This is a very important topic to discuss here.
I think it is a general rule that "location" costs more housing-wise,
but the buyer gets benefits that, at least to him, appear to be equal to
or better than the higher margin.
"Location" refers to both being near that which is desirable, and NOT
being near to that which is undesirable. Those marketing the suburbs
have always emphasized the latter (crime, street traffic, noise, poor
schools, lower-income neighbours), while treating the longer distances
to desirable services as being very easy to overcome (owning/using one
or more cars).
Transit is one of the factors that are part of the positive side of
"location," however, one does not want to have to use it for more than a
narrow range of trips (e.g., commuting), while needing the full range of
services within walking distance (clustered and along a fully walkable
All of suburbia in our city has transit, but only for those residents
limiting their use to commuting (and having regular 9-5 jobs located
along the peak-hour routes, wanting to avoid transfers) rely on it.
Only those living in these areas unwillingly (youth, live-in help,
dependent seniors) will use the off-peak transit service for other kinds
Most New Urbanism development is of this latter category, since they
lack internal services and are located too far from where the true urban
"fabric" of main streets and mixed uses ends. For that reason, they
still have as much yard space given over to the owners' cars, but this
space is at the rear, along a laneway, with the house pushed forward to
What our industry needs to do is to educate housing consumers (and
government officials and developers) to the following:
1. Walking is everyone's favourite mode, and the destinations which can
be walked to is at the highest level of "location." There is growing
awareness that, although driving is seen as superior to transit, it is
significantly inferior to walking.
2. Housing price is related to transportation costs; the two must be
considered as a unit. "Location" reduces the amount of "fleet" the
household needs, and the distance each vehicle is driven. The
perception (and much of the reality) is that car-ownership is almost as
high in high-location areas as poor-location areas (see also next).
3. People facing low driving needs cannot, in today's market, buy a
"fraction" of a car; they can only buy older cars (I have found,
although I have seen no research, that the distance a vehicle is driven
is in reverse proportion to its age; with age, it becomes less reliable
and less "presentable"; also, with age, the driving costs shift from
fixed to variable, gaining some of the costing advantages of
carsharing). [One way to offer carsharing to those owning older cars is
to ask, "What is better, owning all of a partial car, or owning part of
a whole car?"]
4. Living in high-location areas requires a smaller house and yard,
since there are more nearby communal areas, e.g., parks, churches,
schools, coffee shops, bars (cf.: Oldenberg, R. _The Great Good
Place_). These provide not only out-of-house social spaces, but the
higher density makes sharing things easier. A walkable area can also
reduce expenses for health clubs and reduce the time adults spend
driving other household members. With carsharing, the "fleet" can be
reduced, further reducing the house's need to provide indoor and outdoor
amenities and space for vehicles.
Ironically, as consumers start getting this point, the first symptom
will be that the location-sensitive price differential for housing will
actually increase. The second one should be that those in low-location
neighbourhoods will organize to "invite in" -- through a neighbourhood
plan -- the services and employment they lack. They will need to "tame"
their streets to attract the growing number of entrepreneurs who are
interested in operating small-scale main-street businesses.