Paul Krugman has an article up today on an issue that I’ve been thinking a lot about lately, hi gas prices and what it means for the American city. Krugman uses the example of Berlin to illustrate how US cities will need to change to cope with high prices for gas and how we get around in the places where we live. I find it disturbing that we are not having this conversation more often.
I grew up in Texas, in a big city that starts with a D. Anyone who has ever been there knows that getting around in Big D is a nightmare. There are no bike lanes. Rapid transit has made its way into certain parts of the city but a growing portion of the population lives halfway to Oklahoma and has 30-60 minute commutes each way to get to work. Many of these people lug around in their SUVs and I frankly don’t understand how they are able to cope with $3.50 a gallon gas (many who I know can’t, actually).
When Mrs. Juniorprof and I moved up to Montreal we learned a lesson about getting around that changed our lives forever. First off, 3.5 years ago, gas was already around $4.50 a gallon in and around Montreal. Second, parking was a complete disaster (we lived near downtown). One of the first things we did was to forget about using the car. We learned to love the bus and metro and found, rather quickly, that it was liberating to not have to drive. Soon after this we got bikes and I started riding to and from work (at least during the 6 months when there wasn’t snow everywhere). We still needed a car for some things so when we decided that our old clunker wasn’t going to work for us anymore (actually, the clunker decided this for us) we went out and bought a fuel efficient car (a Honda Fit). In a nutshell, we adapted to the European-type transportation life that Krugman describes. The problem was that we knew we were going to return to the US eventually — how, exactly, were we going to maintain this lifestyle? Continue reading