Commute Costs Changes Growth Patterns in D.C.

<p>Suburban growth in the DC area has been fueled by low gas prices and abundant freeways. Expensive gas has changed this growth paradigm as commuters shift to public transit and seek close-in homes. Will government respond to the change in the market?</p>
August 7, 2008, 11am PDT | Irvin Dawid
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"As more and more families reconsider their dreams, land-use experts are beginning to ask whether $4-a-gallon gas is enough to change the way Americans have thought for half a century about where they live. Since the end of World War II, government policy has funded and encouraged the suburban lifestyle, subsidizing highways while starving mass transit and keeping gas taxes much lower than in some other countries.

Local land-use policies kept housing densities low, pushing development to the periphery of metropolitan regions and forcing families who wanted their dream house to accept long commutes and a lack of any real transportation choices other than getting behind the wheel.

"There is a whole confluence of government policies...that have subsidized sprawl," said Bruce Katz, director of the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution.

But there's been a radical shift in recent months. Americans drove 9.6 billion fewer highway miles in May than a year earlier. In the Washington area and elsewhere, mass transit ridership is setting records. Last year, transit trips nationwide topped 10.3 billion, a 50-year high."

Thanks to Preston Schiller

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Published on Tuesday, August 5, 2008 in The Washington Post
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