Travel in the digital age: Vehicle ownership and technology-facilitated accessibility

Despite their negative externalities, cars provide many benefits. Chief among these is the ability to travel to destinations within a reasonable time budget. Consequently, in the U.S. most households—even low-income households—own and use automobiles. But technological innovations may be altering this dynamic. New technology-facilitated services and activities may reduce the advantages of private vehicle ownership, potentially allowing households to live car-free or downsize their household vehicle fleets. In this study the authors use data from the 2017 U.S. National Household Travel Survey to investigate the relationship between these innovations and vehicle ownership. The authors find a positive relationship between the use of ridehail and carshare services and the likelihood of being a zero-vehicle household. The data also show a positive relationship between online shopping and working from home and the likelihood of having fewer household vehicles than adults. Combined, the findings suggest that new technology-facilitated activities may allow some households to eliminate or reduce their dependence on privately-owned vehicles. For other households, new technology-facilitated services may not directly affect their decisions about automobile ownership, but rather increase their access to opportunities while easing the financial burden of vehicle ownership. Agencies and organizations should explore opportunities to better connect households—particularly households with travel and financial constraints—to technology-facilitated services and activities that enable improved access.


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  • Accession Number: 01770981
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Feb 4 2021 3:53PM