Clark, B., Lyons, G. and Chatterjee, K.
Understanding the dynamics of car ownership: Some unanswered questions.
Proceedings of the 41st Universities' Transport Study Group Conference, London, UK, 5-7 January 2009.
- Accepted Version
This discussion paper arises from the first year of a PhD study into household car ownership decisions. It begins by summarising explanations for the past (aggregate) increases in car ownership, reviewing research from the fields of economics, urban and transport planning, and social psychology. Car ownership trends have been examined in terms of consumer behaviour; changing land use patterns; changing social norms and the life-course.
Though there are convincing explanations for past increases in car ownership at the aggregate level, the paper goes on to draw together evidence suggesting that there are significant and perhaps counter-intuitive underlying variations. Previous analysis of the British Household Panel Survey by Dargay and Hanly has revealed that there are only a slightly larger number of households increasing car ownership (8.2 per cent) than there are households reducing car ownership (7.6 per cent) each year. Similarly, at the local level, a comparison for this present paper, of the 1991 and 2001 censuses reveals that car ownership levels per capita were either maintained or reduced in 8.6 per cent (688) of the electoral wards in England. Indeed, a significant minority – 6.2 million households in Great Britain, either choose, or are constrained to continue living without a car.
This underlying variation in (changing) car ownership levels has important implications for transport policy, and the paper concludes by posing a series of questions which may benefit from further research. While it seems that car ownership levels naturally tend to increase, are there (predictable) conditions under which the demand for privately owned cars might be reduced? If so, do these relate to macro or micro-level factors, to spatial planning or the transport system, or to the physical or the social environment? The paper explores such questions.
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