and similar problems to that enterprise.


>> "a smaller-than-average share of workers drives to work alone in more compact college towns"

We all talk about trying to get people our of their cars, but imho isn't all about cities or even transport systems. Imho it is about jobs. The great divide is between those who work in places that support alternative to private vehicles and those that do not.

If your employer wants you to work changing hours on short notice, public transport doesn't work. Asking someone to show up an hour earlier than normal is difficult if that means they won't have a bus/train available. I want to see studies comparing various sectors. I'd bet good money that those working government and/or education jobs (the college towns in the above quote) are less likely to drive cars to work. And conversely, those who work private sector jobs (swing shifts, late hours, on-call etc) are more likely to drive cars.

Personally, I now work in a government job (military) with a few hundred people in one building. Lots of people do bike/walk/run to work. We have bus stop right in front of our base, but nobody uses it. It just isn't reliable. Our bosses don't want to hear that we are late because the bus was stuck in traffic. We also sometimes have to work strange hours/shifts. Sometimes our day ends "whenever it ends". 2000 quickly becomes 0300. Will the bus get me home at a random hour and with enough time to sleep before the morning? My car/bike/feet sure will.


> Asking someone to show up an hour earlier than normal is difficult if that means they won't have a bus/train available.

I lived in Seoul for close to a year without a car. I never used a taxi and never looked up or planed my routes before I left home/work/shop/etc. The longest I remember waiting for a train/bus was around 4minutes. In this instance, I saw my bus pulling away as I was walking up. There was another of the same bus in line behind 3 other buses.

I have lived in Denver without a car for close to 4 years. I pay 4x as much in public transit fees, I know all train times and bus times by heart and I plan when I leave based on those times. I usually bike to/from the train because it is literally faster than the bus stop less than 100ft from my house.

We have a chicken and egg problem.

Edit: God I miss the trains in Seoul. I don't know if they had times but the rule seemed to be if a train was pulling out, you just had to wait for the next train to finish pulling in.


I don't see how that's about jobs - that's an artifact of a bad public transport system.

In London I could drive or get public transport. Depending on where I go, one could be faster or slower. Generally, for non-radial journeys further out, driving will be faster.

But in terms of reliability/variance the public transport option will almost always be better for journeys of longer than ten minutes or so.

Buses have bus lanes - aside from the small delay of people getting on or off, they strictly cannot suffer more variance than a car because they have priority over cars for some subsection of the route.

Trains... well, trains run on tracks. There are service interruptions, sure, but those are far less frequent than traffic jams or accidents on the road or whatever.

(I'm talking here about all journeys. Commuting, not commuting, whatever.)

The stereotypical rural (or bad city urban) bus that comes every 20-30 minutes with no real adherence to any timetable, no live arrivals information or anything else sours people on public transport.


I don't understand why Americans love their cars so much.

I grew up in Oklahoma and you pretty much have to have a car. Huge amount of land, not many people. Virtually no public transportation.

I moved to the Bay Area back in 2000 and car-pooled for exactly one year of that time and then took BART the other 16 years before moving to Chicago. Even though I like driving I really hate traffic. Why would I sit in traffic when I can read/sleep/work/etc. It was cheaper as well. I wouldn't even talk about a different job unless they were within reasonable distance to a BART station.

I moved to Chicago recently and now take Metra (commuter train) and then walk 15 minutes. It's a little sucky in winter (today was 16 F, Friday is expected to be -6 F in the morning - dress in layers and have warm boots). Even then, I wouldn't drive. The cost, the time, the potential for accidents just aren't worth it to me.

I get why people drive in rural areas. You pretty much have to. But I don't know why folks don't push for mass transit more in cities. Cars are so expensive and monopolize your entire time getting to/from somewhere. I tried car pooling and really didn't like it since I'm essentially trapped with the same people every day. Mass transit can be crowded but I can still read or listen to audio books if I don't have a seat. But cars are ingrained in so much of the culture here plus I think a lot of people won't admit it but just don't like being around other people.


Having a car gives you a stronger sense of having control over your transportation, namely you don't have to rely on other people, on timetables, or the stability of the regional transit system in order to get from place to place.

You do have to deal with traffic, but for many people it's worth the tradeoff.


Why would I sit in traffic when I can read/sleep/work/etc.

This might sound really weird, but I actually in ways miss my long commutes when I live and work in the burbs or was working from home full time with a short commute. The commute gave me time to unwind, listen to podcasts, and just not have to deal with people between the time I was at work and was at home.

But I don't know why folks don't push for mass transit more in cities.

In my neck of the woods, the people in the affluent burbs actually push against mass transit because it makes it too easy for “those people” to come up here. Yes my complexion associates me one of “those people”.


The issue is that even in suburban areas the density is often very low so that the city can only afford a certain number of buses that run at certain times. Which makes getting around very inconvenient if you don't have a car. Cars are also much more convenient for groceries.

Personally I hate driving and take Uber or walk everywhere. But I don't have any commute, or kids or girlfriend or friends to meet up with. Since I don't live in a downtown area, it isn't feasible for me to get a life without the car. Luckily I am happy staying on the internet with an occasional walk to Walmart.


Many large cities have terrible public transit that isn't just impractical but impossible. Public transport doesn't even run around the time of morning I head in to the office at 6am.

If it DID run and I could take it, I would have to spend 3 additional hours each day in commute time between long round-about routes and waiting/switching bus/train lines. I would pay 5 dollars per day for this service. Almost double the cost to drive given the current 2.60/gal gas prices.


I find this interesting. Of my tech coworkers and friends in Seattle, its 50/50 on car ownership, but the vast majority do not commute to work by car. I personally drive, but that is due to circumstance where public transit is inconvenient for me and I can easily afford to drive and park downtown, saving me 30-45 min both directions. In my view, driving a car becomes much more necessary once you exit the 20-something tech stage of life and actually have a family to support and move around.

Also, unpopular opinion, public transit is only worthwhile for commuters. Shared uber/lyft is more efficient in pretty much all other situations, except for people wealthy enough to live in easy transit corridors. Subsidizing ride share infrastructure via uber/lyft would benefit a much broader class of people than investments in cute but pointless public transit like our Seattle streetcar.


I'm not sure why but the transit system in my city seems to keep making decisions and changes that benefit people making short trips within the central areas while detrimenting those that use it to commute outwards to work. I'm not sure the reasoning for this. But every time the schedules or fares change it always becomes more difficult, takes longer and costs more to travel to outer areas.


Off the top of my head, the reason is probably because there just isn't a critical mass of people heading in the other direction that would make financial sense for them to run trains/buses in that direction, not to mention the last mile problem of how to get to your job after you're dropped in the suburban transit center with no public transit available to get you from the transit center to your office.


No it's more things like plans to change the fare system to one based on distance travelled, changing bus schedules so they end up more filled up but no longer arrive at offices and businesses for a time when people typically begin work, increasing multiple zone fares while leaving single zone fares the same, new train and bus routes being put in to service already well serviced areas while ignoring outlying areas.

Back in 2001 or so the plan for the next train line was for a heavily underserviced area here. It was delayed and instead a line was put in in an area with multiple busses servicing it. They finally put the line they originally talked about around 2 or 3 years ago. But it still doesn't cover as much area as the original plans were and rather than putting new trains for this line like the did with the other one, they took some from the line that services the farther away areas.

There are two big rushes of people in both directions. The trains and busses are packed always. The only reason I can think of is because they know most people commuting to work on transit have no choice. Where has people taking one time short trips usually do and they're trying to incentivise them to take transit at the expense of commuters.

It also just so happens those areas tend to have a higher percentage of wealthier people living in the and members of the transit board.


A train should never be put someplace without first trying bus service. If you can get busy bus service you know the train will be used. If you can't get busy bus service - well it is easy to try those same buses on a different route until you find where people actually want to go. (and then you can build the train there if the real numbers show it is worth it)


Are there buses in Boston? I lived there, and I wouldn't know. Buses are not something I'd contemplate using.

From experiences in other cities, where I looked into the matter:

Buses are too hard to use. Buses often stop on an unexpected side of the street, get rerouted, get cancelled, and have horribly complicated schedules. Routes even vary moment by moment. The crime situation is worse. The weather protection is worse.

I've never known anybody who would use buses. Buses are just noisy things that block traffic, damage pavement (proportional to 4th power of mass), and belch lung-clogging soot. AFAIK, they drive around empty, except that sometimes they serve as homeless shelters.


I moved from the long island suburbs to New York City, and it's very interesting taking the subway to work instead of driving. It really feels like the subway people and the drivers are living in two separate countries. It's a totally different way of living, and I really enjoy it.


Most places in the US are just very spread out. It's too much area and too low density for trains and buses to cover. Simple as that.

When I lived in New York I could walk to the ferry and then walk to my designated skyscraper a short distance away. But in southern California or Fort Worth, the only place with significant density is downtown. The houses and malls are spread over large distances. Sure there are sidewalks and it is possible to walk to the closest mall or Walmart, but that may easily take 20 or 30 minutes, that is the only place you can walk to and you generally feel like you are taking your life in your hands crossing traffic.

You can theoretically live in a downtown area but for most places in the US it's too expensive for the average person to buy a home or even for most people to rent. And again there is a massive area around the downtown that you would not be able to go to without a car.

It just comes down to this: there is just so much land that people wanted to use all of it. So it is designed to sprawl out. Then people get used to having single family houses with big yards and the skyscrapers are far away and everyone needs a car.


It's weird, but I first noticed this when I went to Greece. It's kind of difficult to get around in Greece. They don't have a wide-ranging national train system like some other European countries. They have a bunch of regional bus lines to get you from area to area, and they may only run once or twice a day. That'll mostly just get you between major cities, and they take a while.

I also noticed how difficult it was to get from my SO's place in NJ farm country to a nearby big city. From Philadelphia, I have to take an Amtrak up to Newark (or a SEPTA regional line up to Trenton, and then an Amtrak/NJT to Newark), then another train to the closest NJT stop in NJ, and then bike a couple dozen miles. That's at least 4 hours, compared to 1.2 hours by car.

Nearby towns and cities have shuttle services between other cities/towns, but trying to get to Philadelphia with those would require 5 or 6 transfers, basically the entire day, if you can even time it right to do it in one day. Anyone who lives out in the boonies and wants to work a well-paying job in the city is going to need to commute hours by car, which is expensive both in transportation cost and in time.

Having a car is expensive, but anyone trying to improve their station in life will need one to get to a better job. And the time it takes to transport themselves takes them away from things like family/personal time, childcare, continuing education, or additional jobs. So transportation will definitely hold the country's economic development back (in terms of increased access to jobs that pay better), as long as most of the good jobs are located in hard-to-reach metropolises.

If you suggest a plan for people to ditch their car in exchange for better public transit, the response seems to be "but I like my car!". Nobody wants to give up a convenience just to improve the economy.


In Switzerland only very few people of my social circle own a car and the fast majority of them needs it for work. Compared to neighbouring countries having a car is not even that expensive.

It's just a lot more confident to use public transport mostly because it's cheap and just great.

I think people will learn to use public transport options once it's affordable, reliable and everywhere.

As counter example Austria where I know a lot more people with cars. Their public transport isn't bad but expensive and unreliable.


Working my way through Alain Bertaud's Order Without Design: How Markets Shape Cities[1] at the moment and it's proving to be a really great resource for understanding this kind of thing and in the process marrying together a bunch of urban planning concepts and principles from economics. Also has some pretty great graphic design work on the charts and figures side of things and a nice layout wherein there are many small sections of 1-2 pages or less with condensed lessons.

Not halfway through yet, but I feel pretty comfortable recommending it if you're into the topic area of this article (urban mobility, how commutes+jobs shape urban areas, etc.).

[1] https://mitpress.mit.edu/books/order-without-design


More than 50% of commuters drive to work alone in NYC? That seems insane to me. I don't know or know of a single person that drives to work in NYC. Tolls and parking alone would eat around $10k per year, plus even if it was free the traffic seems to make it not worth it when compared to subways. Also, if you're willing to shell out the money to drive, why not just take a cab or uber at that point?

Is there some large subset of workers I'm not seeing that it would be more economic / convenient to drive into or around the city on a daily basis? (truck drivers / cab drivers / uber drivers don't count I wouldn't think?)


The data is for the whole NYC metro area, so the drivers are probably people that live and work in the suburbs and are not commuting to Manhattan. I have seen numbers that put people in the city proper at like 75% no car ownership.


Interesting definition of "class" in the article. It tries to contrast the knowledge-based "creative class" with the "working class" when it reality both are primarily earning wages and salaries rather than dividends and capital gains.


Here is everything you need to know about public transit, commuting and car culture in America:

https://www.ispot.tv/ad/wy2O/state-farm-backstory-truck-song...


I have never seen a train this empty during commute hours. An empty seat on each side of a person? Standing room only and packed like sardines is more realistic (and a needed density for economic viability of trains not subsidized by others).

BTW, cars are also a mode of "transit".


Basically looks like a population density map with NYC being the exception.

Did anyone expect anything different?


Why do people with car drive alone to work? There is a big chance that someone from your neighborhood is going at least in your direction. We practice co-driving in Europe all the time.


I don’t want to deal with other people when I am in the car. I like the solitude. Some days I may be working from home, some days I may go in late and/or stay late. I don’t want the responsibility of being a means of transportation for another adult.


In my experience (US, SF Bay Area/Seattle) - people do this for a few reasons:

1. The coordination and time overhead of sharing their commute with another person is not worth the marginal benefits - HOV lanes are not present in most of the area to make a difference in commute time and gas prices are low enough that splitting a drive isn't worth the savings.

2. Their commute also involves other errands (shopping, going to the gym, dropping off or picking up children from school/daycare) that are inconvenient to do with another person in the car.

In summary, it's convenient to drive alone and you are not penalized sufficiently for doing so.


We call it carpooling, and it's not that uncommon, I've done it. Some highways have special "High Occupancy Vehicle" lanes to encourage it.


May I point to this corresponding mode of transport for car-less people:

http://slug-lines.com/


Because it's better to not rely on anybody else, mostly.


That visualization is too zoomed out to be useful. I was curious to zoom in on cities and some curious rural patches.


0.5% bike to work and 6% walk to work. Interesting that the difference is so large, you'd think that so many more people live withing short biking range vs walking range. I wonder what the stats are for other continents.


I assume in America walking is seen as a lot safer due to being physically separated a little bit from cars.


I do both (walk + bus and bike) but it's a lot more walk these days even though it takes almost 2x as long as biking for me. The main reason is that the bike commute is uncomfortable and it feels pretty dangerous, even though it's not that far. This is a big problem in US cities: roads are designed and built for cars, while cyclists and pedestrians are an afterthought.


The law says you bike in the road, but most people can only bike at sidewalk speed. We'd need to change the law.


Safety is a big concern, and a place to safely store your bike (at home and at work) is another big one. I'd imagine lots of the walkers live in condos or apartments where storing a bike can be really tough.


I know their job is to talk about cities and stuff. But what's the point?

The United States is the 4th largest country in the world and the third most populous.

Is it any wonder that we have a wide diversity of experiences?



These maps don't show a dam thing and the analysis is super weak. Its common sense that people in cities make more money and are more likely to walk to work. Then workers in rural areas drive alone to work and make less money.

https://xkcd.com/1138/


Ironic that the people making more money walk, (which historically has been what poor people do). And the current poorer people use a privately owned transport vehicle. That would not be common sense to an American living more than 100 years ago. :)


It's not common sense today either. I don't think many people actually understand how expensive driving a car is. These expenses are both individual (maintenance, gas, insurance, tolls, tickets, etc.) and societal (greenhouse gas emissions, crashes, infrastructure like roads, bridges, and interstate exchanges, inefficient land use from parking, etc.)

I'm confident in the future we'll look back at how most Americans live today, and cringe at the massive inefficiency.


There is another "expense" in driving cars - having to expend mental load on driving and not being able to focus 100% on something else during commute time.

Exactly one year ago, we tried an experiment and moved to Arlington VA, just outside Washington DC. We live ~5km from my office and i switch it up between walking, metro, and cycling with a big bias towards walking. Door-to-door, 95% of the route is dedicated trail so there is no mental load of avoiding traffic. I churn thru audiobooks, catch-up conversations with friends, and sometimes just plain uninterrupted thinking. This is the best gift given i've given myself for a long, long time. Summertime walks are so pleasurable that I look forward to going to work early in the day and coming back just as the sun subsides.

This is all awesome enough that I'm dreading the next job in SF/SV/NYC just because of commute alone.

If you are curious, this is the typical (non-winter) walk: https://www.instagram.com/p/BhCXV4eDvSZ/?utm_source=ig_web_c...


Agree. These days not owning a car can be either a sign of being extremely poor, or somewhat privileged.


I think it's along the lines of people with more money tend to live closer to downtown which means they are more likely to live in a walkable distance to work.


You mean places like Silucon Valley where people walk to work? A huge number of the good professional urban area jobs are not actually in the cities. And for those which are many mid-career and older workers live in suburbs or even further out.


Not sure why you are getting downvotes, like half of the map doesn't ever appear on any of the lists, implying that half of NY state, for example, simply don't work.


Their maps use percentage (rather than absolute numbers) of people in the area commuting with a given transportation mode. So it is a good usage of these maps imo.


It still doesn't provide any useful info. 70% of the map has no data, and it literally only shows urban vs. suburban vs. rural areas on every map.


70% of the map is farm land. They drive a tractor to work, or they drive a semi load of food to town. In both cases moving the driver is not the goal, just a side effect of autonomous vehicles not being ready yet.


I mean, it’s a map of commuting, so what else would it show?


My point is a map seems like a poor choice for the data. If half of your map is empty, and you’re really only showing a grouping of 3 categories, maybe use a graph or something else.


Yeah that’s fair, thanks for clarifying.


It would be interesting to show ratios on the maps.


Can be please stop seeing this propaganda here from Citylab whos aim is to promote UNs Agenda 2030?




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