Studies have shown that almost nothing damages your happiness more than a long commute. It's been estimated that to keep your happiness constant after adding an hour to your daily commute, you'd have to make 40% more money. In that case, think of the infographic below as nothing less than a quality of life index.
Using personal financial data, Mint.com figured out how much people in various cities spend on gas per month. Granted, this isn't a direct gauge of commuting time, but it's pretty close. And the highest spenders in San Jose lay out more than twice that of the lowest, in New York — some $216 per month:[Click image to enlarge]
The list of cities with the lowest gas spending — the "Sippers" and "Teetotalers" — corresponds somewhat well with indexes of the best places to live in, based on economic prospects. Which might tell you something about what it means to be a growing city: After all, cities with their best days before them have not yet been choked by their growth. The question for urban planners is really whether growth necessarily leads to more traffic. It doesn't have to. Cities are finally beginning to understand how damaging low-tax, low amenity policies were to long-term prospects — not to mention the litany of bizarre zoning laws that created suburbia and sprawl.