Monday, May 12, 2008

$7.50 a Gallon Gas?

Cringing as I filled up my relatively fuel efficient car this weekend, I started to think about how urban settlement patterns might change if oil gets even more expensive (apparently Paul Krugman and the NYT beat me to it).

As he suggests, it will be a slow transformation, since many of the necessary infrastructure changes occur on much longer time horizons. He mostly discusses the substitution of public transportation, which makes sense. And I seem to remember hearing on NPR recently that our light rail ridership is up.

I spent a year an a half living in Europe as a student, without access to a car. Public transportation was adequate, and I walked and rode my bike much more often than I do now. East Coast cites, which were developed in the days prior to cars, are also much more suited to public transportation (I also lived in D.C. for a year with limited access to a car). In both cases, streets are narrower, and there is more intermingling of homes and businesses, which makes walking and biking a viable alternative.

Out here in the West, we have a lot of elbow room. Many of life's necessities are only found once you make your way out of a planned development and onto a major transportation access point. Corner stores have all but disappeared from western cities, replaced by distant big box stores that offer tremendous variety and cost savings. Our entire urban landscape is basically designed around access by car.

This leads me to my next quandary. Are the foothills still desirable if gas prices continue to skyrocket? Folsom and EDH are not easily walkable cities, designed around a city center where residents congregate. Of course Davis immediately came to mind, but one look at home prices there, and I realized that wouldn't happen. I work out of the house, and Mr. BT has to travel to a constantly changing job I'm not even sure it would make much of a difference.

Proximity is one of Sacramento's most appealing traits. Its a lovely, livable city and near many wonderful things, Tahoe, Yosemite, and San Francisco to name a few. I wonder how it will fair when this proximity becomes a luxury few can afford?

1 comment:

Aidian said...

Atlantic monthly did best piece on changing living patterns and death of suburbia because of high energy cost. The website's now free... check it out.