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The Motor Car: Idol or Idle? A survey of redundancy in domestic car fleets

The paper describes the results of surveys of parking patterns at several residential areas of London and the San Francisco bay area. The surveys were concerned primarily with residents' cars and were conducted in both inner city and suburban areas.

Results show considerable redundancy in the domestic car fleet (i.e. cars owned by residents). At sites well served by public transport and local facilities, there were never less than one third of residents' cars parked at home at any one time. Peak use of cars occurred during the day rather than in the evenings or at weekends or public holidays. There was some evidence that evening use of cars appeared to be greater in inner city areas than in suburban areas. The general conclusions applied to both London and San Francisco surveys although a smaller redundancy level was observed in the outer suburban locations of San Francisco which have no equivalent in London.

The findings show significant potential for reducing the number of cars required to provide for current (1980s) levels of use if a method of joint or shared access to them could be found. In theory, if all cars where shared or "open access", the total stock of cars could be reduced by 30-40% without anyone having to reduce their use of cars.

Car clubs as we know them today had yet to appear, but the logic of shared cars had led to a few pioneering schemes, including the  Short-Term Auto Rental (STAR) scheme in the Park Merced suburb of San Francisco (operational in the early 1980s). For information on that scheme see the 1983 article about it here.
Article TitleThe Motor Car: Idol or Idle? A survey of redundancy in domestic car fleets
Article AuthorTim Pharoah
JournalTraffic Engineering & Control February 1986
IssueVol 27 Issue 2, pp64-66


Car club, shared cars, car ownership, traffic reduction, short term auto rental, STAR, sustainable transport, Park Merced, John Crain