As the developing nations like China, India, and Brazil continue to boom, millions of citizens are lifted into the ambiguously defined arena of the "middle class" every year. But how might we define what actually constitutes this ever-elusive middle class? A new study says it's simple: look at car ownership.
Will Doig parses the findings: "If the notion is to be believed, these places have a long way to go in terms of economic development: In Brazil, there are fewer than 200 passenger vehicles per 1,000 people. China has a mere 34. India has 12."
The US has 900. Which is pretty incredible. But the developing world is catching up, and fast. Another study finds that it's entirely feasible that the world's vehicle fleet may grow 375% by 2050. And those cars will largely be added to cities already choked with traffic—Sao Paulo, Moscow, Shanghai; driving is a slo-mo nightmare in each already.
Doig says calls this Carmaggedon incoming—he notes that "The number of private cars in China more than doubled between 2005 and 2008." And if other developing nations follow China's lead, which it looks like they're going to, much of the world will soon look like a giant parking lot. Which means a whole host of woes beyond dysfunctional transportation systems as well: carbon emissions, particulate pollution, health woes, smog, etc.
Urban planners in such cities ought to take heed: as a general rule, parking lots are among the crappiest places in existence. They're hot, boring, and ugly. Nobody wants their city ending up like that.