The Center for Housing Policy has released a fascinating report titled: A Heavy Load: The Combined Housing and Transportation Burdens of Working Families (PDF). It’s 32 pages long, so I have not had time yet to fully digest it, but the premise is fairly commonsense: It typically costs less to live farther from urban centers. Gas costs money. Driving farther costs more money.
As I have noted before, important and clear parallels may be drawn between the Central Virginia and the Northern Virginia market:
Among the regions studied,the Washington,D.C.â€“Baltimore has one of the least affordable housing markets. Both housing costs and housing as a share of income are especially high among the region’s outer suburban and suburban fringe areas.Except for married couples with children who bear the brunt ofthese high costs, Working Families are more likely to live in central city and inner suburban neighborhoods where housing costs and cost burdens are somewhat lower. Public transit is heavily used within Washington,D.C.’s Metro corridors. Everywhere else,however, the auto is consistently favored by Working Family commuters. This is as true in central city neighborhoods as it is on the suburban fringe.
In our market, by contrast, many of those in the City have taken advantage of the recent housing boom and sold their houses and moved out into th Counties. Some have been driven out by increasing rent prices. We don’t have efficient public transportation from outside the urban ring. Locally, just look at the numbers of people who are commuting into Charlottesville/Albemarle (CharlAlbemarle!).
Of course, as we all know by now, Autonomobility is a dead end. But shared-vehicle systems (aka, “mass transit”) cannot overcome random distribution of origins and destinations.
For this reason, studies such as Albemarle’s recent one on residents’ opinions regarding growth serve only to perpetuate the myopic view which local governments continue to reinforce. Unless there is region-wide cooperation, transportation will remain as inefficient as it is today – and will only get worse.