Research and discussion for citizens and decision makers

Kaid Benfield

Transpo costs hurt families

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The Chicago-based Center for Neighborhood Technology maintains a massive, geocoded database of location-specific information on average housing costs, driving rates, transportation costs, and transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions.  The online, interactive Housing + Transportation Affordability Index, as it is called, is both highly useful in allowing comparisons of typical household costs in different locations and highly revealing as it illuminates the benefits of close-in, walkable neighborhoods in bringing those costs down.  And, as of today, the Index has become even more sophisticated and robust.

When CNT expanded the extensively mapped database in 2010 from 55 to 337 metro areas across the country, I called the accompanying report the “most important analysis of land use you’ll see all year.”  It demonstrated that houses in sprawling subdivisions can effectively be more expensive than they seem, because for the average household they require so much driving to accomplish daily tasks that high transportation costs can wipe out the perceived savings from what may seem to be a bargain home purchase price. 

How the Index works

CNT has now expanded the Index to some 900 metropolitan and “micropolitan” areas covering 89 percent of the American population. (Under the US Census, metropolitan areas have populations exceeding 50,000 people; micropolitan areas have populations between 10,000 and 50,000.)  The aggregate data show that 72 percent of communities covered in the system have combined housing and transportation costs that under standard formulas would be considered unaffordable for typical families, when median regional household income is compared to average housing and transportation costs.  Locations become more affordable, however, in neighborhoods with close access to amenities, jobs, and transit.

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Full Story: Nationwide data show how transportation costs hurt families, better planning can help
Source: NRDC Switchboard, February 28, 2012

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