Global Car Ownership Per Capita Peaked in 2004 - Are We Breaking Our Auto Addiction?

beijing traffic photo

photo: Ian A Holton/Creative Commons

With the ongoing news of rising gas prices in the US--even if they still are half that of Europe--and the shocking stat that the average American works two hours a day just to afford their car, here's a rather hopeful stat on automobile dependency to attempt to balance that out: A new radio interview from Australia's The Science Show reveals that even with growing car ownership in many so-called emerging economies, on a global basis car ownership per capita has peaked. It peaked back in 2004 in fact. Peter Newman explains:

It's a bit like peak oil; we are not noticing the big impacts yet but we have gone over the top. And that peak in car use per capita began in 2004 across the world. I don't know what was in the water that year but it started then. And US cities are now showing absolute declines in many cases, but the per capita peak happened in 2004 in Australian cities as well.

It's not as though the car is disappearing but there is an end to the car dependence that we began to build from the Second World War where we essentially expanded our cities outwards, making car use absolutely necessary and increasing amounts of it every year. That has changed, that's stopped.

And what about India and China? Newman notes that new regulations in Shanghai and Beijing make it very difficult to actually buy a car, and traffic in urban areas in both nations make getting around by car slow at best. Both nations are in the beginning stages of responding, not like was done in North America, by expanding public transit. 82 cities in China and 14 in India are building their first metro systems.

Definitely worth reading more; lots of interesting car ownership insights: The Science Show
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