In a Reversal, Car-Rich Households are Growing

In a Reversal, Car-Rich Households are Growing

The growth of ride-hailing services has led to more traffic and less transit use in the United States, contrary to predictions that suggested the opposite would happen when transportation network companies first started becoming popular. Some data shows that household vehicle ownership increased in cities where Uber and Lyft are most heavily used, while there is also a growing number of urban households that own zero or few cars. The article analyzes this data to determine whether Americans own fewer cars, and discusses how vehicle ownership relates to population growth in several cities.

Key findings

“There is a lot more growth in car-light than car-free households. In fact, since 2012 the number of car-free households declined in Chicago, D.C., and Los Angeles. Adding one-car households in cities where there is on average about one vehicle per household results in no real change in the rate of car ownership – all the while adding more traffic to city streets.”

“Households with at least one vehicle per worker (“car-rich” perhaps?) account for the bulk of increased car ownership in Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and Seattle. Growth of light-car households accounts for only about one-quarter of the total growth in vehicle ownership in these cities. The picture is different in Washington, D.C., New York, and San Francisco, where rapid growth among already-numerous car-light households is the source of half or more of overall vehicle growth.”

“The best evidence that some Americans are actually ditching their cars can be seen in Seattle, where the ranks of car-free/car-light households increased by 23 percent. That’s consistent with the city’s standing as one of the few with growing transit ridership. Yet even in Seattle, total vehicles edged up faster than population (16 percent versus 14 percent) since 2012.”

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