This past weekend I flew from my home in Seattle to Dallas / Fort Worth for a friends wedding where I had the privilege of participating as a groomsman. Having now lived in Seattle for roughly two years after growing up in the Dallas / Forth Worth Metroplex it provided me a unique opportunity to contrast the two life styles.
Dallas and Fort Worth are often considered one and the same by many who are unfamiliar with the area, while in reality they are about 35 miles apart. This past weekend I was regretfully reminded of my own familiarity of the road between these two as I criss-crossed the metroplex. Going from the airport, to my parents house on the Fort Worth side where I was staying, to the Dallas side for the rehearsal and rehearsal dinner, back to the parents house for the evening, then another round trip to Dallas for the wedding on Saturday, and one final round trip to Dallas on Sunday to check on my rental house, all topped off with a return trip to the airport for my flight home. All told, by the weekend’s end I had traveled over three hundred miles and logged roughly seven hours in the car!
As my time in the car racked up I found myself envying those with rides even more plush than mine! That was crazy considering I was driving a lexus SUV!
Did I mention it was hot, around 90 degrees, in DFW? Well it was, and I had no desire to hang out in the sun if I could avoid it. I was basically going from one air conditioned building, via an air conditioned car, to another air conditioned building, with the goal of sweating as little as possible.
While this was not a typical weekend in the least, allow me to compare it to my typical commute in Seattle. During the work week I take a short stroll to my bus stop, catch a 15 minute ride on the King County Metro, and complete my journey to work with another five or six block walk to the office. Usually on the bus and at work I have pity for those driving into work who have to sit in traffic on the freeway, the buses have designated lanes on I-5 allowing them to skip a large portion of traffic, and then pay an exorbitant amount for parking in downtown. In addition I walk an average of a mile per day just in my normal day to day routine. Back in the DFW, where I”m going from air conditioned building to air conditioned building via air conditioned car, I typically end up sitting the majority of the day, unless I make another air conditioned commute to the air conditioned gym. You begin to see how my personal energy usage via air conditioning and gas flies through the roof in comparison to Seattle where the majority of the residences don’t even have air conditioning.
By living in Seattle I’m saving a ton of energy, and naturally burning many more calories through my typical commute. But that doesn’t include the expenses I’m saving by not owning a vehicle myself, I share one with my fiance. I’m not regularly paying for that weekly tank of gas, or monthly car insurance, or around $150 / month in parking, plus repair bills that are always popping up. Not to mention having thousands of dollars invested in something that is rapidly going down in value! This puts me way ahead in my pursuit of Goal #1. If you don’t want to take my word for it, then you might consider another perspective on commuting by car.
I’m sure at this point you can tell that I’m a little biased, but I believe for good reason. In addition to the benefits listed above of living in an urban environment I’d also like to include the many amenities that are a brief walk away from my apartment: two grocery stores, a drug store, a dry cleaner, multiple bars, and restaurant ranging from fast food to fine dining, and Thai to Italian. Oh, and the parks! We’ve got Volunteer Park, Interlaken Park, The Arboretum, Madison Park , and Cal Anderson Park. Just to name a few.
In defense of DFW, they can’t control the climate, and the heat has a huge impact on the desire to bike or walk around the city. They are making progress in mass transit via the DART and Trinity Railway Express. Unfortunately Dallas and Fort Worth are not bound geographically by water and have been allowed to expand over huge swaths of land creating a challenge for the majority living in the suburbs to catch a bus into town for work, a game, or concert.
Having had a large majority of my life spent in the suburbs and only a small fraction in the urban environment I am most likely missing a few pros and cons for each. Feel free to add any I missed in the comments below.