Single people in many metro areas becoming more car-free, with some exceptions

Ed.: In part 2 of her ongoing analysis of car ownership rates in the U.S., urban planner Sarah Jo Peterson examines how one-person households, or singles, have been buying more cars or going car-free in the first half of the decade. Below is an excerpt of her piece, which you can read in its entirety here.

The transportation choices of Americans who live alone are important not just because singles make up more than one quarter of all households. Between 2010 and 2015, the 32 million one-person households in the United States became both more likely to live car-free and to have multiple cars. (Yes, a one-person household with two-or-more cars is a thing!) The transportation lifestyles of singles are shifting, even volatile. Moreover, their choices are an indicator that transportation lifestyles are polarizing across the states, and also across some of the largest metros and their core cities too.

Singles let go of cars in half of the 50 largest metropolitan areas by population between 2010 and 2015. Singles in 15 metros shifted to car-free living by more than 1.0 percentage point and by more than 2.0 percentage points in the metros encompassing Indianapolis, Las Vegas, and San Francisco. In just 11 metros were singles more likely to have more cars in 2015.

A number of metro areas show lower car-ownership rates among singles, while others have higher polarization (more car-free and more owners of multiple cars).

Like for the states, shifts tended to be towards the extreme transportation lifestyles. In the 25 metros where singles shifted away from cars, 22 metros showed increases in car-free living. Only in the metros encompassing Louisville, San Diego, and Atlanta were the shifts predominantly about dropping down to only one vehicle. Singles made living car-two+ more common in seven of the 11 metros with more cars. Only in the metros encompassing New York, Boston, Raleigh, and Cincinnati was the predominant shift a move from no car to one car.

Eleven metros experienced strong shifts away from cars, where living car-free went up and car-two+ went down. The eleven are the metros encompassing Hartford, Detroit, Milwaukee, Providence, Washington, Salt Lake City, Portland, San Francisco, Sacramento, Los Angeles, and Riverside. Six metros polarized between 2010 and 2015: proportionally, more singles were living both car-free and car-two+ in the metros encompassing Indianapolis, New Orleans, Oklahoma City, Memphis, Dallas, and Charlotte.

Strong shifts towards more cars (car-two+ up and car-free down) only showed up in the metros encompassing San Antonio, Pittsburgh, and San Juan. Only in the metros encompassing Memphis, New Orleans, and Dallas did singles embrace living car-two+ by more than one percentage point.

Read the full post, which explains how, in some instances, singles led cities away from high car-ownership rates, here.

Photo: Townhouses and parking in Chicago (Ian Freimuth, Flickr, Creative Commons).

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