Hope that almost-$5 gallon of gas was worth it.
Christopher Williams* at TPM:
Starting in the late sixties and continuing throughout the seventies and eighties, following the obliteration of legally imposed segregation, middle class Americans found insularity in sprawl, and its enabler in the automobile. As cheap fuel allowed these moonscapes to thrive at the expense of our once proud cities, the outflux was perpetuated always in the name of “better schools” although quite often the longer commutes led to less parenting time, even while much poor quality time was spent with chauffeur Mom.
As even the suburbs became more diverse, the better schools somehow spontaneously moved further out. Thus, David Brooks’s romanticized exurban, the tax-hating libertarian whose telephone, cable, Internet, and other services were subsidized by the horrible city dwellers, now commuted four hours a day, waking up in the wee hours of the morning and arriving home in time to catch Leno, but of course this was better for the kids.
Meanwhile, some middle class people had had enough and started to gentrify the previously abandoned urban areas, although so many were dinkys who would flee to the suburb after that first pregnancy echogram. Nevertheless our cities have been experiencing a comeback. Buses are improving, light rail is emerging, sidewalks are becoming vibrant, and the concept of a public space is re-emerging as being of much better quality than the mall foodcourt. We have come to the realization that European cities are so ahead of us, and we spend costly Euros enjoying their non-chain restaurants, fabulous sidewalk life, public parks and spaces, and realize that even though they are paying twice as much per gallon of gas, that they are in less agony over it than we are because they are not hostage to the automobile and to pedestrian-hostile environments and lifestyles.
This is another reason the revitalization of cities is so important: it just makes more economic and environmental sense in the long-run to have cheap, clean public transportation. You can get just about anywhere in New York City via train or bus, and while folks here still feel the effects of gas prices at the supermarket, they’re not coming out of their pockets for an additional few hundred bucks a month and feeling all that pain at the pump** to keep their whips sated on that good unleaded.
This also goes to Ta-Nehisi’s point about the economic impracticalities of racism; again, it makes people’s lives run so much less efficiently.
*No, not this guy. We don’t think.
**I got a note from some scary people who say we were obligated to say that in any discussion of gas prices. So there you go.