Going carless in different urban fabrics: socio-demographics of household car ownership

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

place - europe, place - urban, planning - standards, policy - equity, policy - sustainable, land use - impacts, land use - urban density, ridership - behaviour, ridership - mode choice


Carless households, Car ownership, Transportation equity, Sustainable mobility, Urban fabrics


Diverse physical features of urban areas alongside socio-demographic characteristics affect car ownership, and hence the daily mobility choices. As a case of sustainable mobility, we explore how various urban environments and socio-demographics associate with the spatial and social distribution of household car ownership and carlessness in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area, Finland. Three urban fabrics characterizing the study area are established based on the transportation mode (walking, public transportation, or automobile) the physical urban environment primarily supports. The national level Monitoring System of Spatial Structure and Urban Form database, and the National Travel Survey (2016) are utilized to further include spatial and socio-demographic variables into our analysis across these fabrics. Our results show that households with and without cars differ in terms of residential distance to the city center, neighborhood density, house type, and socio-demographic profiles. Single pensioners and students are most likely to be carless, whereas families represent the opposite. Within the carless households the differences are also evident between different groups. For the more affluent households residing in dense and well-connected areas, and mostly possessing driver’s licenses, carlessness is presumably a choice. Contrarily, many other carless households represent the less affluent often located in the more distant, low-density, and less accessible areas, while also possessing less driver’s licenses, making carlessness more of a constraint, as the local urban fabric does not support such lifestyle. Consequently, carless households should be increasingly recognized as a focus group in sustainable urban planning in terms of identifiable best practices and potential vulnerability.


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