Are you a zero-car family? You're not alone--it's popular these days

The number of zero-car families is rising for the first time in decades, largely due to a proliferation of alternative types of transportation. In 2011, the percentage of U.S. households without a car reached 9.3 percent. Would you ditch your car? 

Mary Knox Merrill/Christian Science Monitor/File
People commute to work on bicycles in the London Kensington district. 2011 data shows that 9.3 percent of U.S. households do not own a car, the highest percentage in decades.

If you really want to reduce emissions or conserve energy, get rid of your car.

It may sound extreme, but an increasing number of Americans are doing just that. The number of "Zero-Car Families" is rising, according to AOL Autos.

For the first time in several decades, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation OfficialsNational Report on Commuting Patterns and Trends found an increase in the share of American households that don't own cars. 

Starting in 1960, the number of American households without a car began dropping, reaching a low of 8.7 percent in 2007.

However, by 2011--the latest year for which data is available--that number had risen to 9.3 percent.

While the economic fallout from the Great Recession may have had some impact, the study's authors believe a proliferation of alternative types of transportation is a major factor in the decline of car ownership.

People are more likely to bike, walk, or take mass transit, they said, and many people are now working from home thanks to advances in communications technology.

Car sharing is another new option. Zipcar or local city car-sharing services can substitute for an individual vehicle owned by some city dwellers.

The study jibes with Federal Highway Administration data released in February, which shows that annual per-capita vehicle miles traveled (VMT) peaked in 2004 and have since declined steadily.

Finally, there's the persistent narrative that Millennials don't care much about owning cars, because of a combination of lack of funds, environmentalism, and a preference for digital technology.

Ditching a car would certainly be a thorough way to reduce your personal emissions profile; a car can't pollute if it doesn't exist. Even an all-electric Nissan Leaf can't beat that logic.

Still, given the suburban infrastructure and society we've built since World War 2--which requires a vehicle, if not two or three--cars have little chance of disappearing, at least in our lifetimes.

What would it take for your household to go without a personal vehicle?

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.