Why Has Car Ownership Become Less Attractive? Part 1

If you’re gonna have a dream, it might as well be the American dream. And the American dream has a certain set of standard equipment that makes it instantly recognisable as such. One of those items is a car. If you live in the suburbs, getting a car is about as essential as owning shoes – you will literally find it challenging to leave the suburbs without it. It is seen as a token of freedom and adulthood when the average teenager gets their license, and then almost immediately a “beater” –  a cheap car that’s on it’s last leg, but not quite dead yet.

Despite this long-established tradition of personal transport, the United States is experiencing a decline in car ownership among the younger population. This wouldn’t be surprising for Europe where people understand how public transport should work, where cities have been developing something of a religion around bike lanes, and were fuel prices are at least twice the price of that in the US. So why does the US suffer then?

New Transport Technology

If I were to ask you what you associate with personal transport, your answer would probably be a car. No wonder, since the car had a monopoly on personal transport for over a hundred years. But latest innovations in transport and communication have encroached on the car’s territory. Much like New York City’s medallion taxi drivers or the London’s Black Cab drivers, auto manufacturers are experiencing competition from unexpected directions. Breaking news: you can finally take a bicycle to work. I’m serious, you will arrive there quickly and with no sweat thanks to the power assistance of the electric motors that have become a common sight on bicycles these days. Most of the reasons why a bicycle was scoffed at are being resolved. Add to that the enormous savings over a car, and suddenly it doesn’t sound as silly anymore. Now, I can already hear the counter argument: “I don’t just go to work, you know. What type of bike do you suggest I take to my trip to Ikea?”. You don’t take a bike, but you don’t need to buy a car for that either. The amount of car-sharing companies that have emerged in recent years is astounding. If you need an impromptu trip to the shops then download the app, take five minutes to register, and just book a vehicle that is parked, more often than not, within walking distance. Yes, doing this on the daily will quickly become expensive, and going cross-country that way is prohibitively so, but then you have the regular rental companies for that. And how often do you take those kinds of trips anyway?

There is also the taxi apps that have completely disrupted the previously mentioned monopolies of the taxis worldwide. The likes of Uber, Lyft, Bolt, Gett or whatever you have in your region are not making much money at the moment, but it doesn’t seem like they’re about to disappear any time soon. For large cities with dense populations, bad traffic and less parking available than ever before, a rideshare trip is just a no-brainer.

It’s not that any one of these technologies and transportation models is threatening the car with extinction on its own, it’s the fact that they have all arrived at the same time. Cycling no longer means pedaling. Taking a taxi no longer means hailing. And walking is slowly being supplanted by riding an electric scooter. They just make more sense sometimes.