How do they get by without cars? An analysis of travel characteristics of carless households in California

  • Suman K. Mitra
  • Jean-Daniel M. SaphoresEmail author


In spite of their substantial number in the U.S., our understanding of the travel behavior of households who do not own motor vehicles (labeled “carless” herein) is sketchy. The goal of this paper is to start filling this gap for California. We perform parametric and non-parametric tests to analyze trip data from the 2012 California Household Travel Survey (CHTS) after classifying carless households as voluntarily carless, involuntarily carless, or unclassifiable based on a CHTS question that inquires why a carless household does not own any motor vehicle. We find substantial differences between our different categories of carless households. Compared to their voluntarily carless peers, involuntarily carless households travel less frequently, their trips are longer and they take more time, partly because their environment is not as well adapted to their needs. They also walk/bike less, depend more on transit, and when they travel by motor vehicle, occupancy is typically higher. Their median travel time is longer, but remarkably, it is similar for voluntarily carless and motorized households. Overall, involuntarily carless households are less mobile, which may contribute to a more isolated lifestyle with a lower degree of well-being. Compared to motorized households, carless households rely a lot less on motor vehicles and much more on transit, walking, and biking. They also take less than half as many trips and their median trip distance is less than half as short. This study is a first step toward better understanding the transportation patterns of carless households.


Travel behavior Carless households Social exclusion California Household Travel Survey 


Authors’ contribution

S.K. Mitra and J.-D. Saphores contributed equally to all parts of this manuscript: literature review, statistical analysis, and manuscript writing.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Urban and Regional PlanningBangladesh University of Engineering and TechnologyDhakaBangladesh
  2. 2.Institute of Transportation StudiesUniversity of CaliforniaIrvineUSA
  3. 3.Civil and Environmental Engineering, Economics, and Urban Planning & Public Policy, Institute of Transportation StudiesUniversity of CaliforniaIrvineUSA

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