Worst U.S. commutes

New trends highlight shift in migration patterns, purchase decisions

By Inman News Feed
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted May. 6, 2011

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Expensive gas changes the calculus that people use in regard to costs, but it is not as dramatic as the press tries to make it out to be, said Alan Pisarski, a transportation consultant and author of a series of books called Commuting in America.

"I don't mean to disparage high fuel expenses," he said. "But the fundamental job shifts over the past 35 years have been to the suburbs. Either an employee's company moves out to the suburbs, so the employee is closer to the job, or that same person goes to work for a different company and it is located in the suburbs."

This in turn has created a couple of newer S-curve trends. First, if a person's job moves to the suburbs, the employee may then move from the suburbs farther out to the exurbs. Or, the jobs move so far away from the downtown that people in rural areas start commuting to the 'burbs.

"West Virginians had the biggest increase in travel-to-work times from 1990 to 2000," Pisarski said. "It wasn't because of horrible congestion in West Virginia, but because those people were commuting to jobs on the outskirts of Washington, D.C., or Pittsburgh."

While high gasoline costs may not be a game changer, Pisarski does expect commuters will try to accommodate for that higher family expense. "In (the) short term they will look for car pools or van pools, test mass transit, and some on the geographic margins might move closer and pay more for housing," he said.

In the longer term, it's not that people will buy a new home closer in, but will instead shift toward more fuel-efficient vehicles. Oddly, today the cost comparison between a foreclosed house and a new hybrid automobile is not all that much.

Steve Bergsman is a freelance writer in Arizona and author of several books. His latest book, "After the Fall: Opportunities and Strategies for Real Estate Investing in the Coming Decade," has been ranked as a top-selling real estate investment book for the Amazon Kindle e-reader.

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