Eat, or drive?

The other week I wrote: Personally, I’d rather eat than drive any day.

Evidently not everybody agrees: Pensioner Josephine Simsa says she would rather not eat than give up her car and her treasured independence.

She doesn’t mean it literally of course, but the article goes on to describe how she specifically shops for cheap food so she can keep her car running.

I find that interesting, particularly for someone who lives in Albert Park, which has some of the best public transport in Melbourne. But only, of course, if all your trips are into the CBD, St Kilda, or other places easily reached on the tram. It’s not so good if you have relatives in Dingley and friends in Warrandyte.

On a related note, many are now talking about the value of “walkability” of a suburb, which has come into prominence with resources like WalkScore. My suburb, Bentleigh, gets a score of 58 62 out of 100 — though at present it doesn’t find a lot of the nearby shops and facilities because it has limited data for cities outside North America.

Ultimately it’s likely that unless you live in a high density area, you’ll have to resort to methods other than walking to get to the things you need, and where you need to be. That’s Walkscore’s downfall — it doesn’t measure proximity to usable public transport.

Also related, an interesting discussion on the Freakonomics blog, looking at the future of suburbia. This quote caught my eye, which probably applies just as much to Australian cities as US ones:

High oil prices and the imperative to address global climate change will help spur denser residential development along transit corridors outside of cities. We’d see more of it today, if supply kept up with demand. Chris Leinberger estimates that walkable suburban communities served by transit today command anywhere from a 40 percent to 200 percent price premium over conventional drivable suburban development.

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10 Replies to “Eat, or drive?”

  1. Daniel, I don’t suppose that idea (of peak oil/climate, from your final paragraph) was specifically driving the thinking behind Melbourne 2030 – but it amounts to the same thing – higher density living in our city(s).

    It’s inevitable that density has to increase with population, unless you want urban sprawl on the scale of something like LA. But then again you have the density of some cities like Hong Kong, which are at the opposite end of the spectrum.

    Of course increasing density is unpopular, esp when it’s vertical and hence a lot of opposition to M2030. We like to keep things the way they are and that’s understandable.

    A flora/fauna specialist at a recent forum said that growth within a city was less damaging to the environment that urban sprawl. He argued that losing trees here and there in the name of ‘townhousing’ of urban blocks was better that chopping into reletively intact eco-systems on the rural edges. Perhaps Cragieburn, Deer Park, Pakenham, etc are examples of what he was talking about?

  2. That woman could have invested her money in a bicycle. Not only is it economical in 2008 it is great exercise.

  3. Those newer estates with not one shop within a 100 mile radius would fail badly on the walkability score.
    Housing with no services, shops, transport…same old, same old.

  4. Tony: yeah, I’d tend to agree with that. A while back I found this in the Wikipedia entry for New York City: New York City’s dense population and low automobile dependence help make New York among the most energy efficient in the United States. The city’s greenhouse gas emission levels are relatively low when measured per capita, at 7.1 metric tons per person, below the national average, 24.5.

    Apart from the objections to tall buildings, M2030 also failed to provide decent PT, so all those people could live in flats without owning cars. It’s all very well to have people living near railway stations, but most have to make trips not served by trains.

    PlatiNumEuro: true, though a bike doesn’t help if she’s needing to travel long distances, especially if living in a suburb with no trains. (Only folding bikes can be carried on trams and buses). Besides, especially for older people, there are safety concerns about riding in traffic.

  5. I suppose, being brought up in a family where only my dad drives, I have learnt the luxuries of public transport…not. It is a great thing to know how to use because independence can then be taken advantage of. The aged individuals in our society, I understand would rather drive, but for me-I walk to my local Woolworths and save money. I’m not very knowledgable about all of this comotion, but for me personally, I love to walk places and am grateful for public transport services being so reliable and local for me.

  6. New York City might have the above mentioned benifits but it is also one of the most expensive places in the US to live! It is also not conducive to a low pressure lifestyle. I like visiting NYC but I would not like to live there myself.

  7. I would think that most places in the US would not be conducive to my lifestyle. With 39.6% of Americans below the poverty line, and inflation more rampant than gun crime and religious fundamentalism, America is hardly attractive as a place to live.

  8. Coburg – 66

    Not bad, I thought it might be higher but like you said the databases are fairly self contained within North America and it doesnt take into account the two tram lines, 3 bus routes and the train line within 5 minutes walk of my house.

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