Reducing Vehicles in Urban Areas

The concept of owning a vehicle in Chicago is slowly becoming a trend of the past, especially as Millennials are choosing to forego vehicle ownership and opt for public transit or car/ride-sharing instead (Sweeney). In fact, car ownership across the entire city has steadily declined from 2000 to 2016, and is projected to continue on this trend (US Census Bureau via SimplyMap). Reducing the amount of cars on the road has a number of immediate benefits for the city and the communities within it. Aside from the obvious reduction in emissions and better air quality, which leads to better health, lowering the number of vehicles on roadways and in neighborhoods can also make it safer for pedestrians and cyclists. Fewer cars mean more room for bike lanes and paths, as well as a reduction of motor vehicle accidents and cyclist and pedestrian fatalities. Not to mention saving money on infrastructure repairs and the upkeep of roads. So where does that leave Chicagoans with older vehicles or vehicles they wish to replace or eliminate entirely?

The State of Illinois currently has incentive programs for purchasing electric vehicles instead of gas-powered, as well as a tax write-off for doing so, however this program does not address the issue of retiring older vehicles, removing vehicles that cannot pass emission testing from city streets, or buying back vehicles from people that no longer need for one due to alternative modes of transportation. To contrast this, California has a state-wide “Voluntary Accelerated Vehicle Retirement” program that provides up to $1500 for vehicles that have failed their last smog test, however certain qualifications must be met in order to participate in this program.

It would be interesting to see this type of project explored on a smaller scale (beginning in an urban area such as Chicago, and then expanding state-wide). As a major US city with a lower-than-average car-owning population, Chicago could implement a more aggressively incentivized buy-back program for older or unwanted vehicles to encourage more residents to take public transit, ride-share, or replace their vehicle with a green vehicle (whichever suites the person’s or family’s needs best). The city could also offer incentives and other credits to members of the community who participate in smaller car sharing programs, known as peer-to-peer car sharing, such as Getaround or Turo, which involves an individual owning a car that others in the neighborhood can pay to borrow (Wisniewski).

 

2016-10-07-13_51_05-social-explorer

Image One: A comparison between the national average and Chicago and New York for workers 16 and over and their transportation methods. Driving alone remains the number one option for all three. (Source: US Census Data via Social Explorer).

city-of-chicago-traffic-data-screenshot

Image Two: An interactive map of the volume of traffic at any given point in the city. The selection shows an intersection of Halsted St that sees an average daily vehicle volume of 20,400 (Source: https://data.cityofchicago.org/Transportation/Average-Daily-Traffic-Counts-Map/pf56-35rv/data )

median-number-of-households-without-a-car-2016

2016-10-07-17_32_46-simplymap

Image Three and Four: Census data via SimplyMap showing the increase (from 2010 to 2016) in households with no vehicles within the city limits of Chicago.

Sources:

 

Sweeney, Brigid. “The young and carless.” Business of Life. Crain’s Chicago Business. 28 July 2012. Web.

http://www.chicagobusiness.com/article/20120728/ISSUE03/307289990/the-young-and-the-carless

Wisniewski, Mary.”Peer-to-peer car sharing growing fast in Chicago.” Chicago Tribune. 17 July 2016. Web.

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-car-sharing-getting-around-20160717-column.html

Image One: Social Explorer Tables: ACS 2014 (5-Year Estimates)(SE), ACS 2014 (5-Year Estimates), Social Explorer; U.S. Census Bureau

Image Three and Four: SimplyMap

Additional links:

City of Chicago traffic data:

https://data.cityofchicago.org/Transportation/Average-Daily-Traffic-Counts-Map/pf56-35rv/data

California Early Vehicle Retirement Program information:

https://www.arb.ca.gov/msprog/avrp/avrp.htm

Current State of Illinois incentive programs:

http://www.dmv.org/il-illinois/green-driver-state-incentives.php

 

Advertisements

6 thoughts on “Reducing Vehicles in Urban Areas

  1. This is pretty awesome. I had no idea about the incentive program. I think it’s something Aldermen should publicize to their residents more. There is a bit of conflicting information out there, though. I’ve read that Millenials may simply be DELAYING car ownership (https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2016-01-04/millennials-are-buying-cars-after-all) – lifestyles change once people get married, start families, move to the suburbs, etc. But there’s always the optimism of people like John Zimmerman of Lyft: http://www.citylab.com/commute/2016/09/the-guy-from-lyft-is-coming-for-your-car/500600/

    Like

    • Thanks for the extra info and glad you liked the idea! I think Zimmerman’s projection is a little off, as I’ve heard that realistically by 2050 all cars on the market will be automated, but, I do think his aspirations are noble. I chose to highlight Chicago specifically because, yes, to say that car-buying by all Millennials is down wouldn’t necessarily be accurate. Also, Chicago already has a great public transit infrastructure that makes it possible to give up a car, whereas more suburban areas might not be able to provide that. At the very least, even in delaying a car purchase there’s the possibility that the options and prices for a green vehicle will be even better down the road. Thanks for your comment!

      Like

  2. I like the idea of having a buy back program for cars that have failed smog tests, but an important thing to consider here in Illinois is that vehicles that are older than 20 years no longer have to have smog tests done on them as long as they passed back in 2007. This is an issue that if feel should be addressed. Here is a link for this information as well as some of the other ways that vehicles could be exempt from smog tests.

    http://www.epa.illinois.gov/topics/air-quality/mobile-sources/vehicle-emissions-testing/faqs/exempt/index

    Like

    • Thanks for your input, the California vehicle retirement program specifically addresses the issue of cars failing their smog test, however drivers in Illinois really don’t have any options if their car fails emissions – other than paying fines, paying for repairs, or simply paying for a new vehicle out-of-pocket. While I agree that smog testing older vehicles is still very much necessary, even if Illinois doesn’t think so, the state doesn’t have any incentive for people with older vehicles to replace them other than if they are buying an electric vehicle. Therefore, the incentive program I was envisioning would add to, and improve upon the model in California: a buy-back or trade-in for older vehicles (even if they no longer require emissions testing) to replace with a green vehicle, a buy-back or monetary incentive program to replace vehicles that can’t pass their emissions test with a green vehicle, and a buy-back for people that own a car but no longer need/want it because of alternative methods of transportation. Also, if you’ve ever taken a car for emissions testing in Chicago you’ve probably witnessed cars lined up with their motors running, waiting for (typically) hours – it’s not exactly an efficient system. By decreasing the amount of vehicles that would need emissions testing in the city we would be taking a great step forward in general. While it’s great to have regulations across the state of Illinois, I believe the City of Chicago could step up and implement their own regulations and programs as well, rather than only relying on statewide EPA regulations.

      Like

  3. Being able to get rid of more unused vehicles is a great idea to improve the health of a city. But while it is possible to take public transit almost anywhere in Chicago, it can be inconvenient and time consuming for people who are low-income-especially on the south and west side of the city. The city would be doing a benefit to their inhabitants if they made public transit more viable for these communities. The announcement of the expansion of the red line to 130th avenue is a good sign of that.

    Like

  4. Being able to get rid of more unused vehicles is a great idea to improve the health of a city. But while it is possible to take public transit almost anywhere in Chicago, it can be inconvenient and time consuming for people who are low-income-especially on the south and west side of the city. The city would be doing a benefit to their inhabitants if they made public transit more viable for these communities. The announcement of the expansion of the red line to 130th avenue is a good sign of that.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s