We live near the middle of town, a five minute walk to the leisure centre — and less than that to get to the shops. As a result, we don’t use our cars at all for three days of the week, and I go to the gym at the leisure centre every day.

My grandmother, who wasn’t well-off and who rented all her life, used to ensure that she lived right next to a bus stop. Although she wouldn’t have used the phrase from this article, she knew that she was more likely to travel and get places that way!

You may have heard of hyperbolic discounting from behavioral economics: people will generally disproportionally, i.e. hyperbolically, discount the value of something the farther off it is. The average person judges $15 now as equivalent to $30 in 3-months (an annual rate of return of 277%!).


But what about when something is farther off in space rather than time?

Say a 1-hour activity is 10 minutes away, compared to 5 minutes away. The total time usage would be 80 vs 70 minutes, about 15% longer. A linear model would predict that it would feel 15% more costly, and then proportionally affect your likelihood of going. In practice though, an extra 10 or 20 minutes of travel time will somehow frequently nudge you into non-participation.

Source: Hyperbolic Distance Discounting | Atoms vs Bits