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).
Sweeney, Brigid. “The young and carless.” Business of Life. Crain’s Chicago Business. 28 July 2012. Web.
Wisniewski, Mary.”Peer-to-peer car sharing growing fast in Chicago.” Chicago Tribune. 17 July 2016. Web.
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
City of Chicago traffic data:
California Early Vehicle Retirement Program information:
Current State of Illinois incentive programs: