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Drive far?

19 August 2005

I moved here over 2-1/2 years ago from Atlanta and marveled on how close everything was. Atlanta used to be a “30 minute town” – you could get anywhere you needed to go and only have to allow yourself thirty minutes to get there. Sometime after the turn of the millennium, it moved into the 45 minute to and hour town right in line with Los Angeles and other big cities.

Birmingham, on the other hand is in the “15-20 minute town” category. There are certainly areas that are further spread apart and at times it takes an extra five or ten minutes to get somewhere… say, if you leave exactly at 5pm from downtown with all the hourly employees at the banks and law firms OR if a heavy downpour dumps on traffic at the beginning of the commute half-hour (Atlanta, on the other hand could experience an extra 30 minutes due to rain).

What has me confused, however, is the propensity of long-term residents of this great metropolis who find the distance between Hoover and downtown to be daunting. Or, my friend who lives in Mountain Brook who feels that his in-laws in Hoover to live too far away (less than 10 miles!) to drop in for dinner. Then there was the time that I invited a group of techies from around Shelby County to the TechFriday breakfast we hold once a month along 280. One person felt that it was “too far” to travel from Alabaster/Pelham to the intersection of I-459 and Hwy 280 (less than 4 miles). What’s up with that?!?

I’m looking for some good research papers/articles to read that will help me understand this mental block. Any ideas or other stories that illustrate this phenomenon?

3 Comments leave one →
  1. 19 August 2005 11:19 am

    I think it is more of the hassle factor than anything. Especially when you mention the dreaded numbers “2 8 0”.

    I work in downtown and live in West Homewood. I know I can hop on 280, hit 20/59 and then 65 southbound and be at my house in 10 minutes (unless there is a downpour or an accident).

    I also don’t have a problem with “just running out to hoover” or pelham or anywhere like that. I guess it is all in the mindset. People get used to having everything they need right there in their “neighborhood” and can constantly come up with reasons not to travel more than a mile or two for anything other than work.

    The only places that seem really out of the way to me are Trussville and Bessemer, mostly because they are basically at the edge of the metro area.

  2. 11 September 2005 10:57 pm

    On the contrary…I grew up in Warrior and became used to driving far distances to go see a movie, go to Century Plaza (before the Galleria opened)and to see friends and family. Up here in Chicago, people think driving 30 miles to work is horrendous. I have in-laws who say it is too far to come for dinner and they live maybe 20 miles away.

  3. 20 September 2005 12:37 am

    Ugghh. I lived down 280 for a while and worked downtown. The actual distance wasn’t bad, but it took an hour or more to get home in the evening. I run into that in Orlando, but it has nearly twice the population.

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