Thursday, June 12, 2008

Which cities are better prepared for high gas prices?

Here's an interesting piece on CNN; it concerns the spread nature of Oklahoma City and how it costs a lot more to drive to work. The first interesting thing I found was that, as a result, people starting organizing carpools. Hey, markets work! Who'd have thought? That would make a great country-wide story-- how carpools spontaneously have emerged with the lower search costs of the internet and the higher costs of driving yourself.

It also mentioned a study by Common Current, which ranks the 50 most populous U.S. cities on the metric of being most prepared for high gas prices. (The pdf of that study is here.) The stats used are city public transit use, national metro transit use, metro sprawl data, heating oil use, and carpooling data. Endogeneity abounds in those measures, of course, but it's still interesting to see the final result. San Francisco, New York and Chicago lead the group; Louisville, Tulsa and Oklahoma city bring up the rear. I'd say a general trend, at least from eyeballing the list, is that richer cities are nearer the top. Of course, richer cities can better afford the burden of a complex transit system; if building a complex subway system were the panacea for sluggish city growth, I'd be taking the underground here in Morgantown from my office to the student center for a sandwich. Let's hope policy makers don't draw such conclusions.

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