Monday, January 26, 2009

Minor irony

Results for the 2007 American Housing Survey have just been released. For those who like commuting data, the AHS reports medians rather than means (which the Census reports), although commuting modes are not separated.

Compare national data for 1997 and 2007. The median commute for those residing in central cities rose from 20 to 21 minutes. For those residing in the suburbs, the increase was from 21 to 23 minutes. Central city population (actually measured as housing units by the AHS) grew by 2.5% in the ten years; suburban units grew by 6.8%.

Not bad. I usually part company with the many traffic doomsters. Yes, our unwillingness to price makes congestion the default rationing device. To get commuting times this good in that light is phenomenal. Traffic doomsday is invited by policy makers who reject pricing. But they are bailed out by land use adjustments that explain the benign results for median minutes commuting. Enough employees and employers are seemingly able to chose locations that permit a decent commute.

Much better than decent by world standards.

Pretty good for second-best market results. Also a minor irony that markets are bailing out policy makers.