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Perspective

In a Reversal, ‘Car-Rich’ Households Are Growing

Despite ride-hailing’s promise, vehicle ownership (and traffic) is on the rise in America’s biggest, most transit-oriented cities. So how is mobility really changing?
Car-light or car-rich? Chicago is one of several big U.S. cities that have seen automobile ownership grow since 2012.
Car-light or car-rich? Chicago is one of several big U.S. cities that have seen automobile ownership grow since 2012.Kamil Krzaczynski/Reuters

There is no doubt that ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft are remaking how people get around major American cities. The growing availability of shared bikes, e-bikes, and e-scooters is further changing the personal mobility story. The transformation is partly personal, offering a wealth of options for getting around town. It’s also supposed to be societal, ameliorating clogged traffic and boosting transit ridership.

The evidence for personal transformation is uncontested. But the societal benefits are less clear. How ride-hailing in particular is affecting vehicle use, traffic, and transit has been hotly debated. Research that I summarized in my report “The New Automobility” last summer showed that ride-hailing growth has led to more traffic and less transit use in major American cities—not the reverse that we all hoped for.