June 21, 2006

The conversation vered toward local traffic over the weekend, with an out-of-town guest surprised at the number of cars on the highway - at mid-day on a weekday, no less. I was rather inarticulate in saying that yes, there are lots of cars on the road and that's ok since we need people to get fed up with driving so we get some comprehensive public transit in place. D. thought that there'd be fewer people on the road if property and houses weren't so expensive closer to the city. If people didn't have to go so far just to find a house they could afford, traffic would be better. A. pointed out that she's paying $70 per week on gas (nearly $300 per month) and then you add wear and tear on your car, you're not saving anything by driving so much. She thought that if the businesses and therefore the jobs weren't all concentrated in one area, then there'd be fewer cars on the highway since they wouldn't all be trying to go to the same place at the same time.

Which got me thinking about expectations. How many people expect that they should have a large house on a large plot of land? It's an expectation we get from our national history, when filling the vast empty spaces of the country with farmers and taxpayers was an imperative. Is it still a widely held expectation? In today's culture, is this still something people think they want regardless of how little they are actually going to do with the land? With all the time spent at work and commuting, how many people raise produce or animals on their property?

Certainly, some people do. But I wonder about the people with the large house and the large plot of unused acreage. Sometimes, of course, that acreage is simply green space, a necessary and welcome thing. But often, it seems, it's all more of a status thing, a declaration of "I can afford this". And I find I miss the (romantic) sensible-ness of pockets of density surrounded by farms and green space. Nature, neighbors, and nutrition all conveniently located. No need to spend an hour or more on the road, alone in the car, surrounded by lots of other cars, all going the same way.

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