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Uses of Census Data in Transportation

Other/Vehicle Ownership

Unpacking Preference:How Previous Experience Affects Automobile Ownership

Authors: Weinberger, Rachel R; Goetzke, Frank Transportation Research Board-500 Fifth Street, NW Washington, DC 20001

Transportation Research Board 88th Annual Meeting

Publication Date: 2009


As environmental concerns mount alongside increasing auto dependence, research has been devoted to understanding decisions regarding the number of automobiles households own. Results tend to show that aggregate VMT is mediated by auto ownership; auto ownership (a normal good) is a function of income and density. The density effect may be overstated as poorer people tend to live in high density environments. In the current research we use the 2000 U.S. Census to demonstrate the importance of preference and preference formation by studying auto ownership among recent movers. Residents of the nation's transit-oriented cities who have moved from metropolitan areas own fewer vehicles than their counterparts from non-metropolitan areas. Using Bayesian learning in the analysis, we demonstrate these results are due to learned preferences for levels of car ownership. From this it can be derived that an increase or decrease in automobile ownership is self-reinforcing, or path-dependent, which means, once the "cultural knowledge" of living without cars is lost, it will be difficult to regain. There should be a focus on children to familiarize them early with walking, biking and public transit as an alternative to the car. This familiarity will lead to preferences for fewer cars.

Subject Areas and Index Terms

Highways; Safety and Human Factors; Society; I15: Environment

Automobile ownership; Automobile travel; Culture (Social sciences); Demographics; Households; Metropolitan areas; Rural areas; Social factors; Transportation modes; Travel behavior; Travel patterns

Availability: Transportation Research Board Business Office

Other/Vehicle ownership

Using Census Aggregates to Proxy for Household Characteristics: An Application to Vehicle Ownership

Authors: Adjemian, Michael; Williams, Jeffrey

Transportation: Planning, Policy, Research, Practice

Publication Date: Mar 2009


Enhancing data from micro-level records with socioeconomic and demographic information from Census records can substitute for missing variables in choice models. This study investigates the potential usefulness of this proxy approach to modeling discrete choice vehicle ownership. The authors use data from the 2000 Bay Area Travel Survey and contemporaneous U.S. Census files to compare three models of vehicle ownership, drawing area-wide proxies from increasing levels of aggregation. The models with proxies are compared with a parallel model that uses only survey data. The results indicate that the proxy models are preferred in terms of model selection criteria, and predict vehicle ownership as well or better than the survey model. Parameter values produced by the proxy method effectively approximate those returned by household survey models in terms of coefficient sign and significance, particularly when the aggregate variables are representative of their household-level counterparts. The proxy model with the narrowest level of aggregation achieved the best fit, coefficient precision, and percentage of correct prediction. Because aggregate proxies are less expensive to acquire and analyze than the traditional survey-driven approach, researchers should consider the promise offered by the proxy approach.

Subject Areas and Index Terms

Highways; Planning and Forecasting

Automobile ownership; Census; Choice models; Demographics; Households; Socioeconomic factors; Surveys; San Francisco Bay Area

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