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Car Dependence

Seattleites Own More Cars Than Atlantans, and Other Surprising Comparisons

12:11 PM EDT on July 29, 2016

Screen Shot 2016-07-27 at 12.02.45 PM

Here's an interesting glimpse at car ownership in a cross-section of American and Canadian cities, courtesy of a recent report from the Shared Use Mobility Center.

This table comes from SUMC's analysis of car-share and bike-share [PDF]. We trimmed it to highlight the cars per household across the 27 cities -- 25 in America and two in Canada -- in SUMC's report. The sample is meant to include different types and sizes of cities -- it's not a list of the biggest cities. And the data comes from core cities, not entire regions with the suburban belt included.

Among these 27 cities, household car ownership is lowest in New York, Washington, Boston, Philadelphia, Buffalo, San Francisco, and Toronto. Not many surprises there.

But the car ownership numbers do make for some unexpected city-to-city comparisons:

    • The average household in Seattle, for instance, owns more cars than the average household in notoriously sprawling Atlanta.
    • Car ownership is higher in bike-friendly Boulder than in unwalkable Las Vegas.
    • In Portland, households typically own more cars than in Miami, and the rate isn't much lower than in Houston.

You can't read too much into this one table, but it does suggest that some cities haven't overcome car dependence as much as their reputations may suggest.

SUMC notes in its report that car ownership rates are basically a function of the strength of the transit system -- the better the transit, the fewer cars people own.

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