A rush hour drive through Bethesda may make it seem unlikely, but studies show fewer people are driving cars.

Is the same true in our area?

Montgomery County’s focus on transit-oriented development has brought the question to the forefront.

Over the past year, officials and residents debated whether the planned Purple Line light rail merits development in longtime suburban areas. There’s also the question of whether enough people would leave their cars for a proposed bus rapid transit system that might mean taking away a lane of traffic in some spots.

Dan Reed, writer for Greater Greater Washington, Friends of White Flint and Just Up The Pike, looked for trends in car ownership in the county using the 2007-2011 American Community Survey from the Census Bureau.

He found car ownership by household in the county dropped by less than one percent and households with no car are predictably near Metro stations or among large apartment or senior complexes.

The numbers also demonstrate a significant amount of one-car households in Bethesda:
One-third of all county households have one car, a slight decrease from 2000. Like those with no cars, these households are concentrated along major bus routes and in retirement communities.

But there’s also a lot of one-car households along near Red Line stations in Bethesda and Chevy Chase. Nearly 2/3 of downtown Bethesda households have one car, but relatively few have no cars at all. This suggests that many Bethesda residents move downtown to have amenities within walking distance, but bring a car anyway.

There are also large concentrations of one-car households along I-270 and Rockville Pike, which appear to coincide with activity centers like White Flint and Washingtonian Center in Gaithersburg. These are places that might support a “car-lite” lifestyle: they have some walkable areas, and in the case of White Flint, a Metro station. But for now at least, they’re not dense or pedestrian-friendly enough to leave the car at home all the time.
Of course, some of those one-car households may include just one individual.

So we ask you, how many cars are in your household?

As always, feel free to leave opinions about transit projects, development or anything else related in the comments section below.

How Many Cars In Your Household?

Flickr photo by thisisbossi