Measuring the Shift Away From Car Ownership, City By City

A new analysis by Michael Andersen at Bike Portland helps illuminate how shifts in car ownership are playing out in different cities.

The majority of Portland's population growth consists of households with fewer cars than adults. Image: ##http://bikeportland.org/2013/07/30/low-car-households-account-for-60-of-portland-growth-since-2005-91282##Bike Portland##

Andersen reviewed Census data from 2005 and 2011. He found that households with less than one car per adult accounted for about 60 percent of Portland’s population growth. About one in four Portland households met this definition of “car-lite” in 2011, Andersen reports, compared to one in five households six years earlier.

Andersen looked at a few more cities to see whether car-lite households make up a growing share of the population.

In Austin, a more car-dependent city, not much has changed. About 13 percent of households are “car-lite,” and car-lite households account for 13 percent of the growth between 2005 and 2011. In Seattle, there’s been some movement, but not as much as in Portland: car-lite households make up 25 percent of the city overall while accounting for 37 percent of its recent growth. Meanwhile, walkable, transit-rich Boston is growing even less car-dependent: almost 70 percent of new households have fewer cars than adults, according to Andersen, compared to about half of the city’s overall population.

In Portland, Andersen notes, the real estate market is starting to react to the shift away from car-dependence — to build more walkable places and less parking. Is that going to be a trend in other American regions?

Well, car-lite households accounted for about 28 percent of America’s growth between 2005 and 2011 — double the overall national share of car-lite households.

  • Kevin Love

    “— to build more walkable places and less parking.”

    Because bike parking isn’t “real” parking?

  • Miles Bader

    Bike parking is orders of magnitude more efficient, much cheaper, has far less negative impact on the surroundings, and encourages, rather than discourages, desirable transportation habits. So yeah, it’s really not the same thing as car parking at all.

  • Kevin Love

    Perhaps I was being too subtle. So I will spell it out. I resent language that makes me invisible and treats me as if I do not exist and am not a “real” person.

    If the author meant car parking (and the context indicates that she did), she should have said so. To just say “parking” when she means “car parking” results in me getting a message that there is no other type of parking worth consideration.

    I’ve got the same beef with people who write “traffic” when what they really mean is “car traffic.” As if pedestrian and bike traffic isn’t “real” traffic.

    I’ve got the same beef with people who write that a road is “closed” when it is made car-free. As if pedestrians and cyclists are not real people so that opening the road to them isn’t really opening it at all.

    I am against language that marginalizes people and treats them as if they are not real people and do not exist.

    I am certainly not saying that Angie intended to send this message. She is doing the right thing and I wish to strongly encourage her and thank her for what she is doing. This is not about Angie.

    What it is really about is that I’ve just had to deal with a lot of correspondence in which several people used all three of the above examples and I have become quite annoyed with it.

  • Alan

    I’d say given the context, it was reasonable to conclude she was talking about car parking in this case.

  • Celia

    Note to self: cycling does not lower anxiety and/or paranoia levels.

  • Celia

    Note to self: cycling does not lower anxiety and/or paranoia levels.

  • Celia

    Note to self: cycling does not lower anxiety and/or paranoia levels.

  • guest

    Misleading article. Lots of single, under-employed kids came to drink and play. They can’t afford cars. When the perpetual spring break ends in PDX, you’ll see the numbers shift. Density has been implemented so badly in Portland that there is a backlash. Don’t look to us for inspiration. Our dense downtown is unsafe.

  • DCent

    Carry on Angie. Dude, get some help.

  • JR

    I live in Brooklyn and was just in PDX for some time. Unsafe?

  • Marcus K

    I appreciate your attention to language misuse, and I think you made your point without disrespecting the author.

    On the other hand, “Dcent” and “Celia” made their points of disagreeing with you while disrespecting you as a person. Their negative tones under-minded their counterpoints. I immediately dismissed the validity of their criticism.

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