The problem with high gas prices is that they have a rolling effect not just on prices but on overall quality of life. New data indicates that 81% of counties say public safety is the most impacted by higher fuel prices. But it’s not police or fire that is typically being cut. It’s other services. Like mass transit.

Cleveland, for instance, is planning to cut drivers and routes after the bus fleet’s fuel costs rose from $5 million in 2003 to an estimated $21 million this year.

Another area effected? Repairing potholes. Not just because the trucks take gas but because asphalt is a petroleum product and its main component has risen in price by 90% since last year.

If fuel prices continue to stay at high levels, look for municipalities around the country to cut back on services or increase taxes. Without prices falling back to manageable levels, we may look back on 2008 as the year in which strategies for city design and management began to change on a mass level.

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