This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.

Human Transit just posted an excellent graph, showing how strongly what country a city is in influences its use of public transit.

Why is the US so low on this graph?  It’s not like we’re comparing to Europe or Asia – this is Canada and Australia, the two countries most like the US that I can think of.  Jerrett believes it’s our decentrallized business parks.  I agree, but what caused those?  What makes the US so special when it comes to wanting our offices out in the middle of nowhere?  Surely urban land is more expensive than suburban land in other countries as well.  Is this yet another effect caused by our subsidized freeway system?  Or is this just a cultural effect, perhaps caused by executives wanting their work near their home?

In his post, Jerrett also mentions the power of the stick to get people on transit.  Sydney is up near Canadian levels partly because parking downtown can be $60 a day.  I propose that’s partly the reason the four US cities named are so high above our average.  They’re all geographically constrained, and therefore are difficult and expensive to drive to and park.

3 Replies to “A good commute vs. population graph”

  1. Just a guess, but maybe the same deprecation tax rules that brought us the shopping mall? Malcolm Gladwell’s feature “The Terrazzo Jungle” is an absolutely fascinating account (very long but section 4 is about the financing):

    “Victor Gruen’s grand plan for Southdale was never realized. There were no parks or schools or apartment buildings—just that big box in a sea of parking.”

  2. Notably, this graph does not include NYC, which would rank higher in public transit commute share, and lowest in car-commute share than any other city.

    It was probably omitted simply because it blew out the population scale, along with LA, Chicago, and Philly.

  3. [Josh] I just read that whole article. Great stuff. And I think you’re exactly right. Depreciation counts for equipment and buildings, but not for land. So as executives all start building new buildings to take advantage of the new depreciation rules they were faced with a choice of either building in the city and wasting money on land, renting in the city and losing the depreciation benefit all together, or building out in the suburbs and being able to afford more building for their money – and therefore more depreciation for their bank accounts.

    [jdub] I noticed that too. I think they were picking cities of a certain size.

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