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Reports of the Automobile's Demise Have Been Greatly Exaggerated

Clearly, the American love affair with the automobile is far from over, despite lessons from the recession, dire environmental warnings, plummeting traffic safety, or the wishful thinking of tech companies.
October 17, 2019, 10am PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Aarian Marshall pumps the break on a politically useful narrative about the demise of car ownership in the United States. Ride-hailing companies and car sharing companies claim private ownership of cars is an outdated concept, cities block streets to cars partly from the assumption that there's growing demand for car-free places, and Census data have shown a growing number of households without cars.

Still, there's an elephant in the room, according to Marshall: "Personal car ownership in the US has actually increased in the past 10 years, even in the frenzied urban places where Uber and car-share have become verbs."

There's more. "According to research from former New York City transportation official Bruce Schaller, the number of vehicles has grown faster than the population in some of the cities where ride-hail is most popular: Boston, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, and Chicago."

Companies that were built on the assumption that fewer people would want to own cars in the future have also "hit the skids," according to Marshall, like Car2Go.

The reversion to the car-centric mean could be traced to post-recession austerity, according to experts cited by Marshall in the article. Unmentioned, however, is the kind of cars are buying. Consumer trends in the United States have shifted back to large vehicles, as full-size SUVs and pick-up trucks again are best sellers in the United States, despite evidence that they are unsafe for everyone inside the car and out.

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Published on Wednesday, October 16, 2019 in Wired
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