How Car-Free is New York City?

Image: Joseph Cutrufo/TSTC

Just in time for New York City’s second annual Car-Free Day, Tri-State Transportation Campaign has released a new fact sheet on car ownership in the five boroughs: How Car-Free Is NYC?

Using U.S. Census Bureau data (2015 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates), “How Car-Free Is NYC?” presents not only the share of zero-car households in the city and in each of the five boroughs, but also includes journey to work and median household income data. “How Car-Free Is NYC?” is an update on the New York City borough fact sheets which TSTC published a decade ago to strengthen the case for congestion pricing.

A few highlights:

  • 54.5 percent of New York City households are car-free.
  • Manhattan households are the most likely to not own any vehicles — the borough is 76.6 percent car-free.
  • Staten Island households are most likely to own at least one vehicle — 17.8 percent of households own no cars.
  • Brooklyn (56.5 percent car-free) is most like the city as a whole in terms of percentage of zero-car households.
  • In New York City, car-free households earn 52 percent less than households with vehicles. The difference is most pronounced on Staten Island, where car-free households earn 73 percent less than households with cars.
  • In the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens, the majority of workers commute via transit. Staten Island is the only borough where a majority of commuters (56.3 percent) drive to work.
  • Across the board, median incomes of zero-car households are lower than overall median incomes, while median incomes of households with vehicles are higher than overall median incomes in all five boroughs and across the city.
  • Only Manhattan’s car-free households earn more ($69,360) than the city’s median household income ($55,752).
  • Car ownership is on the rise: all five boroughs have slightly smaller percentages of car-free households than in the 2007 congestion pricing fact sheets (which used 2000 census data).

2 Comments on "How Car-Free is New York City?"

  1. native new yorker | April 21, 2017 at 12:14 pm |

    Between 2007 and 2015 (last stats avail) 140,494 (+7.48%) more passengers vehicles were registered in NYC. Brooklyn saw the largest increase of 55,363 (+12.51%) vehicles in that same time period. That’s approx an average of +782 more cars per square mile or +7 more cars per block. So middle class New Yorkers apparently need cars. They get tired after a while of waiting in the rain for a crowded bus or need cars as their family grows. Large shopping trips require a car. I was surprised at the Brooklyn numbers considering that most homes/apartments don’t have driveways/garages and that Alternate Side Parking rules are a nightmare for car owners. Note how the two most middle-class borough SI and Queens have the highest car ownership rates.
    NYS DMV stats for NYC (pdf) –
    https://files.acrobat.com/a/preview/f595d8db-fec6-4c8a-b16c-2817a995b147

  2. Surprisingly it’s not just NYC that has a big car free population. 10%-20% of the population of places like Baltimore and Dallas don’t have cars. Even smaller towns can have 5%+ of their population car free. Unfortunately many of these cities have very little infrastructure to accommodate sustainable modes. Hopefully this will change in the coming years.

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