Gas Costs and Location, Location, Location
New Online Gas Maps Paint Money-Saving Picture for Urban Dwellers
Chicago – Record-high gasoline prices are inspiring more Americans to celebrate Independence Day close to home. But those who live where they can walk, bike or take public transit to their local fireworks displays and other amenities are benefiting from another sort of independence – from gasoline.
New research from the Center for Neighborhood Technology shows that people who live close to transit, jobs, schools and retail – typically in cities and inner ring suburbs – spend up to $2,100 less annually on gasoline than residents of outer ring suburbs, where homes and amenities are generally more spread out and require more driving.
The research, which compares average household gasoline expenses based on the average number of vehicle miles traveled per household, examines 52 U.S. metropolitan areas across the country – encompassing 60 million households. It also looks at percentage of household income spent on transportation, number of vehicles per household, transit ridership and other variables on a neighborhood-by-neighborhood basis.
The gas-cost findings are a newly released addition to the Housing + Transportation Affordability Index, an interactive mapping web tool at http://htaindex.cnt.org.
“With gasoline prices well over $4 per gallon in many parts of the country and continuing to climb, we’re really seeing the big payoff of living in traditional urban neighborhoods, where you need to drive less to get to school and work, shopping and entertainment, said Scott Bernstein, president of the Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT). “In some of the more dispersed areas, the average number of vehicle miles traveled per household exceeds more than 20,000 annually. At today’s gas prices, and an average gas mileage of 20.3 miles per gallon, that can mean an annual household expenditure of almost $4,000 on gas alone.
The maps provide data for the years 2000 and 2008, enabling comparisons for the eight-year period between annual household gasoline expenses, monthly household transportation expenses (including vehicle purchase price, insurance and maintenance) and monthly household transportation expenditures as a percent of income. Across the 52 metro areas studied, residents spent a combined $107.4 billion more on gasoline in 2008 than in 2000, an average increase regionally of 155%.
“When gas prices were cheaper, it mattered less where you chose to live,” said Bernstein. “But now, living someplace that requires driving everywhere can have a dramatic impact on your cost of living.”
He recommends consumers take location, and associated transportation costs, into account when deciding where to move and encourages the use of mass transit where available, carpooling and car-sharing services to cut gasoline and transportation expenditures. Municipalities can help residents by making their communities more location efficient. Locating shopping and schools close to where people live and requiring new developments to include these amenities and transportation choices will all help.
The Housing + Transportation Affordability Index incorporates several data sets from the same year to accurately assess how the different variables of housing costs, travel distances, auto ownership and other characteristics interact to produce a combined cost for housing affordability. The most complete and accurate data for all the variables incorporated into the index was generated by the 2000 U.S. census, and the resulting index uses that data to accurately and reliably reflect the relationship between location and affordability.
With the recent rapid and unexpected rise in gasoline prices, there is considerable interest in knowing what percentage of annual transportation costs are related to gas, and how much households are currently paying for gas according to their location. Since 2000, gasoline costs have risen from approximately $1.50 to $4.00 per gallon. (For exact price used in the online maps, see the prices in the upper right corner of each map.)
The gas maps break out the gas cost portion of the Index and update them to show recent 2008 gas prices. The calculations do not take into account that driving patterns may have shifted slightly due to the recent price increases, which will require some time to fully and reliably calculate.