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Cheap Gas, Sprawl, and No Streetcars in the United State...

Cheap Gas, Sprawl, and No Streetcars in the United States: Do These Dots Connect?

In Europe, cities are dense and compact, public transportation is plentiful and convenient, and gasoline prices are high. In the United States, cities sprawl, public transit is, on average, difficult to come by, and gas is cheap. Digression: Whoa! Since when is $4 per gallon cheap, you say? Sure, it’s the price of gold compared

In Europe, cities are dense and compact, public transportation is plentiful and convenient, and gasoline prices are high. In the United States, cities sprawl, public transit is, on average, difficult to come by, and gas is cheap.

Digression: Whoa! Since when is $4 per gallon cheap, you say? Sure, it’s the price of gold compared to Venezuela’s 12 cents or Libya’s 52 cents per gallon. And admittedly it is almost 15% higher than last year. But U.S. gas is still about half the price of gas in other industrialized countries.

So, getting back to urban form, transit, and gas. Is there a relationship? And if there is, what is it?

Does expensive gas lead to transit-oriented, compact urbanism?

Perhaps it is a case of more than one chicken and more than one egg. In the first two decades of the 20th century, the United States had extensive train and urban street-car networks. The difference arose in the inter-war years, when the United States government chose not to tax gasoline, and simultaneously began subsidizing road building and housing. At the same point in history, European governments chose high gasoline taxes and subsidies for public transportation.

So, if that is where we are coming from, the question now is: where do you think we are going??

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