NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


November 2, 2006

Who has a car and who doesn't has taken on greater significance in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita just over a year ago.

The Census Bureau is now producing detailed demographic profiles annually instead of every 10 years, enabling cities and counties to update evacuation plans based on transportation needs, says USA Today.


  • In Washington, D.C., more than a third of households in the city and more than 10 percent in the region don't have a car; the city has drafted a "walkout" plan to evacuate people on foot and if rail service isn't running, transfer points have been designated where people can wait for buses to take them to safety.
  • In Houston, the city is building a database of residents who would need transportation -- residents who don't have vehicles or would need help can call 311 to register; officials have installed "hurricams" to monitor traffic choke points up to 150 miles away and are allowing gas stations to keep their tanks filled at up to 90 percent capacity during emergencies instead of the usual 30 percent.
  • In the San Francisco Bay Area, cars may be of little help in the region, where the most likely emergency is one that can't be predicted: a major earthquake; that's why local planners welcome the increase in the share of households without vehicles (29 percent in 2000 to 31 percent in 2005).

The number of carless U.S. households has remained constant for about 40 years and makes up a progressively shrinking share of the population.  More than a third are in the Northeast, largely because of the New York metropolitan area, which has a fifth of the  carless households in the United States.

Source: Haya El Nasser, "Cars, or lack of them, a factor in evacuations," USA Today, November 1, 2006.

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