Some indications that ride sharing may be reducing car ownership

BL, a reader of this blog, sent me an interesting article yesterday about the interaction between Uber/Lyft use and car ownership.

Regular readers know I regard ride sharing as a major force that will re-shape the nature of in-fill real estate development. If you’re just joining us: As the price of ride sharing falls (which it will, once cars are robotic), car ownership will fall, making our existing parking requirements ridiculous and opening up a lot of urban land presently used for parking for other uses.

The reason the article is so interesting is that it presents the first indication that ride sharing may be impacting car ownership. Here’s the money quote:

“Compared to people who haven’t used any shared modes of travel beyond public transportation, people who use Uber and Lyft own nearly half a car less — 1.5 versus 1.05 cars per household…”

Now, anyone who reads even a little social science knows that correlation is not causation. So, the fact that Uber/Lyft users own fewer cars doesn’t mean that ride sharing is causing them not to buy cars. In fact, it may be just the opposite: Poor people who can’t afford second cars may have been using taxis before, and ride sharing is just replacing their taxi use. Or there could be a million other explanations.

Still, this is one piece of evidence that city-dwellers may be heading in the direction of reduced car ownership. And that means cities may be headed for a gigantic change.