Twenty years ago, raising a family in America without access to a car was all but unheard of as cheap gas and a fully-functioning interstate system made road travel fast and easy. These days a host of alternatives to driving makes car ownership increasingly optional, and the trend is spreading among young people who find smartphones more affordable than automobiles.
Statistically speaking, the number of “zero-car families” in America is relatively small, standing at just 9.3% of households in 2011. In 2007 however, the number of zero-car families sat at just 8.7%, a rise of 0.6%, which doesn’t look like much but in fact represents millions of American households that no longer have cars. Some have even asked if the first world hasn’t hit peak car.
The reasons for the growth of zero-car families range from a tough economy and stagnant wages to the growth of car-owning alternatives, like car-sharing programs and growing use of public transit options. The debate over whether or not Millennials care about cars is still raging as well, though it’s a moot point because most young people can’t afford a car regardless.
Yet so many of us are still tethered to car ownership, as many parts of America have little or no access to either public transportation or crowd-sourced travelling solutions. Meanwhile, the spread-out nature of suburbia is starting to fray at the edges as people too far from job opportunities but too poor to buy a car find themselves locked in a vicious cycle of impoverished unemployment. Suffice to say, I expect the number of zero-car families to only go up from here.
Have you managed to ditch cars, or are you still stuck behind the wheel of a vehicle you don’t want but have to own?