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Old 11-27-2011, 09:32 AM   #21
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Im about in the same type of location as you and most people make an 80-100 mile daily round trip drive for a decent job. Just my personal experiences, but even if gas doubled it wont change these small bedroom towns of 5k to 30 k, people would just cram into a smaller car or share rides. Many people like their small piece of grass to mow, and living away from the negatives that cities have.
Assuming supply always meets practical demand and we don't face rationing (again) and an unthinkably high cost/gallon. I wouldn't bet on it in our lifetimes, but it's not out of the question in the next 30-40 years so I plan to hedge my bet (no real downside to me so why not). Another technology will have to augment if not replace gasoline based internal combustion engines one day - higher MPG, nat gas, electric, public transportation, telecommuting, other. Technology has come along as needed historically, hopefully it will happen again before the economics are overly problematic...
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Old 11-27-2011, 09:47 AM   #22
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I guess my view is colored by the horrible traffic jams during our rush hours, which have pretty much expanded to nearly all day on some routes.

Even if driving were free, might there not come a time when a large number of people might just say, "Enough". They could then walk their kids to an urban park insted of frantically calling home to see if spouse could do the day care pickup, or nanny could stay late, or whatever arrangements they might have to cobble together? If you don't have kids, would you prefer a tennis game or a walk with your sweetie, or being stuck on I5?

For me, cutting my own grass and struggling with some finicky lawn mower would be pretty far down on the list of fun ways to spend the evening.

Ha
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Old 11-27-2011, 09:55 AM   #23
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But it's funny. A lot of the folks who say this wind up back here by the time they are 30 or 35... about when they have children about to enter the school system. I don't have any kids myself, but I often see how it changes the priorities of some of the "boomerangs" who left town as college students and 20-somethings but came back when they had kids. Suddenly, "exciting" and "cosmopolitan" no longer matter so much -- a safe, "wholesome" environment for their kids in decent schools suddenly becomes the most important thing. Our church, for example, has virtually no regular attendees between the ages of about 14 and 35 (they usually vanish after confirmation and don't come back until after they are grown and have kids of their own). But under 14 and 35+ are well-represented.
I was told something similar when our kids were newborn and it proved true. The quality of schools and education suddenly becomes the only thing that really matters, and long commutes and other personal sacrifice no longer matter so much. I see the same attitude with my grandchildren.

It isn't clear that one suburb has better education over another, it also isn't easy to identify a school system that is clearly "superior", but it sure is easy to find the school systems that are failing, and they are mostly large and big city.
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Old 11-27-2011, 09:59 AM   #24
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Assuming supply always meets practical demand and we don't face rationing (again) and an unthinkably high cost/gallon. I wouldn't bet on it in our lifetimes, but it's not out of the question in the next 30-40 years so I plan to hedge my bet (no real downside to me so why not). Another technology will have to augment if not replace gasoline based internal combustion engines one day - higher MPG, nat gas, electric, public transportation, telecommuting, other. Technology has come along as needed historically, hopefully it will happen again before the economics are overly problematic...
It appears that natural gas powered cars could solve the problem if gas prices sky rocket. It currently runs a little over a dollar a gallon now. You can tap into your home heated natural gas system and fill up overnight. Less horsepower, less trunkspace, and fueling issues are more of a pain, but people would adapt if the cost savings were worth the time expended on it.
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Old 11-27-2011, 10:21 AM   #25
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I guess my view is clolored by the horrible traffic jams during our rush hours, which have pretty much expanded to nearly all day on some routes.

Even if driving were free, might there not come a time when a large number of people might just say, "Enough". They could then walk their kids to an urban park insted of frantically calling home to see if spouse could do the day care pickup, or nanny could stay late, or whatever arrangements they might have to cobble together? If you don't have kids, would you prefer a tennis game or a walk with your sweetie, or being stuck on I5?

For me, cutting my own grass and struggling with some finicky lawn mower would be pretty far down on the list of fun ways to spend the evening.

Ha
Ha, I think perspective on this is definitly determined by the way one has lived their life. Also the type of "metro" city one lives in or around determines it too. "Traffic jams" in and out of St. Louis are a walk in the park compared to Chicago or LA. Many people live in small towns precieve them as safer. I have this bias, too. Even though I know better, every time I go to the " city" I am watching out for people who might want to mug or shoot me. While in my small town, I will walk and exercize after dark and not think think a thing about it. A lot of blue collar workers in my area get their " conceal and carry" just because they work in the city and have their " heat" ready in case its needed. None of them that I know ,however, have ever needed it. Its just the way many small town people perceive the city. Needless to say, many small towns are very homogenous, which creates uneasiness and paranoia when facing different cultures. Not saying its right, its just what they are used too. I have had to overcome my paranoia, too. As far as the grass mowing goes, it isnt the fun of it, as the importance of a physical barrier and " space". I hate mowing, but I like my space. Besides, I can still yell over and talk to my 82 year old neighbor from my deck when he is outside getting ready to mow his grass because it is quiet in our cul de sac.
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Old 11-27-2011, 10:45 AM   #26
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I was told something similar when our kids were newborn and it proved true. The quality of schools and education suddenly becomes the only thing that really matters, and long commutes and other personal sacrifice no longer matter so much. I see the same attitude with my grandchildren.

It isn't clear that one suburb has better education over another, it also isn't easy to identify a school system that is clearly "superior", but it sure is easy to find the school systems that are failing, and they are mostly large and big city.
Ding, dng, ding, we have a winner!

I feel fortunate I was able to find an amenable inner suburb with top notch schools, good acces to the rail system and relatively modest prices. But I would be a road warrior on a daily basis if that is what it took.
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Old 11-27-2011, 11:14 AM   #27
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Im about in the same type of location as you and most people make an 80-100 mile daily round trip drive for a decent job. Just my personal experiences, but even if gas doubled it wont change these small bedroom towns of 5k to 30 k, people would just cram into a smaller car or share rides. Many people like their small piece of grass to mow, and living away from the negatives that cities have.
That pits one car-one person v. exurb living. It's a toss up as to which will win but I wouldn't bet on the exurb. It'll have too much going against it when gas starts to rise.
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Old 11-27-2011, 11:14 AM   #28
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It is all relative. Sure some kids head for the burbs when school looms, others don't (me, my son) lots of my neighbors. Some people like the open space of far suburbs enough that they will tolerate a major commute, others won't. Some can't afford to choose. I think the phenomenon Ha mentioned simply reflects a shift in preferences -- more people, young and old are finding inner cities and core suburbs the more attractive alternative than did in the past. It isn't like the far suburbs will evaporate as a result. But housing prices may rise slower than they would have without the shift and prices in close will benefit from the shift.
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Old 11-29-2011, 07:03 AM   #29
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I watched this happen in a particular newly developed suburban area about 40 miles outside Seatttle that is within walking distance of the rural area where I grew up. I was tracking prices housing prices there with an eye to possibly buying a place at some point in case we moved back, as the rural property near my mom and sister was not likely to be in our price range (made up mostly of expensive waterfront houses or large houses on substantial acreage). I watched the prices of the lower end townhouses/condos go from high 100s/low 200s in 2003 (when we sold our NY coop and had some cash to consider investing) up to 300-400k at the peak in 2006-07 ish (when I resigned from my job and was in transition -- so glad I didn't decide to move back then!). The current cheapest listing in the development is a 3 bdr townhouse listed as a short sale for 115k. It has been listed on Redfin for almost 900 days. The original listing in 2009 was for 255k. Listing describes it as having a "major water leak and major fixer" -- guess that happens when you leave a place vacant for nearly 3 years. May have been construction issues as well -- at least one of the builders in this development had major construction quality issues that were the subject of a class action suit at one point. Anyway, in this fairly remote suburb it is clear that prices have tanked, and are not likely to recover any time soon.

Situation in downtown Issaquah, not too far away, is very different. Prices in the downtown core, which is very walkable and has good public transit, have stayed fairly strong (though down a bit from the crazy peaks they hit in 06-07. That was another area I have had an eye on. I have this kind of crazy semi-ER dream of moving back there (still close to family) and getting some kind of job at the King County Library System headquarters that I could walk to. My first real job was as a KCLS page, and I wouldn't mind finishing up my working life with a semi-ER job as a library assistant or something. The Issaquah library is beautiful.
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Old 11-29-2011, 09:30 AM   #30
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More and more jobs will move to teleworking from home. Transportation will become more expensive. Cars, trains, buses, parking, all of it. Jobs will move to people before core cities go through massive expansion. Every company looking to grow, look at where the workforce is located and where the skills they need have an ability to grow. Small college towns that teach the new workforce skills will have the greatest potential for growth. People want space and will make the necessary compromises to get it.
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Old 11-29-2011, 10:18 AM   #31
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I am surprised that there are not more places like Houston where there are many 'work zones'....

Sure, there is a big downtown area where a lot of people work.. but, we have a big medical center with lots of employment, there is also the Galleria area, the Energy Corridor, the refining area (Pasadena), Sugarland, the Woodlands, etc. etc....

Most people who work downtown can live almost anywhere and get there on a bus using bus lanes most of the way.... but if you work somewhere else you usually live closer to your work...

IMO I see the big city with big buildings declining as the cost to business is a lot more than moving out to the burbs themselves...
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Old 11-29-2011, 10:53 AM   #32
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People want space and will make the necessary compromises to get it.
You're probably right based on what one sees on HGTV shows. I know that I'd rather have something as compact as possible to hold down property taxes, utility costs and initial home cost - I'm hooked on LBYM.
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Old 11-29-2011, 10:53 AM   #33
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A recent DOD study concluded we are at or near peak oil. We won't run out anytime soon but prices will rise. The outer suburbs would be toast even at 6$ gas let alone European prices of 8-10$. It would also have a profound effect on agriculture with much more expensive inputs and transportation costs. Rural Ag towns and city cores might fair better.
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Old 11-29-2011, 10:55 AM   #34
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I am surprised that there are not more places like Houston where there are many 'work zones'....

Sure, there is a big downtown area where a lot of people work.. but, we have a big medical center with lots of employment, there is also the Galleria area, the Energy Corridor, the refining area (Pasadena), Sugarland, the Woodlands, etc. etc....

Most people who work downtown can live almost anywhere and get there on a bus using bus lanes most of the way.... but if you work somewhere else you usually live closer to your work...

IMO I see the big city with big buildings declining as the cost to business is a lot more than moving out to the burbs themselves...
That's exactly how Joel Kotkin thinks this will play out in the decades ahead. Mega-regions with lots of self contained 'neighborhoods/town centers/amenities' all within close proximity. Seems more likely than everyone moving back into downtown areas of major cities (too expensive already). We will see...
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Old 11-29-2011, 11:38 AM   #35
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I guess I am one of those 20- or 30-somethings who moved into a lower cost close in neighborhood in spite of its blemishes. We settled down and had kids and stayed put. our kids go to the school in our neighborhood (under 10 minutes walking distance). The school has its challenges, because of a huge proportion of limited English proficiency students and low income students. It is one of the worst performing schools on standardized tests, however tons of money have recently started flowing into the school to revitalize it, and I think we are on the leading edge of that revitalization right now. We have the option in our school district to send our kid to any number of schools near us or out in the fancy rich suburb 20 minutes away, so bad schools is not of first order importance to us. It is of second order importance, because we fear others will look at the neighborhood school as very bad and it will accordingly pull down property values and let the riff raff buy in the neighborhood. ( )

Since we have access to good schools for our kids, we are happy living here. My job moved from a suburb location to a downtown location, and that means my commute dropped from 10-15 minutes to 6-10 minutes. And I can take a city bus (paid for by employer) from the end of my street to work and it is about the exact same time as driving downtown after walking from my parking spot downtown.

Access to freeway in under a mile, four regional shopping centers within 5-15 minutes and tons of other strip malls, big boxes, regular or ethnic groceries and restaurants, etc a short walk or short drive away. Plenty of parks and greenways in the neighborhood within walking distance or a short drive. And we live on a small lake which brings tons of wildlife right to our doorstep (sometimes figuratively, sometimes literally as the possum hanging out on the deck last night proves!).

The neighborhood itself is cool because of the mix of people. Retired people who bought into the neighborhood 50 years ago when it was being developed (though they are dying out), working class, immigrants, white collar, early retirees, multimillionaires, etc. The whole gamut.

And can't beat the affordability. Fixer uppers for around $100k, nicely maintained homes for $130-160k. Closer in neighborhoods (a couple miles closer) are 200-400% more expensive and have older housing stock (with the problems that come with it). And further out suburban neighborhoods are typically more expensive, although the houses are much nicer and newer. Just hope you like driving 30 minutes to everything!

Needless to say I am very happy with where I live, warts and all. Some 20- and 30-something friends think like me, yet others still have that suburban mcmansion dream in their minds.

Edit to add: About the perceived or real downsides of living in a gentrifying or inner city area - Crime. Looking at crime stats for where I live, the homicide rate is around 3 per 100,000 population each year. Maybe living in a rougher area doubles that risk to 6 per 100,000. However the great majority of murders are committed by people known to the victim, so living in a rough area may not be the causative factor increasing the homicide rate (ie rough people living in palaces would still kill each other frequently).

In contrast, the motor vehicle fatality rate is around 8 per 100,000 people if you drive 7000 miles a year, but 24 deaths per 100,000 people if you drive 21,000 miles a year. Driving more increases your fatality rate, driving less decreases your fatality rate. Would I trade my short commute for a longer commute from the "safer" suburbs (thereby increasing the combined fatality risk from 14 deaths per 100,000 in the inner city neighborhood to 27 per 100,000 in the fringe suburb). Is living in the fringe suburbs really twice as deadly as living in a gentrifying area? Probably.
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Old 11-29-2011, 11:48 AM   #36
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...and let the riff raff buy in the neighborhood. ( )

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I guess I am one of those 20- or 30-somethings who moved into a lower cost close in neighborhood in spite of its blemishes.
Too late...

DFW in general is a sprawling nightmare car-centric area, though there are pockets where one could conceivably walk/bike for errands, at least Oct-May... We do have a growing light-rail system, and toll roads, and "urban centers" spread to and fro. My neighborhood is in a relatively affluent 'burb, and I'm close to the light rail system, but walking would get you to a drugstore, or a quicky mart, within 10-20 minutes, but not much else...

Housing crash notwithstanding, I'm hoping that being relatively close in, near light rail, and in an affluent suburb with notable schools, will at least keep the value of my house steady, if not appreciating, if/when gas prices head north again.
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Old 11-29-2011, 12:41 PM   #37
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In contrast, the motor vehicle fatality rate is around 8 per 100,000 people if you drive 7000 miles a year, but 24 deaths per 100,000 people if you drive 21,000 miles a year. Driving more increases your fatality rate, driving less decreases your fatality rate.
True on average, but not all driving or all roads are created equally. Freeways, particularly those built to Interstate standards, are considerably safer than most surface streets with signals, cross-traffic and pedestrians despite their higher speeds. And most longer drives do occur on the highways where the accident (and fatality) rates are lower. Not many 20-30 mile drives are mostly on city streets, and not many 1-2 mile drives are on the Interstate.
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Old 11-29-2011, 01:14 PM   #38
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True on average, but not all driving or all roads are created equally. Freeways, particularly those built to Interstate standards, are considerably safer than most surface streets with signals, cross-traffic and pedestrians despite their higher speeds. And most longer drives do occur on the highways where the accident (and fatality) rates are lower. Not many 20-30 mile drives are mostly on city streets, and not many 1-2 mile drives are on the Interstate.
True, interstates have crash rates and fatality rates around half of non-limited access surface streets in general. However crash rates go up during rush hour, when most of us commute to work. And the most deadly roads (measured in fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled) are suburban and rural secondary roads. Guess which roads you have to take to get from the interstate to your fringe suburb neighborhoods?

We could get into a very detailed analysis of exact breakdown of vehicle miles traveled by city vs fringe suburb residents at different times of day and come up with some comparison of fatality rates. But I think my point holds that the risk of dying in a car crash due to having to drive a long way outweighs the risk of death due to crime that comes from living in a gentrifying neighborhood. I want to maximize my safety to the extent possible, and the stats, to me at least, says minimizing driving will keep you alive better than worrying about crime (assuming you don't live in the middle of a gang warfare shooting range drive by zone).
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Old 11-29-2011, 02:19 PM   #39
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I think the flight to suburbs may slow down but I don't see it reversing based on personal experience and observed behaviour.
I've lived in both Europe and Japan, which are held up as the poster childs of urban living. My native co-workers would have lived in an American style suburb if they had the opportunity. However, in both areas, government led initiatives severely limited the amount of housing that was available in ring suburbs.
When it was possible to move to a suburb, the typical Japanese or English worker was willing to commute 1 hour each way by car from a suburban home. This was when transportation was at least double its current cost in the U.S., public transportation was much better than here, and average salaries were much lower.

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Old 11-29-2011, 02:32 PM   #40
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As I recall from the book "$20 Per Gallon," which someone on this forum recommended, the real death of the burbs will be $10/gallon. When monthly gas for 2 vehicles starts to equal the mortgage, priorities will be re-aligned.

"Edge cities" will start to emerge, certainly, but some exurbs will just...die. It'll make great exploring for some kids.
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