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Higher gas prices impact cities differently

Gas prices are up. And here is a chart to support this statement:

If I were trying to be as sensational as possible, I would likely leave things here. But since that is generally not what I try and do with this blog, here is another chart showing gas prices over a longer time horizon.

Shown this way, gas prices don’t seem as crazy. In fact, we’re only now returning to where prices were back in 2008.

That said, these swings do impact things. And it is interesting to consider how these impacts might be felt differently across different cities.

So here is one more chart from City Observatory looking at the average number of miles driven per person prior to COVID:

One way to think about this chart is that it generally speaks to built form. Compact cities with higher densities and greater access to public transport, generally translates into people driving less.

The result is something that City Observatory refers to as a “green dividend.” Less driving, means you save money on cars and gas. And so when gas prices go up, so does your green dividend.

Of course, if you were to get really serious about calculating your green dividend, you’d also want to look at your housing costs, as land prices tend to decline as you sprawl outward.

Ultimately, this is a trade off between housing costs and transportation costs (both direct and indirect, such as the cost of your time).

But I think that there should be another dimension to this green dividend and that is the environmental benefits of less vehicle miles travelled. That too, of course, can be measured.

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