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You've articulated a lot of what I miss about Toronto, and a lot of what I find so frustrating about where we live here in St. John's. I truly despise that I have to walk nearly 20 minutes to buy a carton of milk. Most people would just hop in a car and do the drive, of course--but after years of big-city living, neither of us knows how to drive. And to be honest, while we will get our licenses, our desire to have a car is pretty minimal; it's a huge expensive, especially in a place where gas is costly, and it's not the lifestyle we're used to or desire. And that is why we'll be moving to a more central spot of the city when our lease ends; our brand-new rental house in a subdivision is nice, and spacious, but we don't like the trade-offs.


As someone who lives in the Bay Area and who spent 15 years in the metro DC area, there is a point that never gets brought up about sprawl - perceived school quality. We'll be moving from our North Oakland hub of public transportation to a slightly more remote part of your island. As much as I would love to stay in our neighborhood (seriously it's like Sesame Street with seven bus lines that go to Berkeley and downtown Oakland), navigating Oakland's underresourced public schools is overwhelming. I see many friends with kids in DC move from the city to Fairfax or Silver Spring because of the school districts.

Lisa S.

Alameda! Hurrah! (West End?)

You make a great point about school districts. I have lost count of the number of friends who have left DC/NYC/SF for outlying inner-ring burbs because of the perceived school quality and/or the very real frustration of trying to work with the school system in their city.

I have a coworker who actually moved his family up to Portland once the kids reached pre-K age because the prospect of trying to deal with preschool and then the shenanigans of placement in the public schools finally tipped the balance of urban living away from "The tradeoffs are worth it" to "There is nothing in my life that is not incredibly inconvenient."


Bay Farm Island


I also think there's a missing element here and I represent it: those of us who have a terrible commute (mine on a good day is 1 hour each way, but usually is more like 75-90 minutes there and 90 minutes home) but who also don't have to do it every day. I make that drive 2 times a week most weeks, a few 3 and a (terrible terrible week from hell) 4 times. The rest of the time I telecommute.

For us there was the obvious trade-off: we get a house (and while it is a large one we didn't go looking for a McMansion - and it's not even close to that!) and get to live where we like. We were completely priced out of the Valley unless we wanted to live in the sprawl of the east bay where my commute would be equally as shit and I'd get to go home to... Fremont? Here, I get to have a house I love where I love to be and get to be there most of the time.

I realize this is tremendously lucky though, and I can't count on every employer I'll have to allow this to take place. But I think there's something in the idea of stretching the physical boundaries from which we come to work by stretching these butts-in-seats requirements too.


Hey Mary Lynn,

Is there a tipping point for you on the commute? I have a friend who used to live in walnut Creek and commuted to Sacramento five days a week. Her job on Sacramento REALLY wanted to keep her and offered to allow her to telecommute 2 days a week. She turned them down because she just could not take another 1 hour and 45 minute commute. She now works in Richmond and lives in Oakland and it'sa fairly easy 45 minute commute door to door via BART.


I think there is also a perception of distance that varies in different areas of the country. I lived in Baltimore for a while and spent 30 minutes each day commuting 9 miles.

But now I'm back in the Midwest (Twin Cities) and it seems that distance really varies. My husband commutes 30 minutes to get to his job in the suburbs -- not too bad, especially since he's doing a reverse commute. But I spent a week in North Dakota visiting a small town for a class. The family I stayed with drove an hour to Minot several times during the week -- mostly to get me, but also for doctor's visits and whatnot. I was surprised -- that seems like a long way to go.

Having lived on the East Coast and in the Midwest, I think there is a pretty big difference in driving and distance, particularly by those who live in the big coastal cities. Where it isn't as densely populated (like my hometown in Wisconsin), you might have to commute 15-30 minutes to get to a town that is big enough to support your job -- and public transportation isn't even an option!

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