Stuck in Traffic
It is not surprising that the Statesman
ran a big story today on how Austin’s traffic in 2001, at the peak of the tech boom, was some of the worst in the nation. It was good to see that public transportation saves each person in Austin 3.3 hours a year because of traffic taken off of the roads. In New York, San Francisco, and Boston, all areas with subways, residents saved more than 20 hours a year.
These numbers, however, do not take into account the extent to which transportation costs have become an obstacle to home ownership. A recent report from the Surface Transportation Policy Project
on Transportation Costs and the American Dream
found that 19.3 percent of every household dollar spent in 2001 went to cover transportation expenses. People are spending more on transportation than on food (13.5%) and all other expenses other than housing (32.9%). Americans commuting by car or truck spent ~$1,280 per year in 1999 as compared to the $765 per year spent by those able to use public transportation.
When transportation costs are combined with housing costs, a different picture emerges of which are the most expensive cities to live in. San Diego is the most expensive, with residents expending 58.3% of their total expenditures on housing and transportation. The Dallas Metroplex and Houston are only slightly better at 51.9% and 50.8% respectively. San Francisco and New York, traditionally regarded as the most expensive places to live in the U.S., come in at 54.1% and 52.2%, respectively. After factoring in transportation costs, the sprawling Sun Belt cities no longer look so affordable.
|Rank||Metro Area||Housing+Transp Expenditures|
Neal Stephenson at Bookpeople
Neal Stephenson appeared at Bookpeople Wednesday evening to promote his new novel Quicksilver. He was incredibly generous with his time. After a brief introduction, he answered questions from the audience for more than 30 minutes before beginning to sign books for more than 100 fans. He had some interesting observations on writing, noting that it took him nearly 15 years to learn to stop when you write a really bad sentence and that writing was in many ways more of an athletic exercise than an intellectual one, require steady and deliberate work. He also noted that the initial drafts of Quicksilver and the forthcoming volumes in the Baroque Trilogy were written with a fountain pen, appropriate enough for books on philosophy and the development of science in the 17th Century.