Monday, 29 July 2013

Sprawl As the Motor of Inequality, Or Did You Ever Try to Get There from Here?

Paul Krugman talks about commuting, public transportation, sprawl and equality today in Stranded by Sprawl.  It reminded me of the time many, many years ago when I was a reporter on a suburban daily newspaper in the East Bay of San Francisco. 

We had a car--a Volkswagen bug that Lee bought with his paper-carrier savings, believe it or not--and I made a daily reverse commute from Berkeley where we lived and he was a graduate student.

Occasionally, though, the stalwart little car needed service, and I had to take public transportation to Walnut Creek where I worked.  Most mornings it took me 14 minutes door to door  in the car, but on the bus, more than an hour with split second timing involved.  Had to leave our house on a certain bus to meet the Greyhound commuter bus on the eastern edge of  Oakland  That bus ran every 45 minutes or so, and missing it meant a very long wait by the side of the road.

I was the only white face on the bus.  Everyone else was African American, going to work as maids, housekeepers or gardeners in toney East Bay suburbs like Orinda. 

Friends tell me that the Bay Area Rapid Transit trains make a commute like that easier now, but I wonder if the racial composition of the reverse commute passengers is any different.

Certainly getting there from here in suburban America (and to some extent Canada) is not easy at all without a car today, and that is not good for social or economic equality.   Krugman writes:  "A new study suggests that (cities) may just be too spread out, so that job opportunities are literally out of reach for people stranded in the wrong neighborhoods. Sprawl may be killing Horatio Alger."

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