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Owning Fewer Cars Isn’t Just For Millennials

By Sean Doyle
Democracy Digital Organizer

New transportation options are making it easier for people to ride public transit more and thus, own fewer cars.

At the beginning of this year, Lyft (a popular ridesharing service) announced that transit stops were the most popular destination for riders in 2015.1 It seemed people were use ridesharing services to cover the “first and last mile” between their destination and transit.

Now, a new report from the American Public Transportation Association shows that shared transportation services are indeed enabling people to use transit more, own fewer cars, and even save money on transportation. Among all share services, public transportation was the most popular, followed by bikesharing, ridesharing (e.g., Uber and Lyft), and carsharing (e.g., Zipcar and car2go).2

Interestingly, the most frequent users of new shared transportation services own cars at less than half the rate of people who only used public transportation. And this isn’t just a trend amongst young people -- the average age of those surveyed in the study was 41.3

The report also found that new forms of shared transportation services are not replacing public transportation, but rather supplementing it. If technology is making it easier to live with fewer or no cars by increasing access to public transportation and filling in at times or in places where public transportation is not available, the potential impacts on our entire transportation system are huge.4

At both the state and national level, we need to reorient our transportation spending away from building more and wider highways and increase investment in public transportation. Building more highways will only lead to more driving -- increasing pollution, associated health costs, and environmental degradation; it’s an unsustainable option. With the growing popularity of shared transportation services, it is even more important that we increase access to transportation options that Americans increasingly want to use.

However, these new technologies, the same ones that are enabling this shared mobility revolution, present an even greater opportunity. Rather than just supplementing or complementing public transit, what if shared or on-demand mobility became an extension of public transit. In fact, some transit agencies have already begun to explore such an extension, testing what closer collaboration might look like between shared services and transit.5 Shared transportation services are already making it easier for people to own fewer cars, and with greater integration and further technological revolutions on the horizon (read self-driving cars), car ownership could even be a thing of the past in some cities.

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