A Bridge Below Par

November 30th, 2011

The threat of King Kong and Godzilla joining forces to thrash American cities may be little to none. However, America’s infrastructure is under attack by a more timid, yet persistent foe: time.

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It is estimated that one in every nine bridges in the U.S. are classified as “structurally deficient.” Although this classification doesn’t mean these bridges are going to collapse come the next gentle breeze, they are in significant need of maintenance, rehabilitation or replacement.  The Transportation Reauthorization Act, a bill that can provide additional funds to help solve this precarious problem, is slowly trickling through the notoriously deadlocked 112th Congress. It seems appropriate to quote the famous Schoolhouse Rock song, “I’m just a bill, yes I’m only a bill, and I’m sitting here on Capitol Hill.” Unfortunately, this bill has been sitting on the legislature’s steps for more than two years waiting for its acceptance.

As would be expected, structurally deficient metropolitan bridges in densely populated areas carry the most traffic, which in turn can lead to more severe consequences. According to a recent report released by Transportation for America, 75 percent of all passengers that cross deficient bridges are located in metropolitan areas. Reading about places with highly deteriorated bridges made us wonder if these places had high transportation costs as well. Here’s what we found:

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Top of the list in number of deficient bridges is the metropolitan area of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Unfortunately, this “City of Bridges” isn’t living up to its namesake, with more than 30 percent of the bridges in the region classified as “structurally deficient.”

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Even with the Transportation Reauthorization Act’s slow crawl toward approval, drivers may be seeing more roads and bridges under repair as state agencies struggle to keep crucial infrastructure safe and operational. Let’s see how much a typical family that traverses these bridges frequently can expect to spend on transportation costs per month.

Residents in Mt. Oliver, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Pittsburgh, can expect to pay around $668/month on transportation. Why pay more money to travel by driving if you’re going to be delayed by road repairs? To reduce transportation costs, travelers can utilize the PAT mass transit system. With over 800 buses and five miles of light rail, it covers a rather extensive area of the region. Pittsburgh also has a strong biking community, with numerous bike paths that stem from the Three Rivers Heritage Trail along the riverside.

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Tulsa, Oklahoma, is another city that has recently been highlighted in the recent report for the poor condition of their bridges.  Tulsa ranked highest among the metropolitan areas with a population of 500,000 to 1 million, with 27.5 percent of its bridges rated deficient.  In the metro area, an estimated 3,809,427 cars travel across structurally deficient bridges every day. Bridges in the entire state of Oklahoma have consistently been known for their poor conditions in the past. On average, Tulsa replaces about two bridges a year using state and federal funding that fluctuates around $450,000. The Transportation Reauthorization Act could provide the resources for more robust repair work.

Let’s take a look at what residents in Parkview, a suburb of Tulsa, can expect to pay in transportation costs per month.

Even with some of the cheapest gas prices in the nation, transportation costs are comparatively high in this part of the city. Less concentrated public transportation and relatively long travel distances make these costs higher. To reduce some of the costs associated with travel, residents in this area can utilize two Tulsa Transit System bus lines that go directly into the city. Although walking may be out of the question for some longer trips, a warm climate allows bikers to pedal on for much of the year.

Be on the lookout for road and bridge repairs in your upcoming travels. They may be slowing your smooth cruise, but they’re a necessary component to keeping you safe on the road. During periods of road repairs, you can consider trying new methods of getting around to lower your transportation costs. Are you in an area with a high number of structurally deficient bridges? How do you plan to manage upcoming repairs and delays?


Moses v. Jacobs: Who Lived the Abogo Lifestyle?

November 3rd, 2011

The quintessential struggle over what urban planning and planners should do and be is encapsulated by the differing viewpoints of Robert Moses and Jane Jacobs. The two have come to represent opposing threads in the big urban planning issues of the day, many of which still resonate right now:

  • Should cities be planned incrementally and organically or transformed in one enormous, expensive, methodical fell swoop?
  • Should the design and purpose of a place be left to outside experts or the community residents who may have never seen a traffic demand model or market study in their lives?
  • Should a transportation plan prioritize the needs of those trying to travel through a community or those who live there? Does it prioritize the driver, the transit rider, the cyclist, or the pedestrian?

Robert Moses is recognized for his top-down, large-scale, car-oriented planning as a state and city bureaucrat in New York from the 1920s to the1960s. He built numerous bridges, tunnels, and expressways around New York City. On the other end of the spectrum is Jane Jacobs, whose famous The Death and Life of Great American Cities is a direct critique of Moses’ theories. Jacobs argued that compact, walkable, mixed use neighborhoods are what gave cities life and made them successful economically and socially. Today we view many of her observations and recommendations as the sustainable urban ideal. Neither Moses nor Jacobs made any sort of argument about transportation costs when talking about how cities should work. Transportation costs were largely a non-issue because the price of gas and getting around were cheap and climate change wasn’t on anyone’s radar. Were Moses and Jacobs alive and living in the New York region today, how would the urban form affect their transportation costs?

During his years transforming New York, Moses lived in Babylon, New York, a small community on Long Island. Despite his car-oriented planning, Moses did not drive himself and was chauffeured in and out of the city. While Abogo doesn’t take a chauffer’s salary into account, we can take a look at what transportation would cost a typical household living in Babylon today.
Given its auto-oriented form, transportation costs in Babylon are vulnerable to fluctuations in gas prices. Fortunately, there are options for commuters, such as the Babylon Village Long Island Railroad stop on the MTA-LIRR Babylon Line. According to the TOD database, a resourceful tool that provides economic and demographic information for every existing and proposed fixed guideway transit station in the U.S., there are 1,481 households living within one-half mile of the station. There are bus routes available for shorter trips as well.

Luckily, residents of the city have a dedicated town supervisor who is a proponent of sustainable growth in Babylon. In recent years, Supervisor Steve Bellone has pushed environmentally sustainable initiatives, including buying 10 percent of the city’s energy from wind and solar power, replacing all city cars with hybrids, requiring LEED certification for buildings more than 4,000 square feet in size, and increasing spending on municipal infrastructure to one of the highest levels of any other city on Long Island.

Bellone has also notably fought to lift the ban on its municipal PACE program, a financing program that allows homeowners to pay for energy efficiency or renewable energy retrofits in their property taxes over time rather than pay for the entire cost up front. The innovative program removed a key barrier for homeowners who may have wanted to save money and lower their carbon footprint but didn’t have the money to pay for it all at once. In 2010 Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae effectively put an end to the PACE program by refusing to underwrite mortgages on homes with PACE financing because they deemed them as too risky. The City of Babylon, under Bellone’s direction, sued Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in an attempt to revive the program, but to date the Fannie and Freddie position has not changed.

What about Jacobs? While battling the goliath Moses, she resided in a flat in West Village in New York City. What kind of transportation costs can we expect to find there?

Jane Jacobs walked the talk by living in a highly efficient location. Transportation costs in Manhattan are among the lowest in the country. The high population density in the area allows for better public transportation as well as greater opportunity to walk or bike to nearby destinations.

Residents of Manhattan, as well as others with similar population densities, have many different options when it comes to transportation. This helps lower the need for personal vehicles that cost much more due to gas and parking.

We all know you can talk the walk but can you walk the talk?  Both of these urban thinkers lived lifestyles that coincided with their beliefs about cities. How does your lifestyle match up with your own beliefs? What are the benefits and consequences that come hand in hand with the location you live in? Leave us comments relating to your experiences!


Trick or Transit!

October 27th, 2011

Happy Halloween! This week, we explore the spooky world of haunted houses. No, not the warehouses with a $20 entrance fee, a teenager in a Scream mask, and a pumpkin patch out front. We’re talking real haunted houses. You know, the ones with long deceased spirits that make scary wood-creaking sounds and possibly steal your socks from the dryer.

First stop, the Stanley Hotel:

Red rum. RED RUM! The Stanley Hotel is a secluded resort nestled amongst the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. Completed in 1909, the hotel has a rich paranormal history. Many guests claim they have heard strange piano playing in empty rooms, seen ghostly figures lurking in the halls, and fallen victim to unexplained thefts in the middle of the night. A hotel full of thieving ghosts is pretty spooky, and it also happens to be the inspiration for Stephen King’s The Shining.

What can the brave (or crazy) souls of the people that man this hotel through the winter expect for transportation costs? Let’s find out:

The Stanley Hotel is located in a rural area with killer transportation costs: $1,342 a month. Here’s Johnny!!! These costs are due to the area’s isolation—great for a murder spree, bad for your wallet. There are very few full-time residents in the area and a proportionally sparse set of businesses. It’s too desolate for transit and too impractical to break out the snowshoes to run errands, so people have to drive relatively long distances to get anywhere. Hence, the terrifying transportation fees.

Next up: The Amityville House

The Amityville House is an infamous landmark in recent American history. In 1974 Ronald DeFeo Jr. shot and killed six members of his family in the quiet suburban house in Amityville, Long Island. He was arrested shortly thereafter, and the house was put up for sale. Less than 13 months later, the Lutzes, a young family of five, bought the house. They immediately started noticing bizarre occurrences. There were swarms of flies, despite it being the dead of winter. Furniture moved without any human touch. Images of victims burned in soot in the fireplace. Family members had realistic nightmares depicting what order the DeFeo murders took place. Windows were damaged with no explanation, and the Lutz children would sing strange songs. After 28 days, the Lutzes called it quits. Maybe their half-possessed children had something to do with that.

Would a person have to be possessed to pay the typical transportation costs in Amityville? The Amityville House is in a more suburban location compared to the rural Stanley Hotel. This shaves nearly $3,600 per year from the torturous travel costs at the Stanley Hotel. Amityville families benefit from the Long Island Rail Road and the Long Island Bus service that connect the city to other places in Long Island and Manhattan. The city also scores high on Walkscore, with an 88 out of 100. The score reflects the numerous businesses located in close proximity to where people live (and sometimes gorily die), making transportation to these places easily walkable.

The LaLaurie House

The LaLaurie House is a landmark of notorious stature in New Orleans. In 1832 the house was set on fire. Neighbors frantically rushed to save the mansion and its contents from destruction. When the smoke cleared, people found many slaves inside who had been shackled and allegedly abused. A public outcry against owner Madame LaLaurie erupted. She fled New Orleans, and eventually the country, to escape throngs of angry protestors.

Some say the ghosts of those abused people continue to haunt the mansion today. It is alleged that one can hear the cries of a young slave girl and the sound of shackles slowly dragging across the floor. Locals claim ghostly figures can be seen in the windows, even after the building is officially closed. Scary, right? Are those ghosts getting their revenge with hauntingly high travel costs for the region?

Not really. Residents of New Orleans don’t seem to be shackled to their cars at all. The city exhibits a unique non-grid design that dates back to its founding in 1718. This layout, along with the original narrow streets, makes transportation by car difficult. As the city developed, businesses were placed in close proximity to residential areas, making it easy and practical to run errands on foot.

Are transportation costs killing you? Would you rather encounter goblins and ghouls alone in the dark than face a trip to the gas station? What are you dressing up as for Halloween? Are you trick-or-treating by car or on foot? Broomstick or bicycle?


What are Transportation Costs like in Rep. Mica’s Florida District?

October 6th, 2011

We here at Abogo are big fans of public transportation and think it deserves much more funding than it historically gets. Transit saves people money, helps the environment, reduces road rage, and gives people more time to read or check out their feeds on the way to work. What’s not to love?

Transportation funding for highway and  transit programs are determined every five to six years at the federal level through a transportation authorization bill. The latest reauthorization of this bill is way overdue. Rather than make decisions about a new reauthorization, Congress has fallen into a pattern of extending the status quo again and again. Although there have been a few bills in Congress in the past months, the 535 legislators at the Capitol again fell short of passing a comprehensive bill. Instead, another extension was pushed through both the chambers, extending funds through March 2012.

John Mica, the Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, is the person to get a transportation reauthorization rolling since the whole process begins in his committee. Mica, who represents the Seventh District in Florida, has been in Congress for 18 years, but is relatively new to this post. Since taking the wheel in January 2011, he has taken steps to get the transportation reauthorization proposal moving. He introduced a proposal in July that would provide $230 billion over six years—about a 30 percent cut from current levels. Many were underwhelmed with this proposal, claiming that American infrastructure is crumbling and desperately needs more, not less investment. But Mica pointed out that he was bound by the House budget marks proposed by Paul Ryan (R-WI).

We decided to take a look at the transportation costs in Rep. Mica’s district to see if his constituents could benefit from increased investment in transit.

First up: Daytona Beach. This city is well known across the United States for the Daytona 500, Biketoberfest, and being one of the few ocean beaches in the world where driving a car is permitted. With an estimated eight million visitors a year, the city is a booming tourist hotspot. Are the residents of the home-town of NASCAR car-dependent?

Let’s take a look at what a typical household could expect in transportation costs per month:

Given the current average gas price of $3.35/gallon in the region, an average household could expect to spend $836/month on transportation costs. This number is relatively low in the region. Daytona Beach has a well-rounded bus system, Votran, that serves both residents and tourists efficiently. Votran serves the entire county, so residents can take buses to cities as far as Orlando. This option of transit is very inexpensive—only $40 for a monthly pass.

Furthermore, the city has a terrific grid system and compact development that facilitates walking, bike riding, and other forms of personal transportation. Walkscore gives the city a score of 95/100 in downtown areas near the beach, which makes it “extremely walkable.” The typically mild ocean climate further promotes people-powered forms of transportation.

The second city visited in Mica’s district is Orange City, Florida. The city is well known for its proximity to Blue Spring State Park, known for spectacular natural wildlife, including a large population of manatees.

Being much different in both design and population density, Orange City is has very different transportation costs compared to Daytona Beach.

Despite having the same gas prices as Daytona Beach, Orange City households can expect to pay more than $300 extra per month. Why is this city, which is less than 30 miles away from Daytona Beach, experiencing such high transportation costs?

Residents of Orange City have little public transportation options. A Votran bus line runs through the city center, yet it is primarily for inter-city transportation. This option doesn’t help residents who are looking to run local errands. Moreover, Orange City is given a shockingly low score [er1] of 0/100 by Walkscore, placing it in the “car-dependent” category. Local businesses are few and far between, making walking impractical. Given these two factors, Orange City residents are very car dependent. Cars with better fuel efficiency and practicing more fuel-efficient driving are two ways in which residents can expect to best lower transportation costs.

What they could really use is more transportation options.Investments in alternatives to driving, especially more comprehensive bus lines, could certainly aid in lowering transportation costs of households in both cities. Rep. Mica’s constituents would benefit from the household costs savings that increased investment in transportation infrastructure would bring.

Do either of these cities have similar costs to the ones in your area? What are some of the reasons for this? Are you tracking the Transportation Reauthorization Bill? What do you think about it?


Wright of Way

September 28th, 2011

Frank Lloyd Wright is possibly the most prolific and revered architect in all of American history. He pioneered revolutionary techniques and styles that are replicated countless times across the American architectural landscape. But did Wright build homes in location-efficient places? Today we will explore two of his most well-known works: The Fallingwater House in Stewart Township, Pennsylvania, and the Robie House in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago.

Today these structures are museums rather than anyone’s home, but we were still curious to see what a typical family living there would pay for transportation. We at Abogo wouldn’t mind living in what must feel like a tree house. But what happens when we eventually have to step outside to work, shop, or meet up with friends? What kind of transportation costs would a typical family living in Fallingwater encounter?

The Fallingwater House, finished in 1937, is a revolutionary piece of organic architecture that integrates the structure of a man-made building with the brilliant resonance of its natural surroundings.

Architectural lore is that Wright designed the house in one sitting of less than three hours, which is remarkable given the international accreditation it has since received. Let’s take a look at the current monthly transportation costs a resident could expect.

Given an average gas price in the region of $3.50/gallon, transportation costs would average nearly $1,250/month. That’s more than a 20 percent increase in the cost in 2000.

This high monthly average is due to a number of factors, stemming from its location. The Fallingwater House was built as a rural weekend retreat, and to this day it remains in a very rural area. Stewart Township has a population density of only about 15 people per square mile and does not have public transit for the region. Walking and biking are certainly pleasant given the spectacular scenery; however, the nearest grocery store is over six miles away. Residents of Fallingwater and their neighbors may want to invest in fuel-efficient cars to keep transportation costs as low as possible.

The Robie House is a similarly revered work, completed by Wright in 1910. Located right next to the University of Chicago, it is a prime example of the Prairie Style of architecture. However, the building has faced the threat of demolition multiple times. One was so serious that a 90-year-old Wright visited the site to protest. Thankfully it is now a Chicago Landmark, which protects the building from demolition, and the Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation Trust maintains the building.

Let’s take a look at the transportation costs one could expect living in the Robie House.

Despite higher gas prices in Chicago, $794/month in transportation costs is markedly better than the cost of getting around if you lived in Fallingwater. The increase in transportation costs for Robie House over the past decade is a relatively modest 14 percent.

Chicago has a population density of 11,864 people per square mile, which provides both the resources and incentives for efficient public transit options. A 30-day pass on the CTA, which will take you anywhere in Chicago and even Evanston to the north, is only $86. Likewise, there are many businesses and amenities within a short distance, making walking and biking to destinations much more feasible. Having options other than the car makes average transportation costs less reliant on gas prices, keeping the average more stable over time.

What’s your favorite Frank Lloyd Wright home? Do you think transportation costs there are more similar to Fallingwater House or Robie House? Plug the address into Abogo and let us know what you find out!


Car Free Round Three- Hempstead, NY

September 22nd, 2011

Hempstead, New York, is the final city covered by our World Car Free Day Blog Frenzy.  Hempstead is located about 20 miles outside of New York City, in Nassau County on Long Island. There are 22 incorporated villages that fall entirely, or partially, within the town limits. If all villages were combined and incorporated into a city, the total population would be 787,033, which would make it the second largest city in New York.

According to Gas Buddy, average gas prices on Long Island are about $3.90/gallon. Using this price, we used Abogo’s gas slider to compute the transportation costs for an average household.

A typical household will spend around $886/month on transportation costs, which is not exceedingly bad.  Nonetheless, this is a 16 percent rise in costs from the average in 2000. There are some good opportunities for residents to lower their transportation costs. For commuters into New York City or other parts of Long Island, the Long Island Railroad runs frequently and to many destinations. Monthly passes range anywhere from $82-$284, depending on the destination.  The commute into New York City takes about an hour and half, while taking a car would take about an hour. Although there is a small discrepancy in commute times between the two options, taking the LIRR has the benefit of enabling passengers to catch up on some work, read a newspaper, or enjoy some down-time en route. Escaping rush hour traffic on those notorious Long Island expressways is an added advantage.

Buses connect Hempstead to neighboring cities on Long Island. The Rosa Park Hempstead Transit Center provides an indoor waiting area for days when waiting outside isn’t an option. Walk Score gives the village a rating of 78 out of100, which equates to “very walkable” using their criteria. Biking is another great way to cover short distances within the village. Another option to limit the impact of using a private car is a car-sharing program at Hofstra University.

After researching Hempstead, we’re curious to see how you or your family compares. Do you live in a similar city? How do gas prices affect your transportation? Are the alternatives to driving in your area feasible? What are some other suggestions for reducing transportation costs? If you happen to reside near Hempstead, we would love to hear how this compares to your experiences.


World Car Free Day Pt.2- Aurora, Illinois

September 22nd, 2011

Second on our World Car Free Day blog frenzy is Aurora, Illinois. Aurora is a highly populated suburb about 40 miles outside of the Chicago Loop. In 1908, the city adopted the nickname “The City of Lights,” because it was one of the first cities in the United States to implement an all-electric street lighting system in 1881 (this was before cars hit the roads). After a period of economic recession after de-industrialization, things are on the upswing for Aurora. Part of the city is within Kendall County, which in 2010 was cited as the fastest growing county in America. In popular culture, Aurora is perhaps best known for being the town where Wayne Campbell and Garth Algar, from Wayne’s World, live.

Today nearly 21 percent of Aurora commuters spend over 45 minutes each way driving to work, and only three percent of the population either walks or rides a bicycle to work. This adds up to high average transportation costs for the area. Given the current average gas price of the city, the typical cost of a family within the city limits will look similar to this:

$1029 per month adds up! The 18 percent increase since 2000 shows the effect that continuously rising gas prices have had on the region.

Luckily, there are many options that residents can use to reduce their monthly transportation costs. The PACE bus system runs in the city limits, making trips within the city accessible by public transit. For those 20 percent of residents that spend nearly 45 minutes per trip commuting there is the Metra rail system. The Metra rail lines connect outlying suburbs to Chicago. A trip from Aurora to Chicago will take about an hour; roughly the time it takes to drive.  A monthly pass for unlimited rides on the Metra system costs $152.55. For a mere $30 extra dollars residents can purchase an additional monthly pass for access to all PACE buses.

Aurora received WalkScore of 75, placing it in the “very walkable” category. This signifies an ideal environment for bike riders as well. The Fox River Bike Trail, a safe and scenic ride, runs through the city. There are online carpool communities such as eRideShare that make it easier for those looking to split gas costs with others.

After researching Aurora, we’re curious to see how you or your family compares. Do you live in a similar city in design or layout? How do gas prices affect your transportation? Are the alternatives to driving in your area feasible? What are some other suggestions for reducing transportation costs? If you happen to reside in Aurora—we would love to hear how this compares to your experiences.


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Happy Car Free Day!

September 21st, 2011

Happy Car Free Day! Today, millions across the world will participate in this event aimed at showing the benefits of using alternative modes of transportation. For this special occasion, we want to hear from you about how you can get around car-free where you live, and how this helps lower your transportation costs.

To start us out, we asked our new intern Stephen to take a look at his hometown of Plano, Texas. Plano is a suburb about 20 miles outside of Dallas. With a population of almost 260,000 people, Plano has become the ninth-largest city by population in Texas. Plano is home to many thriving national corporations, yet also enjoys a historic past, as evidenced by the Interurban Railway Museum.

Let’s take a look at the average monthly transportation cost a typical family in the area can expect. Given the (relatively) low gas price of $3.35/gallon, one would expect to have cheaper monthly rates, right?

$1030/month is a high price to pay just to get around—that’s $12,360 a year! This number is up 17 percent from the 2000 estimates. Due to the low population density of the city, many common conveniences are spread out over large areas of land. Despite the low gas prices, this requires more mileage clocked on the odometer, which equates to more money being spent on more gas.

Plano residents have a few options to lower their transportation costs. From downtown Plano, the DART Red line train reaches the heart of downtown Dallas in as little as 50 minutes. Although the DART bus system does not cover all of Plano, bus stops are spread across different parts of the city, making it possible for a large number of people to either walk or ride a bike to them. A local monthly pass, which covers the Red, Green, Blue, and Orange trains, as well as all the local busses, will run about $65. Despite the bigger distance of stores in the city, walking/biking (be careful with these in the summer!) and taking a bus are all less utilized options to get around the city.

Plano received a WalkScore of 68, or a “somewhat walkable” rating. This is understandable given the hot summers and long distances involved in traveling. Biking, is a much more common method of transportation for both enjoyment and transportation (fun fact: Lance Armstrong grew up here). Bikers are seen frequently utilizing the streets and sidewalks to get around, despite the lack of bike lanes in the city. Trails cutting through the gridlocked streets help bikers travel long distances without much worry.

The cost benefits of getting around car free are worth consideration for many who may be looking to save money wherever they can, but also for those who wish to contribute to a healthier living environment. So, on this Car Free Day, think of the alternate modes of transportation available for you, and maybe, if you’re feeling adventurous, go out and give living car free a shot!

How do you get around car-free where you live? How low are your transportation costs? Let us know in the comments, or join the conversation on tTitter—we’ll be tweeting all day at abogo_tweets.


Mayoral Transportation Costs

August 26th, 2011

We’re back this week with something a bit different. Abogo and CNT are proud to call Chicago home, and we were happy to find this Chicago Tribune article about Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s move back into his house; emphasized was his trip to work via the CTA Brown Line. Of course, that got us thinking—what kind of transportation costs does Mayor Emanuel face based on where he lives, and how might they compare with those of mayors elsewhere? To find out, we’ll take a look at mayoral transportation costs in America’s three biggest cities: Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles.

There are a couple of things to keep in mind before we begin. For privacy’s sake, we used nearby intersections to gather our data rather than residential addresses, but they’re close enough that the numbers will remain more or less the same between them. The costs we’ll show you are those that a typical regional family living in each specific neighborhood would face; they are not tailored to each individual mayor. However, we should be able to get a sense of what their costs might be from these numbers.

Let’s start with Chicago. Mayor Emanuel returned to his home in the Ravenswood neighborhood on Tuesday.

The U.S. EIA puts the average Chicago gas price at $3.81/gallon. What can Emanuel expect to pay for transportation?

Our Gas Slider shows that he’ll be paying $776 a month for transportation, 16% more than he would have paid in 2000. The neighborhood seems pretty well protected from gas price shock, which is no surprise considering that it’s compact and contains many transit options. If Mayor Emanuel continues to use transit and other alternative modes of transportation, he’ll be able to keep his costs down despite the high gas prices in Chicago.

How does New York compare? Mayor Michael Bloomberg chose to stay in his Upper East Side residence rather than Gracie Mansion, which is the official residence of the New York mayor.

With an EIA-estimated gas price of $3.71/gallon in NYC, what transportation costs might Bloomberg encounter?

Bloomberg could get away with paying just $328 a month for transportation! Though it’s an increase of 21% over 2000 costs, that’s still a number to make your wallet celebrate. Though Bloomberg attests to commuting via subway, he’s been known to use SUVs, helicopters, and private jets when not entirely necessary. Perhaps these Gas Slider numbers are enough incentive for him to stick to mass transit!

Now, let’s head to our last city. Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa lives in Getty House, the official home of the Mayor of Los Angeles, situated in Windsor Square.

With L.A. gas prices averaging $3.77/gallon, according to the EIA, how much would Villaraigosa pay for transportation?

Villaraigosa can expect to pay $618 a month for transportation, 15% more than he would’ve paid in 2000. Not bad! If he bikes, walks, and takes mass transit as much as he would like his constituents to, he should be able to keep those costs relatively low without worrying too much about the effects of rising gas prices.

You may have noticed that all three mayors face relatively low costs. This is mainly because they live in their respective cities – they have to, in order to be elected! Urban areas are generally more walkable and better connected to transit, ensuring that residents are not car-dependent and providing them with convenient ways of lowering transportation costs, especially when gas prices are on the rise. As long as Emanuel, Bloomberg, and Villaraigosa take advantage of these benefits, they can breathe a little easier on their transportation costs.


Houston Gas Prices: Space City Transportation Costs

August 2nd, 2011

Despite the ongoing heat, we’re continuing our sojourn into the Sunbelt with this week’s city: Houston. The fourth-largest city in the United States, Houston is a cultural and economic hub; most famously, it’s also the home of NASA’s Johnson Space Center. Houston’s average gas price is $3.58/gallon this week, as estimated by the U.S. EIA. When it comes to transportation costs, do Houstonians need to call Mission Control?

The first neighborhood we’ll look at is Montrose, in west-central Houston. This eclectic community was home to former president Lyndon B. Johnson in his days as a high school teacher.

Do Montrose residents’ transportation costs deserve a gold star?

The average Montrose family is paying $656 per month, only 12% more than their 2000 costs. Although Montrose is not on the rail line, the area does get bus service. It’s also very pedestrian-friendly—WalkScore rates it as a ‘walker’s paradise.’ Since residents have alternative transportation options, they are less susceptible to gas price shock, which is why their costs have only risen by 12% in the past decade.

Let’s try a suburb outside of Houston proper. Channelview, TX, is 17 miles to the east of the city. Channelview sits alongside the Port of Houston’s Houston Ship Channel—hence the name.

How shipshape are Channelview residents’ transportation costs?

The average family living in Channelview pays $1221 a month for gas, which is 23% more than they paid in 2000. Houston, we have a problem! Channelview is outside of the Houston transit system’s service area—even the nearest Park & Ride commute location is halfway to the city. Moreover, Channelview is not very walkable, with a Walk Score of 52/100. These factors combine to make Channelview residents car-dependent and, as a result, vulnerable to the effects of rising gas prices.

What are some ways to keep Houstonians’ transportation costs from skyrocketing?

Take off with transit: Houston is home to a developing transit system, the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County, Houston, Texas—it’s a mouthful, so most just call it ‘the Metro.’ Within the purview of the Metro are a bus system, which covers most of the Houston area, and a fledgling rail system with one line known as ‘the Redline.’ Several of the outlying suburbs are served by the Metro’s Park & Ride program, which allows for transit to be incorporated into commutes; vanpools and carpools also serve to make commutes more cost-efficient.

Discover discounts: Use a reloadable Metro Q Card to pay your fare rather than cash; you get 5 free trips for every 50 taken, as well as free transfers. The ‘Q’ stands for ‘quick,’ which is all the more reason to use these cards!  On top of that, the Metro Q Star program allows you to show your Q Card to participating merchants and receive discounts or free items. Houston employers should take advantage of the Mass Transit Tax Benefit through the Metro RideSponsor program so that they and their employees can use pre-tax dollars to pay for transit.

Two wheels, two feet, to infinity: Bike or walk wherever you can! Though cycling doesn’t immediately come to mind when one thinks of Houston, there are almost 300 miles of bikeways within the city and plans for more to come. Keep in mind that the key to making Houston a more bike-friendly city is in awareness of both the benefits of biking and what it means for cyclists and drivers to share the roads. For more info, check out BikeHouston and PedalHouston. WalkScore gives Houston a score of 72/100, meaning that it’s ‘very walkable.’ Of course, you’ll get a more relevant score by putting in a specific place or address within Houston, since, as we’ve seen, certain places are more walkable than others.

Do you live in Houston? Let us know how gas prices are affecting you!