Increase in Cars Owned Lower than Rise in Cambridge’s Population

Not surprisingly this Globe article on Cambridge’s efforts to reduce car use by residents and others provoked a lot of comments.The title (“Cambridge wanted a big drop in car ownership by 2020. That hasn’t exactly happened.”) focuses on the City’s likely failing to meet its 2020 goal of reducing car ownership by 15% over 1990 levels. Instead it could have highlighted that despite population growth of 20,000 people since 1990, the increase in cars was only on 2,400 (6.5%). Both the number of cars owned per household and car use by residents have dropped and likely will continue to if we build out a protected bike network, introduce shared electric scooters and improve transit service (notably the frequency and reliability of both trains and buses).

The increase in traffic congestion is largely attributable to the introduction of ride-hailing services and heavy commuter traffic through the city (those 40,000 cars per day on Fresh Pond Parkway, for example). And, as I am quoted as saying in the article, we should change most residential zoning to eliminate to parking minimums (still set at 1 parking space per unit in most areas, though it is negotiated down in some larger developments). Providing off-street parking for every unit assumes, and encourages car ownership, and increases the cost of building new housing. We are not seeking to “ban” car ownership, as some commenters suggest, but to become a city where car use is less and less the default choice for every trip.


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Jan Devereux
City Councillor
Cambridge, MA