It doesn't all revolve around home ownership. There are a number of people who make decisions on where to live based on their lifestyle interests. Reed Hastings happens to live in Santa Cruz and was quoted in a chat about making a conscious choice about living in Santa Cruz County and having that separation "line" dividing work and the personal. Many people who live in Santa Cruz and do the commute feel the same (ignoring the fact that there is little to no tech industry here anymore).
Big houses and big yards? I've got a bungalow that is smaller than any house I lived in growing up (probably by a factor of two).
Urban sprawl may have a huge cost in infrastructure, but the lack of planning to put in commute alternatives (like trains) are just as damning. In Germany, there are friends that live 30-40min outside of Munich and happily take the train daily. They don't necessarily want to live in the city. Which goes to your argument of "Low-density urban sprawl largely also makes public transport uneconomic" -- in general, sure, but again infrastructure planning can offset this.
This country, unfortunately, doesn't believe in planning for infrastructure. Trains? Unprofitable boondoggles! (or so some think)
Agreed. I live in a flat in semi-central London and I cycle to work in a little more than half an hour. Life is good, but during weekends it really rubs me that I have at least an hours worth of travelling to do before I can get to some uninterrupted countryside.