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Almost 10 Percent of American Households Don't Own a Car

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On: Fri, May 31, 2013 at 9:48AM | By: Chris Weiss

Almost 10 Percent of American Households Don't Own a Car

We knew cars were becoming less and less popular, thanks in part to young folks who would rather travel the world over bandwidth than via asphalt, but we didn't quite know how drastically the phenomenon was affecting car ownership numbers until a new report. According to automotive research firm CNW, 9.3 percent of American households did not have a single car parked outside as of last year.

CNW's data shows a rather rapid increase of carless households, from 5.7 percent in 1991 to 9.3 percent in 2012. While that may not sound like a lot, the 5.7 held relatively steady through the 1990s and early part of the oughts, but the percentage began spiking rapidly in 2007. It reached 8.7 percent in 2011 and moved up to 9.3 percent the following year.

The idea that household vehicles are decreasing isn't necessarily surprising. Survey after survey has shown that teenagers and young adults have much less interest in driving and owning a car than in the past. CNW's data confirms the trend of fewer cars among youth, but more interestingly, it also shows a strong decline for older Baby Boomers. According to the firm, younger Americans avoid owning a car by migrating to urban areas where public transportation is more readily available, while older folks migrate to retirement communities where automobiles are similarly unnecessary.

In addition to those migration trends, other trends are certainly at play. For instance, the expansion of Web technology for communications, work, and daily activities—like shopping—has limited the need to physically travel. The green movement and rising gas prices have led some people to look at alternatives like public transportation, car sharing, and bicycles.

"While the full impact of these trends are years away, we can see the formation of a future that includes more car-sharing, increased use of public transportation, and diminishing status of owning a new vehicle," The Detroit Bureau quotes CNW research head Art Spinella. "Again, this is years away—perhaps a decade—but the shift is clearly taking root."

The trend doesn't appear likely to reverse anytime soon, but the end of the recession may help to ease it.

CNW doesn't seem quite ready to declare the driving boom over, as a recent report from the US Public Interest Research Group (US PRIG) did. That report cited disinterest from Millenials, as well as the end of the factors that drove the six-decade-long driving boom, a continual year-to-year increase in driving from WWII to 2004. Those factors included cheap gas prices and the rapid expansion of the workforce during the Baby Boom generation. The US PIRG found that Americans drive fewer total miles today than eight years ago and fewer miles per-person than in 1996. It also notes a 10 percent increase in public transportation trips between 2005 and 2011, and increased usage of bike and foot transportation.


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