Do light rail services discourage car ownership and use? Evidence from Census data for four English cities

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

ridership - mode choice, mode - bus, mode - tram/light rail, place - europe


Light rail, Car ownership, Census data, Travel mode change, Mode share, New rail schemes


The paper examines, using English Census data, the impacts of four light rail schemes opened between 1991 and 2001 on car ownership and travel mode along the rail corridors. The effects of these schemes are isolated by comparing the changes in the new light rail corridors with those in ‘control’ areas. Control areas represent what would have occurred in the light rail corridors if the schemes had not been built. Despite two schemes achieving and even exceeding the forecast ridership, the proportion of households owning multiple cars increased in the light rail corridors and typically by more than in the control areas. Growing rail shares in the light rail corridors have mainly come from buses and the evidence for light rail reducing car use is less clear. This latter finding is of particular significance, given that a major justification for investment in light rail rather than bus schemes is their presumed ability to bring about major modal shift by attracting substantial numbers of car users.


Permission to publish the abstract has been given by Elsevier, copyright remains with them.


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