Car ownership in city declines as a result of ‘Seattle Squeeze’

SEATTLE – Car ownership in Seattle is down for the first time in decades. Our news partner The Seattle Times was the first to report the trend, which experts say is a direct result of the “Seattle squeeze.”

Since the 1970s, car ownership has increased alongside the population -- until 2015, hen research shows a 1 percent decline.

Mark Hallenbeck, director of the University of Washington’s Washington State Transportation Center, called Seattle a “classic environment” where technology, age of residents and expense of housing have come together to make the numbers work.

“We would not see this change if the other options didn’t make more sense,” said Hallenbeck.

Those other options are ride-shares and rental cars, said Hallenbeck, which are becoming more abundant and easier to use.

“The cost of that parking space, forget the cost of the car and car insurance, just the cost of the parking space allows you to do multiple rentals and still save hundreds of dollars a month,” said Hallenbeck.

Ride programs like Uber and Lyft are contributing to the drop in car ownership, said Hallenbeck.

And the biggest drop can be seen among those under the age of 35, reports The Seattle Times.

“Car ownership is very, very expensive,” said Allison Arth, who ditched her car 10 years ago. Arth said she hasn’t looked back on the decision, and her friends are the same way.

“It was just expensive to drive to park it, I wasn’t driving it. There were plenty of buses I could use and it was just one of those decisions,” she said.

Caleb Papineau said he would like to ditch at least one of his cars, but he’s part of the group that Hallenbeck said finds themselves needing their own vehicle more than others – parents with young children.

“I’ve got two girls and they have to go to a lot of different places, so having the convenience of having the car is pretty convenient,” he said.

Papineau said he’s considered getting rid of his cars many times in the past 20 years and will probably have the conversation again, “I think at some point when the convenience of not having a car will actually outweigh the cost of owning it.”

Hallenbeck said that will come sooner than later, if the time isn’t already here for many families living in Seattle.

“It allows us to pay more for housing, which is important right now,” he said.

Getting rid of the car, he said, helps balance the fact that a house in Ballard costs a lot more.