I've included an excerpt of the Sperling "Expensive Places to Drive" article because I'd like your feedback. I think it neglects just about every driving factor that is NOT planning-related (and quite a few planning related factors as well!)...
Experts at Sperling’s Best Places looked at 84 major cities, factoring in not only the cost of a gallon of regular-grade gasoline, but also the number of miles driven by daily commuters and the effect of rush-hour congestion.
Southern sprawl takes its toll
The "winner?" Atlanta, where commuters can spend nearly $4,600 annually on gas for a family that includes two daily drivers, earning it the title of the most expensive city for driving.
Most expensive cities for driving
Metro Area Annual cost Gas price
1. Atlanta $4,573 $2.200
2. Birmingham, Ala. $4,448 $2.192
3. Nashville-Davidson, Tenn. $4,418 $2.205
4. Orlando, Fla. $4,382 $2.270
5. Jacksonville, Fla. $4,202 $2.281
6. Pensacola. Fla.-Ala. $4,181 $2.281
7. Indianapolis, Ind. $4,151 $2.335
8. San Francisco-Oakland $4,149 $2.699
9. Raleigh-Durham, N.C. $4,117 $2.252
10. Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana $4,091 $2.610
(Based on a family of two daily commuters, gas prices 4/11/05.)
“The large cities of the South and Midwest landed in the top 10 due to their sprawling development,” said Bert Sperling, president of Sperling’s Best Places, a Portland, Ore., research firm that specializes in studies about city livability. That sprawl means the typical commuter puts in a 60-mile round trip each day, he says.
Some of these are valid, but contrast this with my current city of residence--New Orleans--which is listed as the second BEST place to drive. What a gas! (Awful pun I know.)
New Orleans is hardly a cheap place to own a car, and I'd probably ditch the wheels if I didn't need them for my job. Only occasionally am I able to bike to work due to heat, distance, and the need for a car for the job and stuff after work. But here are some factors that Sperling seems to forget:
1) Insurance - New Orleans has one of the most expensive rates in the country, mostly due (interestingly) to frivolous lawsuits rather than thefts. I pay $2500 a year for a 2001 Nissan Sentra.
2) Road Quality - New Orleans is notorious for having the worst roads in the country. Supposedly drivers pay over $200 more a year on average than in other cities due to routine maintenance exacerbated by third-world style roads.
3) Traffic/Idling - because the suburbs of New Orleans are fairly dense (limited developable land due the swamps), traffic is actually quite bad. I avoid this through a short commute that is actually contraflow for me, since I live close to downtown, but it's the sort of city where there are jams at 10 pm on Sundays in certain places along the interstate. Needless to say, the annual hurricane evacuation is a migraine.
4) Poor enforcement - I've seen more wrecks here than anywhere else in my life, and since speeding and lack of signalling seem to go unpunished, reckless driving is rampant and keeps costs high (not to mention congestion from so many accidents on the roads)!
Granted, the Big Easy has a few advantages: gas is cheap because we're so close to the source of production, parking is usually not a problem because few neighborhoods have restrictions, and the city is not that large so the sprawl is considerably less than, say, Houston. But those factors hardly make in the second best--I'd take Indianapolis any day from a commuter perspective.
Sorry if this e-mail assumes a sort of whiny tone--but I'm not trying to rail against my city nor am I taking a psychoplanner cars-must-go-away approach. I'm simply stating my perspective and that Sperling hardly takes very many factors into consideration (insurance, crime, road quality, even traffic). What do other people think about the article, as well as the ease of driving in your respective cities? What is an important factor for driving cost in your city, and what do you see as a solution? (and yes, of course public transit is also a reasonable option)