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Car Free Living

Car Free Living

Do you own a car? With zero-waste, minimalist and eco-living on the rise, especially in cosmopolitan cities, I often wonder why so many residents in the city own a car. Surprisingly, not only do most households own a car, but car ownership is actually on the rise.  

The U.S. Census Bureau provided data in 2015 as to how many households owned a car in NYC as well as how many zero-car households exist. Not surprisingly, for NYC, Manhattan has the largest number of car-free households in the five boroughs.  Only 23.4% of households in Manhattan own a car.   

Overall in New York City, 55.5% of households own a car. I live in Brooklyn, NY where 54.5% of households own a car, which is quite similar to the average in all of NYC. Between 2007 and 2015, there was an increase of 7.48% more passenger vehicles that were registered in NYC. This translates to an additional 140,494 additional cars on the road.  Similar to the growth of residents in Brooklyn, car ownership has increased more than any other borough.  Brooklyn had a 12.51% increase in residential vehicle registrations.  This translates to an additional 55,363 additional cars on the road.  On average, this means there are an average of seven additional passenger vehicles per block! 

Currently, car ownership is largely tied to household income.  Hopefully as  the population becoming more active in the minimal and socially conscious community, car free living will be a choice; a conscientious decision to live carless, and not a sign of economic position.  Manhattan is also the only borough where car ownership is not tied to income levels.

In order to raise awareness about the increase in cars, and the environmental impact of vehicle ownership, Car Free Day is celebrated annually on September 21st in 1,500 cities and 40 countries.  2018 will be the third annual Car-Free Day, with the goals:
1. To encourage people to travel using alternative transportation
2. To provide awareness of living a car-free lifestyle
3. To lessen the number of vehicles worldwide

Part of living in a sustainable city is for the city's population to benefit from joint resources.  Instead of each person having a plot of land to themselves, they share a big park.  It also means protecting the natural resources that exist within a city. With less cars on the road, there is a decrease in the demand of gasoline and a cleaner environment. 

It has been getting easier and easier to remain car-free in NYC, and cities in general, with the advent of Citi-Bike and other sharing bicycle programs, Uber, Lyft and other shared taxi services, as well asZip-Car and other shared rental car programs

Of course there are also public transportation options that cities tend to provide.  In New York City, residents also have the option to take the subway, take a ferry or take a bus. Of course in some cases to own a car, in which case a thoughtful purchase is crucial.  For example, electronic cars are a much better way to drive with lower pollutants entering the environment. The good news is that there has been a 70% increase in consumers purchasing electronic cars over the past few years. Researching and asking questions about the average life-span and the average gas usage per mile are important to consider. 

Reasons I often hear for why residents in NYC own a car are: 
-They travel with a baby or toddler who uses a car seat
-They travel with a pet
-They prefer to go on big shopping trips where they need a trunk
-They prefer to go to discount stores that are farther out than public transportation
-They can travel at their convenience, without being tied to the timing of public transportation or awaiting a shared car service
-They do not have a public transportation nearby to access 

Did you know that NYC's Transportation Depart collects feedback on an ongoing basis from residents regarding their transportation habits and requests for improved service?  To participate in this survey, you must answer questions online, which takes between 5-10 minutes, depending on how many various destinations you travel on a regular basis.  To fill out the form, click here:
Thanks to the Census bureau, we have access to more detailed statistics on car free living in NYC. To view these results, see below:

Car-Free Living, NYC

Cars are the largest air polluters in the U.S.A.  In fact 1/3 of all of America's air pollution is caused by cars. Carbon monoxide and smog are disposed of at street level due to the position of a car's tailpipe, which means inhabitants are directly breathing polluted air.

To produce just one car, even if it never leaves the car manufacturer, creates a large impact to the environment due to the use of plastics, paint, rubber, etc.  Despite this, up to 90% of a car's environmental impact is created from fuel consumption and air polluting emissions.  

There are a myriad of ways you can support car free living, even if you do have a car or plan to purchase a car.  Take public transportation whenever possible even if you have a car. Use the 'shared ride' option when taking Uber or Lyft. Share a car with family member or friend. For your next vehicle purchase, buy an electric car. Buy a car that is made locally. Rent a car when you go out of town instead of buying a car for driving trips. 

Please contribute for more ideas on saving resources when you live a car free life.

Visit Made in America Resource Guide

UN Sustainability Goals



Image Credit: Wellsbaum Blog


Jul 10, 2018

I was just in Central Park and it was so amazing not to have to worry about cars!! Before, certain days/hours cars were allowed and the improvement gets an A+. I never have to second guess if cars will be on the road b/c I dont let my teens ride unless there are no cars.

Jun 26, 2018

This is the elephant in the room
Everyone is talking about straws and packaging, but one of the biggest actions you can take to improve the environment is to use public transportation, a bike or your legs…or to simply drive LESS. Americans do not want to give up their cars. Look at Scandinavia and the number of people who ride bikes around town vs. cities in America. Shame

Jun 05, 2018

I saw the note about nyc’s car share program. i was hoping to read about it here. Well, that is the good news…this article is the bad news :(

May 23, 2018

FINALLY, now let’s do it on Broadway too!!


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