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Why I Still Love High Gas Prices

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Back in May when I blogged my screed “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love High Gas Prices”, the price per gallon was an outrageous $3.55. Oh, how we long for those good ol’ days! But even though the once unthinkable four bucks per gallon has sent the cost of everything through the roof, I am still finding solace that certain people are suffering more than others.

Two months ago, for instance, I took quiet satisfaction in the immediate smackdown being wrought on owners of enormous SUVs. And this summer, I am wrapping my high-and-mighty heart in reports that homes built on the far-out fringes of the metro area -- sprawling mini-ranches known as exurbs -- are losing value at one of the fastest current rates because their owners can no longer afford the hour-plus commutes.

A front page article in June 25's New York Times describes the plight of exurban homeowners in Elizabeth, which was experiencing rapid growth just a few short years ago. Now residents in the once-rural outpost fifteen miles east of Castle Rock are desperately trying to sell their homes and move closer to things like -- gasp! -- public transportation.

The tides have been shifting back to core cities for the past decade, but high gas prices have injected jet fuel into the migration. An excerpt from the article on why living inside Denver -- not far, far outside it -- can be found below. -- Jared Jacang Maher

In Denver -- a classic Western city, with snarling freeway traffic across a vast acreage of strip malls, ranch houses and office parks -- the city has had an urban renaissance over the last decade.

A $6.1 billion commuter rail system has been in the works over the last four years, drawing people downtown without cars, while stimulating swift sales of densely clustered condos near stations.

Coors Field, the intimate, brick-fronted baseball stadium for the Colorado Rockies, has transformed the surrounding area from a desolate skid row into fashionable Lower Downtown, a neighborhood of restaurants and microbreweries in restored warehouses. Along the Platte River, new condos set on a park strip offer an arresting tableau of glass, steel, and futuristic geometry, attracting throngs of buyers at rising prices.

"This is a city where it’s fun to be in the center," said Tim Burleigh, 56, who sold his house in the suburbs and now walks to Rockies games from his downtown condo.

To Denver’s mayor, John W. Hickenlooper, $4 gasoline offers a useful incentive for such plans.

"It can be an accelerator," he said during an interview inside the imposing column-fronted City Hall. "It’s not going to be the dagger in the heart of suburban sprawl, but there’s a certain inclination, a certain momentum back toward downtown."

Dollars spent at the gas station leave fewer for mortgage payments. Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Economy.com, calculated that the jump in gas prices from $2 a gallon to $4 has taken $50 a month from the typical suburban commuter driving 25 miles a day.

"The fuel price change should be capitalized into the cost of houses," Mr. Zandi said. "Prices in the outer suburbs will get clobbered."

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