When I say suburbia vs. urban in this article, I am referring to people who live in the suburbs and work in the city. If you live in the suburbs and live a mile from your work, you are halfway to not being a part of the problem. The other half is not living in an oversized house.
If you are living in a suburb and commuting to the city, you probably are being both financially stupid and a bit of a jerk to the environment. Moreover, you are probably short-changing your kids on family time. Most of this article can be read as "Don't live far away from your place of work."
Since most of my readers don't yet have kids or homes, read on to find out why you shouldn't ever leave the city.
For those of you in rural places, this article is really only useful if you want great ways to make fun of suburban folk.
The Financial Cost of Commuting from Suburbia (or Rural)
If your wage is $50,000 a year, living in suburbia costs up to an extra $15,700 extra over 10 years in driving time/expenses per mile you live from work. In other words, if you choose to live 10 miles closer to work, you could afford a house that is $150k more expensive. Moreover, the average suburbanite produces about 40% more emissions than a person living in a part of a city with access to public transportation.
Read the real maths from the original post by MrMoneyMustache.
"But Jason," you lament, "Surely you recognize that if you live in the city, you need to take public transportation, and that also costs time." To which I have to say two things:
1. No I don't. I ride my bicycle everywhere. I'm getting fit and sexy while getting around the city.
2. The only time I don't bicycle is when I have a massive amount of work to do. Then I take the subway and use my commute time to catch up on work. And the entire time I am wishing I was getting exercise on my bike.
"But Jason," you say, "I live in the suburbs and I bicycle to work in the city."
To you, sir, I say, "You are badass and a shining example of someone who cares about their fitness and the health of their fellow man. But if your house in the suburbs is huge, you probably still use more energy than the average city resident."
"But Jason," you say, "bicycling is dangerous! It will shorten my life or cause injury!"
1. Take a bike safety class and wear a helmet. I am what is known as "reckless" and have yet to be in a maiming bicycle accident. It's safer than you think.
2. If you live in a city, you live just a few miles from work and will bike 1/10th the amount a commuter will drive. Based on the fact that per mile, a bicycle is 4x-10x as dangerous as being in a car, at worst your safety is break-even on a bicycle commute, and at best is 2.5x safer.
3. As MrMoneyMustache points out, bicycling makes you healthier to the point that even when accounting for the chance of dying younger from an accident, bicycling increases your life expectancy. Whereas being in a car only decreases your life expectancy while making you fatter and uglier.
One last thing on bikes: In a prior post, I mentioned that if you are in shape, biking is the fastest way to get around in a city. You will save time if you live in a city and bicycle.
Suburbia Home Energy Use
In his paper on construction trends and CO2 per capita, Edward Glaeser shows that some cities have massively higher CO2 emissions per capita than others. This is primarily because in some cities, people live in houses and apartments that are far bigger than their needs. These houses have heating and cooling needs. Bigger houses not only have more volume to heat and cool, they also have more places they leak from. So they take a lot more energy to cool. This is why people who live in shoebox sized apartments in NYC emit only the equivalent of only 8 tons of CO2 per year in their lifestyle, and Houston residents emit 30. Also cause AC is very energy intensive. That's for a future post though.
The Health Cost of Commuting from Suburbia
Sitting on the highway in slow-moving traffic and breathing in exhaust fumes is not good for you. MIT says that 53,000 people die per year from the emissions of autos. So maybe stop sitting in traffic and breathing all that in, eh?
Many people get stressed and upset sitting in traffic. This is obviously not good for you.
I Don't Care About This, I Moved Out to Suburbs So My Family Would Have a Better Life
Well aren't you the martyr? Sacrificing your time, health, and happiness for your kids. Very kind of you.
That 1-2 hour commute you are doing would take 30 minutes if you lived close to work. Spending an extra 1 or 2 hours with your kid every day will be much better for them than putting them in a supposedly better school. Unless, that is, you are convinced that you are a truly shitty parent and that you damage them every time you interact with them.
Summing It Up
Living near the place you work and biking or public commuting there will save you time, money, promote your health, remove a need for auto repair. Most importantly, it'll give you more time with your kids. That'll mean more than a marginally better school system or a yard for them to play alone in.
Thanks for reading!
- Jason Munster