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E-M:/ Natl. Report: SE MI 5th Costliest for Transportation

November 30, 2000

“Driven to Spend”
National Transportation Report Shows Sprawl Taxes Family Budgets
Southeast Michigan Ranks as 5th Costliest Area in Nation

Kelly Thayer, Transportation Project Coordinator
Michigan Land Use Institute
Phone: 231-882-4723 x13 • Fax: 231-882-7350
E-mail: kelly@mlui.org • Web site: www.mlui.org
Please Note: Southeast Michigan contacts also available

Barbara McCann
Surface Transportation Policy Project
Washington, D.C.

Report on the Web:
The full report, along with state fact sheets, is available at STPP's website,http://www.transact.org/

BENZONIA - A national study released today shows Americans spend more on transportation than on health care, education, or food, and that sprawl drives up family transportation costs.

“Driven to Spend,” authored by the Surface Transportation Policy Project and the Center for Neighborhood Technology, analyzes Consumer Expenditure Survey data and other factors. It finds that in the most sprawling metro areas, households spend approximately 20 percent more on transportation than households in less sprawling areas. 

The survey shows that families in the region of Detroit, Ann Arbor, and Flint devote nearly 19 cents of every household dollar on transportation, making this area the fifth most costly part of the nation for family transportation spending. Measured another way in the report, Detroit’s families direct more than twice as much of their household budget toward transportation than do households in Toronto, a city with reliable public transit.

Transportation costs escalate as cities sprawl out, causing residents to drive farther and more often, even for the simplest errands. This is particularly evident in metropolitan Detroit, which also ranks third worst in the nation for its sprawling landscape, according to a study by the non-profit Fannie Mae Foundation released earlier in November. Fannie Mae found that only Miami and Atlanta fared worse in their failure to re-use vacant urban land.

"This transportation study shows how sprawl turns driving from a convenient choice into an expensive necessity," said Kelly Thayer, transportation project coordinator at the Michigan Land Use Institute. “We can save southeast Michigan families hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars each year if we provide more transportation choices and more convenient communities."

The study found that household transportation costs are often thousands of dollars higher per year in sprawling neighborhoods with little or no public transit or safe, convenient routes for biking or walking. Sprawl increases distances and shuts out non-motorized travel choices, which forces multiple car ownership and drives up the amount of hard-earned money families must devote to driving. About 75 percent of a family’s automobile costs go toward simply owning a car, without ever driving a mile. 

One of the nation’s most sprawling cities, Houston, Texas, ranked most expensive out of the metro areas surveyed, with households spending an average of more than 22 cents out of every dollar on transportation. Families in Honolulu spend the least, at less than 15 cents out of every dollar. On average American households spend almost 18 cents out of every dollar on transportation.

In many areas, heavy government investment in road infrastructure may be contributing to an increase in personal transportation expenses. The places ranked as most expensive for households in the report have also invested heavily in expanding their highway networks, while the opposite is true in the least-expensive areas. The study also finds that the places with a more equitable balance of roads to transit service tend to have lower costs.

In some cities, households spend more on transportation than any other single category, including housing. High transportation expenses can hurt family finances by shifting money away from productive investments, such as home ownership, and toward an asset that actually loses value over time.

"While a less expensive home far from town may seem to be a good bargain, many families end up spending more on vehicles to reach that home," says Barbara McCann at the Surface Transportation Policy Project.

About STPP
The Surface Transportation Policy Project is a nationwide network of more than 250 organizations, including planners, community development organizations, and advocacy groups devoted to improving the nation’s transportation system.  The Center for Neighborhood Technology is a Chicago-based group inventing new tools for creating livable communities. The full report, along with state fact sheets is available at STPP's website, www.transact.org.

About the Institute
The Michigan Land Use Institute is an independent, non-profit research, educational, and service organization founded in 1995. More than 2,400 households, businesses, and organizations have joined the Institute in support of its mission to establish an approach to economic development that strengthens communities, enhances opportunity, and protects Michigan's unmatched natural resources.