In my view, the forces behind not allowing more vertical building are really developers who want more sprawl, because they want to buy up unused land at the fringes of a city and build houses on it rather than have to assemble blocks from existing neighborhoods.
The unfortunate answer in all this is that the best way to reduce commuting is to make it harder to commute. Don't build more roads to subsidize long commutes, make work parking more expensive, and favor public transport in allocation of lanes and space. Europe is already doing this, and some cities in the US (like San Francisco) are also doing it to some degree.
I suspect, however, that we won't really get serious about it here in the US until gas hits about $15 a gallon.