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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?

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