I wouldn't say that people here advocate sprawl itself --this is the Urban Planet after all-- but the idea set forth in the books (apparently there are several placed in this setting) is of one continuous city. I know BosWash isn't exactly a continuous city without its fair share of badly planned strips malls and sprawly big boxes, but it represents one of the most densely populated spans in our country. I think the idea of one massive city is appealing on the "mine is bigger than yours" mentality that all humans have deep down. Same reason people like tall buildings.
As far as the automobile, of course we will someday come to rely on other things; at least I hope so. But with rising fuel costs just come higher costs of travel, not a significant decrease in travel. If gasoline reaches $4 a gallon, we'll be like the rest of the world; it's not that unusual on a global scale. We, as Americans, need to get over the idea that we should get gas cheaper than the rest of the world.
- There are of course alternatives to driving. Let's go by cost:
- Amtrak runs the full length of BAMA but takes longer then driving over long distances. According to Amtrak's website, a trip from ATL to BOS takes 21hrs 26mins and costs $418 round trip.
- Mapquest states it would only take 18hrs 1min over a course of 1108.34 miles one way given ideal traffic. Let's say the average car 'nowadays' gets around 35mpg highway. That's 63.3 gallons of gas roundtrip. According to EIA's website (http://tonto.eia.doe...u/gasdiesel.asp) the average fuel price on the eastern seaboard is $2.93/gal. That's roughly $184 in gas.
- Cheapest round trip flight from ATL to BOS is $171 through Northwest with a one stop travel time of 5 hours on top of the time it takes to arrive, claim bags, etc. So, let's say 9 or 10 hours to be fair.
So, as long as time is not of the essence, driving would be overall cheaper considering either one must pay for parking at the airport or pay money to get to and from there by taxi/bus/rail (pending you don't have a wonderful friend/family member to drop you off/pick you up.) Driving vs flying is debatable, but no other form of transit could get you through this span in a comparable manner. Thus, any major metro/megalopolis will have a great deal of commuting on the micro and macro levels.
itk, it's not so much a matter of sprawl itself filling in these areas, but the growth of smaller cities between these empty areas that will eventually help to form an, at least, suburban version of BAMA. Imagine these same areas twenty years ago; especially in Virginia and the Carolinas. There was nothing but farmland and a few blocks of midrises. All major growth has happened mainly in the last decade or so. Given thirty to forty more years, the possibilities of this stretch are limitless. If this ever happens, Virginia and South Carolina are in for a massive population and economic boom.