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Ben G

1/2 mile seems like an awfully short distance for a grocery store. I walked 5.5 miles round trip to a farmer's market (and some other shopping) in Vancouver BC today and it wasn't a big deal. I'm renting a bike tomorrow to expand my reach across the city. I doubt I'll take a bus while I'm here, even though the network seems quite decent. I'd rather get the exercise, feel the wind in my hair, and have better view of all the beautiful women ;-)

Why does everyone want "public transit" (implying buses and rail) to fill these short distance gaps? It'd be a lot cheaper to put in bike lanes / paths and encourage people to get around on bikes for such short distances. Healthier and more engaging with the environment and community, too.

I'm not saying it's a bad idea to redesign networks with poor geometry (especially when the reconfigured cost is on par with the old cost)... it's just good to also consider how other modes of moving around can be a part of the solution.

Tom West

Ben G: These are people living *more* than half a mile from a grocery store. If you are carrying a week's shopping (even for just yourself), walking more than half a mile in Texan heat is not fun, to put it mildly. This isn't just a few nice items from the farmers' market - this is everything you need for the week, including heavy things like milk, and bulky stuff like toilet roll/paper/tissue/[local term].

In short, I think transit should be a realistic option to take you to and from a grocery store over half a mile away.

Xavier Debidour

@Tom West
Be careful not assuming the same behavior for people walking as motorists :

In my experience when walking (or using transit) you generally buy food several times a week in smaller quantities than if you had an automobile (and preferably on your way back home from work).

Jim Moore

Catching public transport just to buy your groceries sounds like a real time-consuming chore, as well as putting yourself at the mercy of the system and its inevitable incidents of unreliability, which only needs to happen once or twice before you swear never to put yourself in that position ever again. Follow the link below to see how the Dutch have deliberately planned to avoid food deserts and allow their people to get their groceries without relying on motorised transport.


Alon Levy

How much farther than 800 meters are these grocery stores? When I lived in Providence I was about a kilometer from the supermarket, along mostly walkable streets, and it was only mildly annoying. But living multiple kilometers away is a more serious issue.

Steve Dunham

I noticed that not owning a car was explained: "because of poverty, illness, or age," implying that anybody who can own and drive a car wants one and drives one. In Houston, those who choose not to own a car may be a small minority (as they are in most of the United States), but they don't even get a mention, as if not owning a car is a disability, and who would choose to be disabled?


I think that chain supermarkets have created more food deserts. From what I have seen the larger chains seem to put the smaller neighborhood markets and even smaller chains out of business and then people have to travel farther to do their grocery shopping.


Also lower income people sometimes prefer to travel longer distances to cheaper supermarkets/grocery stores. For example Winco and Walmart Supercenters can be a huge transit draw. Many convenience stores, like 7-Eleven, are starting to stock healthy snacks like bananas and apples but the selection is very limited.

Sascha Claus

Supermarkets are such transit draws that British ones (Tesco comes to mind) often come with small bus stations in their parking lot, at a size were a bus stop on the street for the routes passing through ought to be enough.

John Gardosik

I do wonder how National Geographic defines "supermarket" in this context. Some of those bubbles make me think they're leaving off small local chains like La Michoacana and other carnicerias, Indian markets, Korean/Vietnamese/Chinese markets etc that do actually carry a good selection of fresh produce, meat and seafood and dry goods. I've seen too many of these maps that only count major chains (HEB, Kroger, Randall's, Whole Foods.)

Andre Lot

@Jim Moore: the sort of micro-detailed over-planning of neighborhood design of Dutch cities is just completely unacceptable for North American local political cultures. It would never be possible to implement without deranging into the worst forms of patronage and favoritism like it can be seen in places like San Francisco or New York.

@bw: I don't think chains have anything to do with that. In other countries with heavy presence of chains like Switzerland, UK, Netherlands, Denmark, there are different patterns of spatial distribution of supermarkets even if 3-4 chains completely dominate the business.

@Ben G: I call your bluff on your statement, respectfully. If you can walk 5.5 miles to a market and come back carrying packages as if it is nothing, then you belong to a tiny minority of super athletic people who don't sweat while virtually running back and front, or then you have a lot of disposable time such that you can waste 90-100 min walking as if it were nothing, consider the average speed threshold that starts to exert the body on a jogging pace.

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