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Kaid Benfield’s Blog

A family copes with the unexpected costs of sprawl (video)

Kaid Benfield

Posted October 26, 2010 in Living Sustainably, Moving Beyond Oil

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  Queen Creek southeast of Phoenix (via Google Earth)

Queen Creek, Arizona, is on the far southeastern fringe of metropolitan Phoenix.  According to Google Maps, it’s 38 miles and about an hour to central Phoenix by the shortest route.

The land use pattern in and around Queen Creek consists of random enclaves of newly developed leapfrog sprawl, with equally random patches of irrigated agriculture to the north and east.  The average Walk Score for the development is 20 out of a possible 100.  Data were not available for Walk Score’s Transit Score function.  The Center for Neighborhood Technology’s Abogo cost calculator estimates that transportation costs for an average household in Queen Creek, theoretically living at the main intersection, would be $1056 per month.

  land use in and around Queen Creek (via Google Earth)

PBS went to Queen Creek to profile a family living through the recession in a new suburb.  Laura and Laure Grosso spoke to PBS’s John Larson, who narrates:

“You might think this is a story about how the Grossos are coping with a looming foreclosure. But it’s not.

“It’s about how families hit hard by the housing crisis are also getting slammed by rising transportation costs.

“When they signed on the dotted line, the Grossos never thought about what they would spend for gas, insurance and car payments …but last spring, when the transmission on their second car died, the cost became all too clear. They had already taken paycuts and they could not afford a new car.

“With no mass transit, the only option for both Grossos to get to work? They go together.

“They rouse the babies and they’re out the door before sun up.

“First stop: 25 minutes to Mesa, to unload the boys at grandma’s house

20 minutes later, they reach Scottsdale, where Laura lets Tony off in time for his six AM shift as a security guard in a hospital.

“It’s another 15 minutes to Tempe, where Laura works in administration at Arizona State University. After a full day’s work, they’ll do the whole thing in reverse in the afternoon…round trip that’s about 120 miles a day . . .”

The resulting video segment, which also features HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan and a cameo by Arizona State planning prof Emily Talen, is excellent:

  

  Watch the full episode. See more Need To Know.

Move your cursor over the images for credit information.

Kaid Benfield writes (almost) daily about community, development, and the environment.  For more posts, see his blog's home page.


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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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