Twin Cities: Cost of metro travel gaining on cost of housing

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Twin Cities transportation experts are marveling at how quickly the gap has narrowed between the cost of housing and the cost of getting around the metro, the Star Tribune reports.

The yearly cost of housing was $3,173 higher than the annual amount people spent on transportation in 2007, but that number dropped to $462 by 2012, the newspaper reports. The gap is narrowing much faster in the Twin Cities than in the nation as a whole, according to data in the Consumer Expenditure Survey compiled by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Why? Possibly in part due to the fact that housing is relatively affordable, so that cost is lower compared to other cities. The new data indicate that the annual cost of housing for a metro household dipped significantly from 2007 to 2012 – from $12,802 to just over $10,359, the Star Tribune reports.

New U.S. Census data released Thursday says that the Twin Cities has the highest home ownership rate (70.5 percent) among the nation's 50 most populous cities. Here's the pdf of that report.

At the same time, the cost of transportation has risen (to nearly $9,900 last year), in part because of sprawling Twin Cities development patterns, which create longer and congested single-motorist drives, the Star Tribune notes.

The new report comes in the wake of others that seemed to offer better news for commuters. A once-a-decade study by the Metropolitan Council found that, even though there are more people in the Twin Cities, the number of car trips declined over the 10 years.

Motorists on Minneapolis-St. Paul metro roads wasted 34 hours during peak rush hours in 2011, according to the annual Urban Mobility Report released earlier this year by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute.

But it was a lot worse in other big cities. The Twin Cities ranked 44th among top U.S. metropolitan areas in the number of hours each auto commuter was delayed that year specifically due to traffic gridlock.

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