What could be even more appalling to James Howard Kunstler and company than the suburbs? The exurbs.

If the extension of government services to the suburbs is a huge money sink, the extension of those services to the exurbs is a black hole. This is one issue mentioned in the three letters to the editor in response to the NYT article.

KB Home is the big, bad developer in this story, and the exurb in question is New River, Florida.

They know almost to the dollar how much buyers are willing to pay to exchange a longer commute for more space, a sense of higher status and the feeling of security.

The answer, the company decided, is that a house in New River must be $12,000 cheaper than the same house in the north Tampa suburbs, 15 minutes closer to downtown.

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.

Suddenly, the situation described in last week’s Washington Post article doesn’t sound that bad — many things are a five-minute drive, and everything is a fifteen-minute drive away.

The effects of three-dollar gas occur on different timetables in different sectors of the economy. The retail industry may be feeling the effects already. It takes longer for people to switch to more fuel efficient cars, and even longer for people to express that they value a shorter commute by increasing the demand for homes that aren’t “in the middle of nowhere.”

Might it be time to concede that people are unwilling to relinquish cars and instead promote communities where car use can be minimized?

Reader support helps sustain our work. Donate today to keep our climate news free.

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.