Monday, June 30, 2008

The Effects of High Priced Gas on the Suburbs

Yesterday's Boston Sunday Globe's "Starts and Stops" column was a follow-up to last Sunday's article about how some people are moving from the outer suburbs closer to their job. Now that we're seeing record gas prices, urban planners are trying to forecast how this could ultimately effect the suburbs.

The national average of miles driven in a year equaled 14,862 in 2006. In 1970 that figure was 9,949. Massachusetts drivers logged 11,702. The Commonwealth is below the national average for a few reasons, including the size of our state and the fact that we actually have an extensive transportation network.

While people may be driving fewer miles today, the 70s gas crisis did not have a long term effect on the number of total miles driven. So nobody knows if this current reduction in the amount of miles driven will be a temporary or a permanent one.

Ultimately, the only big reduction may come with commuters who have to drive 50 miles or more to get to and from work.

In other news, an interesting article about share-van rides ran in the Globe's North/New Hampshire edition last week. Back in the early 1990s, long before the Worcester commuter rail line existed, I rode a Caravan vanpool to and from Boston. It was a cheap, efficient way to commute. We could park for free at the park and ride lot at the Millbury Mass Pike exit (this was so long ago that the 146 exit didn't exist on the pike). Before the commuter rail, you used to see a lot of vans riding on the Westbound Pike. They were white vans. With the cost of gas, it will be interesting to see if more vans pop up - especially in areas where there may be fewer transportation options.

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