Tough to Conserve

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With gas prices like these, it's good to be Michigan State University student Michelle Wcisel.

"I walk to class, walk to get something to eat, walk to go shopping, I walk everywhere I can," Wcisel said Tuesday.

But not everyone in mid-Michigan lives in a walkable place like downtown East Lansing. Karen Cessna lives in Delta Township.

"It's close to everything but you can't really walk, you know, to a store or anything," Cessna said.

Even in neighborhoods with sidewalks, like many in Lansing's suburbs, there's not much to walk to. MSU's Global Urban Studies Director, Laura Reese, says the problem is especially acute in Michigan.

"You can't go anywhere unless you go without your car," Reese said.
"It's probably worse than just about anywhere in the country."

So how can people in mid-Michigan save money on transportation when so many are dependent on cars and gasoline? Reese says the answers aren't easy.

"We tend to blame developers, but people are making choices that they want to live in a big house, on this big plot of land away from the cities. It would take a significant shift to say, 'The cost of gas is outweighing my desire to have this kind of living,'" she said.

Reese says faster, more efficient transit could help, too.

"Take a lane on each side of major road and it's dedicated to buses. And you don't allow vehicles in the lanes," she said, describing what planners call Bus Rapid Transit (BRT).

For their part, cities are building developments with more density -- in Lansing, East Lansing, even in Meridian Township. Still, Reese says she's not too optimistic.

"The families that can afford the homes are the ones that can afford the prices. So I don't see a big shift in behavior," she said.

Unless, she says, prices at Lansing-area gas pumps climb even higher.