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    Peer Reviewed

    Personal gasoline consumption, population patterns, and metropolitan structure: the United States, 1960-1970

    Zelinsky W; Sly DF

    Annals of the Association of American Geographers. 1984; 74(2):257-78.

    Using a 864 county study area, 1 containing all Standard Metropolitan Statistical Areas (SMSAs) as of 1975, and an 8% random sample of nonmetro counties, this study explores the relationships among population characteristics and change, metropolitan structure, and gasoline purchases for personal vehicles in the period 1960-70. Gasoline purchases, used as a proxy measure of energy consumption for personal travel, were estimated using information from the Censuses of Retail Trade and state gasoline tax data. 3 findings are particularly important. 1) Population redistribution among regions and 3 major categories of places--central city and ring counties within SMSAs and nonmetro counties--during the 1960s produced little or no appreciable change in gasoline used for personal vehicles at the national level. 2) During this period of sharply rising consumption, a decided convergence occurred in mean per capita values among regions and residential categories, with an especially notable increase in central city counties. 3) Surprisingly, within SMSAs, a negative association existed between suburbanization and SMSA levels of per capita consumption. This suggests that the more extended a metropolitan area and, inferentially, the more highly developed and integrated its periphery, the greater the fuel efficiency in personal transportation. It also suggests the need to reconsider our standard models of metropolitan structure. Because of major changes in socioeconomic conditions, the authors cannot safely extrapolate their findings into the 1970s and 1980s. (author's modified)
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