Zero-Car Households on the Rise Across the Region

Between 2009 and 2012, the percentage of occupied housing units with no vehicles available increased in counties across the tri-state region. A TSTC analysis of 2010-2012 American Community Survey (ACS) estimates of vehicle availability for occupied housing units for the 41 Connecticut, New Jersey and downstate New York counties with the same estimates from 2007-2009, found that over one third of these counties saw an increase in zero-car households.

Of the 14 counties that experienced a statistically significant difference between the 2007-2009 and 2010-2012 data, almost all saw an increase in the percentage of occupied housing units without vehicles available. The percent changes ranged from 2.3 percent (Manhattan, where units without vehicles increased from 77 percent of occupied housing units to 78.8 percent) to 47.1 percent (Putnam County, where occupied housing units without vehicles available increased from 3.4 percent to 5 percent). Only two of the 14 counties saw a decrease in the percentage of zero-car households: New Jersey’s Hudson and Sussex Counties.

Percentage of Occupied Housing Units with No Vehicles Available

[RPS3] State County 2010-2012 Estimate (%) 2007-2009 Estimate (%) Statistical Significance?* Percentage Change, 2007-2009 to 2010-2012 (%)

Connecticut

Fairfield County

8.6

8.2

N

4.9

Hartford County

10.8

10.2

N

5.9

Litchfield County

5.1

5

N

2.0

Middlesex County

4.5

4.7

N

-4.3

New Haven County

11.5

10.5

Y

9.5

New London County

7.6

5.7

Y

33.3

Tolland County

2.7

2.8

N

-3.6

Windham County

7

6.6

N

6.1

New Jersey

Atlantic County

14.1

14.1

N

0.0

Bergen County

8.5

8

N

6.3

Burlington County

4.9

4.9

N

0.0

Camden County

12

11.2

N

7.1

Cape May County

9.8

8.9

N

10.1

Cumberland County

10.4

11.1

N

-6.3

Essex County

23.5

22.8

N

3.1

Gloucester County

5.7

5.7

N

0.0

Hudson County

32.7

34

Y

-3.8

Hunterdon County

3.2

3.5

N

-8.6

Mercer County

11.8

11.6

N

1.7

Middlesex County

8.1

8.2

N

-1.2

Monmouth County

7.9

7.5

N

5.3

Morris County

4.9

4.6

N

6.5

Ocean County

6.5

6.6

N

-1.5

Passaic County

16.7

16.9

N

-1.2

Salem County

9.5

8.7

N

9.2

Somerset County

5.7

4.8

Y

18.8

Sussex County

3.2

4

Y

-20.0

Union County

11.4

11.9

N

-4.2

Warren County

6

5.3

N

13.2

New York

Bronx County

61.2

57.8

Y

5.9

Dutchess County

8.6

6.5

Y

32.3

Kings County

57.7

56.3

Y

2.5

Nassau County

7.6

7

Y

8.6

New York County

78.8

77

Y

2.3

Orange County

10

9.2

N

8.7

Putnam County

5

3.4

Y

47.1

Queens County

38

36

Y

5.6

Richmond County

16.7

15.6

N

7.1

Rockland County

10.6

8.9

Y

19.1

Suffolk County

5.3

4.7

Y

12.8

Westchester County

14.6

14.1

N

3.5

Connecticut

9.1

8.5

Y

7.1

New Jersey

11.8

11.7

N

0.9

New York

29.4

28.5

Y

3.2

United States

9.2

8.8

Y

4.5

Source: ACS 2010-2012 3-Year Estimates, CP-04
* A “Y” indicates that the estimate is significantly different (at a 90% confidence level) than the estimate from the most current year.

These findings bolster previously highlighted studies of trends in declining vehicle ownership and vehicle miles driven. And a June 2013 paper by Michael Sivak of the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute, finds that even though the total number of vehicles may not have peaked,

“the rates of vehicles per person, licensed driver, and household reached their maxima prior to the onset of the current economic downturn… consequently, it is likely that the declines in these rates… reflect other societal changes that influence the need for vehicles (e.g., increases in telecommuting and in the use of public transportation).”

The cost of owning and maintaining a vehicle also warrants mentioning. There are many reasons why a household may not own a vehicle — by choice or otherwise.

In addition, U.S. PIRG’s May 2013 report, “A New Direction: Our Changing Relationship with Driving and the Implications for America’s Future,” argues “that under any reasonable scenario, the number of miles driven annually will be far fewer in the future than if Baby Boom trends had continued.”

Unfortunately, recent regional long range plans may not be reflecting the breadth of declining automobile ownership and vehicle miles traveled. With this additional data showing this shift well-underway in counties across the tri-state region, elected officials must do more to support policies that make it easier for residents to get around without cars. This means realigning priorities away from building more roads, and instead, focusing on investing in projects such as bus rapid transitexpansion of bike share and the implementation of complete streets.

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