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More 'Car-Rich' Households Mean More Car Ownership

More people are buying cars, even while more people are choosing to go without cars.
January 9, 2019, 7am PST | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Rich Anderson

Bruce Schaller pens a guest column for CityLab that builds on the findings of his 2018 report: "The New Automobility."

From the title of that report it can be inferred that the report focuses on the changing nature of personal mobility. Between ride-hauling, car sharing, bike share, and electric scooters, these new options have the potential to be transformative.

But the societal benefits of this new era of transportation are still unclear. In fact, according to American Community Survey data identified by Schaller, the "ditch your car" of proponents of transportation technology are far from being realized.

Household vehicle ownership has increased in cities where Uber and Lyft are most heavily used, using 2012 (the year the companies started offering affordable everyday ride services like UberX) as the starting point. Moreover, the rate of vehicle growth substantially exceeded population growth in five of the eight cities (Boston, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia and Chicago).

Still, the picture is contradictory, according to Schaller:

At the same time, more urban households also have no or relatively few cars. These households are often referred to as “car-free” (no cars available to the household) or “car-light,” e.g., a working couple that owns one vehicle. (For data availability reasons, “car-light” is defined here as households with fewer vehicles than workers.) 

Schaller also provides insight into how to reconcile these seemingly contradictory trends. One powerful trend sticks out: the growth of "car-rich" households, households with at least one car, is driving the overall increase in vehicle ownership. That's true for many cities, but especially Los Angeles, according to Schaller.

For more data-based analysis of the role of the automobile in contemporary U.S. society, see also a recent article by Steven Polzin titled "Transportation 2019—Looking Back, Looking Ahead."

Full Story:
Published on Monday, January 7, 2019 in CityLab
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