October 18, 2019


Emerging mobility services, car ownership, and urban transport sustainability in the U.S.


1:40pm - 3:00pm


1605 Tilia, Room 1103, West Village


As mobility services proliferate in our cities, headlines predicting the end of urban car ownership have multiplied as well.

Visions of the future of urban transport focus on shared, autonomous, electric vehicles as a critical part of the sustainable mobility package – together with transit, walking, and biking. Our analysis highlights a significant economic barrier to this sustainable transport future: the low cost of owned cars. Based on a sample of more than 230,000 vehicles, we estimate the full distribution of the per-mile cost of owned cars in the U.S., and use it to illustrate how car shedding might progress as the average price of alternative mobility changes. If alternatives cost $1.00 per mile, for example, approximately 10% of owned cars could be economically shed, but they represent only 2.4% of the vehicle miles traveled (VMT) in owned cars today. For the vast majority of U.S. households, emerging mobility services today are priced far above levels where car shedding would be economical. These findings should be sobering for those who hope that emerging mobility services will induce widespread shedding of owned cars, ushering in a sustainable future for urban transport. In a world of technology-enhanced mobility options, traditional planning solutions for sustainable urban transport still apply: raise the cost of unsustainable options, and implement policies and investments that support sustainable alternatives.

Biographical Sketch

Deborah Salon is an Assistant Professor of Transportation in the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning at Arizona State University and Associate Director of the TOMNET University Transportation Center. Salon studies transportation in cities with the goal of better understanding of how these systems work, and how policies and smart investments might improve them. The methods she uses range from qualitative, interview-based research to advanced econometric analysis. Dr. Salon holds a PhD in Agricultural and Resource Economics from the University of California, Davis. Before joining the faculty at ASU, she completed a post-doctoral fellowship at Columbia University’s Earth Institute and subsequently held a research appointment at UC Davis’s Institute of Transportation Studies.

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