Sprawl Costs More
While gas may cost more in California, it costs more to commute in the sprawling cities of the South. A survey of 84 metropolitan areas by Sperling's Best Places
found that the top five most expensive commutes, and seven of the top ten most expensive commutes, are in the South. Atlanta tops the list with an annual cost of $4,573. The other southern cities in the top ten are Birmingham, Nashville, Orlando, Jacksonville, Pensacola, and Raleigh-Durham. Commuters typically commute 60 miles a day across these sprawling cities.
Other cities in the top ten are Indianapolis (7), San Francisco-Oakland (8), and Los Angeles (10). Although the California commuters typically travel only 45 miles, high gas prices pushed those cities into the top ten. Gas prices for San Francisco and Los Angeles were $2.699 and $2.610, respectively, as compared to $2.200 in Atlanta and $2.252 in Raleigh-Durham (ninth on the list).
For Texas cities, Houston is 20th on the list, with an annual cost of $3,353 and a daily commute of 46 miles. Dallas is 22d with $3,312 and 44.5 miles. Austin is 24th with $3,294 and 45.8 miles. Beaumont is 25th with $3,293 and 50.1 miles. San Antonio is 30th with $3,219 and 46.2 miles.
Southern cities fared even worse when gas costs were calculated as a percentage of family income, taking all of the top seven spots. In this calculation, the most expensive city is Pensacola at 14.5 percent of income and gas at $2.281. The other six Southern cities were Birmingham, Orlando, Nashville, Louisville, Jacksonville, and Tampa-St. Petersburg. Finishing the top ten were Fresno (11.4%), Los Angeles (11.3%), and Indianapolis (11.3%).
The least expensive cities were distinguished by their shorter commutes, about 30 miles per day shorter than for the most expensive cities. The five least expensive cities were Brownsville, New Orleans, Anchorage, Allentown, and Boulder.