The Effect of Owning a Car on Travel Behavior: Evidence from the Beijing License Plate Lottery
Resources for the Future Discussion Paper 16-18
40 Pages Posted: 3 Jun 2016
Date Written: May 20, 2016
To reduce pervasive problems of traffic congestion and air pollution, many cities in developing countries have considered restricting vehicle ownership. There is no empirical evidence on these programs’ efficacy and costs, but other prior work suggests that not having a car increases the cost of commuting and limits the set of job opportunities. However, these prior studies do not address the endogeneity of car ownership. We leverage a unique policy, the Beijing license plate lottery, to estimate the effect of restricting vehicles on distance traveled and commuting time, while addressing the endogeneity of car ownership. We find that adding a car has little impact on total distance traveled or time spent traveling, but a large impact on mode of travel. While reducing car ownership by 20 percent and car travel distance by 10 percent in Beijing, this policy has not added significantly to overall distances traveled or commute times.
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