There have been a lot of assertions made on Twitter and in local government documents that car ownership is falling in central London. Arguably, the discussion should be whether the current level of car ownership is harmful to policy goals on obesity, pollution and road traffic collision reductions, and what the limit should be. However, it is also important to know in which direction we are headed.
The elephant in the room is the effect of the “Great Recession” of 2008 on car purchasing, and whether the reduction in car ownership spanning years either side of 2008 is part of a wider trend of car ownership reduction which transcends that effect. Arguably, it is for those who claim a fall in car ownership to demonstrate that a fall in car ownership over that time frame was not simply part of the general rationalisation of spending which took place, and which some argue is still a constraint on normal economic patterns, such as wage growth.
Here, I will focus just on car ownership, and leave the Recession as being noted as an unquantified factor in restricting car ownership increases, approximately from 2006 to 2013.
These graphs are generated from the VEH0122 spreadsheets available for download from gov.uk.
Camberwell Car Ownership No’s since 2013:
The trend-line shows unmistakable growth as a trend since 2013 bottoming out, post-Recession, increasing car ownership from 7,900 to 8,500 along the trend-line. The question is, is this a “cat’s bounce”? We are entering a fourth year of straight growth, so this is unlikely. However, let’s keep an open mind. What has happened nationally since 2013?
Total Car Ownership No’s (Everything) Since 2013
There is a pronounced trend of growth nationally over the same period. This is steeper than in Camberwell, which might suggest that land scarcity vs number of cars owned is a factor. Still, no doubt about the general trend. Let’s look at Camberwell since 2010 – the period used for claims that “car ownership is falling in Camberwell”:
Camberwell Car Ownership No’s Since 2010
The trend-line shows an approximate fall from 8,300 to 8,200 over the source of six years, which represents shrinkage of 1.2%. Not per year, -1.2% over six years.
Apart from this negligible figure there are a number of explanations for why this does not represent a decisive shift away from car ownership, including the overall shrinkage of the local economy in Camberwell, with mass conversions of commercial uses to residential. This led to a depletion of spending power so that, for example, the Camberwell business community was unable to qualify for the BID application process, and was graded as unviable.
Total Car Ownership Numbers (Everything) Since 2010
It’s true that Camberwell did not grow at the same rate as nationally, from 2010 to 2016, as can be seen from the above picture. However, this does not change the fact that -1.2% over six years does not represent a trend of falling car ownership.