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Determinants of motorization and road provision


  • Ingram, Gregory K.
  • Zhi Liu


The authors survey past trends in vehicle ownership and road network expansion to analyze determinants of their growth at the national and urban level. Surprisingly, they find that: Nationally, income is a major determinant of both vehicle ownership and road length. Nationally, paved road length and vehicle ownership has been increasing about as fast as income, while total road length is increasing less rapidly than income. In urban areas vehicle ownership increases as fast as income, while total road length increases very slowly with income. Because national paved road networks are expanding about as fast as national motor vehicle fleets, national congestion is unlikely to be worsening. But because urban road length is growing more slowly than the number of urban motor vehicles, urban congestion is rising with income over time. Increased urban congestion is stimulating decentralized urban growth. Income elasticities are greater than price elasticities in absolute terms, for both vehicle ownership and use-an important finding because prices are often used as an instrument to control motor vehicle ownership and use. If price elasticities are half as large as income elasticities, pries would have to grow twice as fast as incomes to stabilize vehicle ownership. Breaking the link between income growth, rising congestion, and urban decentralization will be difficult: Restraining auto ownership in urban areas requires high tax rates, and increasing the supply of urban roads is costly. Elasticity estimates vary, but a good point estimate for the income elasticity of fleet growth is 1. This means country motor vehicle fleets grow in proportion to country incomes. More than half the world's annual increase in motor vehicles is likely to occur in high-income countries until 2025 (assuming GNP growth of 3 percent in high-income countries, 5 percent in low- and middle-income countries). The motor vehicle fleet is in low- and middle-income countries is not projected to exceed that in high-income countries until after 2050. Carbon dioxide emissions are likely to be distributed similarly.

Suggested Citation

  • Ingram, Gregory K. & Zhi Liu, 1999. "Determinants of motorization and road provision," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2042, The World Bank.
  • Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:2042

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    2. Georges Darido & Mariana Torres-Montoya & Shomik Mehndiratta, 2014. "Urban transport and CO 2 emissions: some evidence from Chinese cities," Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Energy and Environment, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 3(2), pages 122-155, March.
    3. Quaglione, Davide & Cassetta, Ernesto & Crociata, Alessandro & Marra, Alessandro & Sarra, Alessandro, 2019. "An assessment of the role of cultural capital on sustainable mobility behaviours: Conceptual framework and empirical evidence," Socio-Economic Planning Sciences, Elsevier, vol. 66(C), pages 24-34.
    4. Salon, Deborah, 2008. "Neighborhoods, Cars, and Commuting in New York City: A Discrete Choice Approach," Institute of Transportation Studies, Working Paper Series qt1673h3w3, Institute of Transportation Studies, UC Davis.
    5. Guerra, Erick, 2015. "The geography of car ownership in Mexico City: a joint model of households’ residential location and car ownership decisions," Journal of Transport Geography, Elsevier, vol. 43(C), pages 171-180.
    6. Dong Lin & Andrew Allan & Jianqiang Cui, 2016. "Exploring Differences in Commuting Behaviour among Various Income Groups during Polycentric Urban Development in China: New Evidence and Its Implications," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 8(11), pages 1-1, November.
    7. Richard Grimal, 2017. "Modeling Auto-Mobility: Combining Cohort Analysis with Panel Data Econometrics," Post-Print hal-02162281, HAL.
    8. Cubukcu, K. Mert, 2008. "Examining the cost structure of urban bus transit industry: does urban geography help?," Journal of Transport Geography, Elsevier, vol. 16(4), pages 278-291.
    9. Harbering, Marie & Schlüter, Jan, 2020. "Determinants of transport mode choice in metropolitan areas the case of the metropolitan area of the Valley of Mexico," Journal of Transport Geography, Elsevier, vol. 87(C).
    10. Kempe Ronald Hope & Mogopodi Lekorwe, 1999. "Urbanization and the Environment in Southern Africa: Towards a Managed Framework for the Sustainability of Cities," Journal of Environmental Planning and Management, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 42(6), pages 837-859.
    11. Salon, Deborah, 2009. "Neighborhoods, cars, and commuting in New York City: A discrete choice approach," Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Elsevier, vol. 43(2), pages 180-196, February.
    12. Maria Felice Arezzo & Giuseppina Guagnano, 2018. "Response-Based Sampling for Binary Choice Models With Sample Selection," Econometrics, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 6(1), pages 1-1, March.
    13. Shaheen, Susan & Kemmerer, Charlene, 2008. "Smart Parking Linked to Transit: Lessons Learned from the Field Test in San Francisco Bay Area of California," Institute of Transportation Studies, Working Paper Series qt2bd6m65k, Institute of Transportation Studies, UC Davis.
    14. Buehler, Ralph, 2011. "Determinants of transport mode choice: a comparison of Germany and the USA," Journal of Transport Geography, Elsevier, vol. 19(4), pages 644-657.
    15. Groote, Jesper De & Ommeren, Jos Van & Koster, Hans R.A., 2016. "Car ownership and residential parking subsidies: Evidence from Amsterdam," Economics of Transportation, Elsevier, vol. 6(C), pages 25-37.
    16. Yang, Zhenshan & Jia, Peng & Liu, Weidong & Yin, Hongchun, 2017. "Car ownership and urban development in Chinese cities: A panel data analysis," Journal of Transport Geography, Elsevier, vol. 58(C), pages 127-134.
    17. Homolka, Lubor & Ngo, Vu Minh & Pavelková, Drahomíra & Le, Bach Tuan & Dehning, Bruce, 2020. "Short- and medium-term car registration forecasting based on selected macro and socio-economic indicators in European countries," Research in Transportation Economics, Elsevier, vol. 80(C).
    18. Djoen San Santoso & Koji Tsunokawa, 2005. "Spatial Transferability and Updating Analysis of Mode Choice Models in Developing Countries," Transportation Planning and Technology, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 28(5), pages 341-358, July.
    19. Salon, Deborah, 2006. "Cars and the City: An Investigation of Transportation and Residential Location Choices in New York City," University of California Transportation Center, Working Papers qt1br223vz, University of California Transportation Center.


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