The Demand for Private Transportation Essay


            The demand for private transportation in the United States has increased significantly with the cars, private jets and planes owned by households rising by the day. Perhaps the question that most people would ask themselves is whether a campaign to increase public transport in the United States could work at the current demand of private transportation. Is it possible to reduce the use of private automobiles and is it practical to assume that private transportation is here to stay? How much is private transportation’s effect on the society? Why the high demand? Demand for private transportation can be said to be a joint factor of consumers’ decisions on the number of cars to own and the number of miles each car is to be driven. Notably as the law of demand would have it, the demand for private transportation is highly determined by the amount of income that a household receives. The law of demand indicates that ‘the higher the amount of income, the higher the demand for goods and services’. Besides income, the comfort, convenience and privacy associated with private transportation increases the demand for private transportation. This paper seeks to establish what the demand for private transport has done to our society. This will only be done by understanding the causes of the prevalent demand for private transportation in the U.S.

Demand for Private Transportation

            According to the law of demand, the demand for a certain commodity is largely determined by the price, income, price of substitutes, quality and ability to satisfy the user’s needs among other factors. The increase in demand of a commodity can therefore be said to be a combination of several of the above factors in the consumer’s buyer decision. The greatest determinant of private transportation can be said to be income.

Income as a private transport demand driver

            Income depicts the ability to buy which is why income largely influences demand not only for private transportation but for other commodities and services as well. The effect of income on demand for private transportation can be said to be through the number of cars owned by a household and the number of miles driven. The number of cars owned by a household however over-rides the number of miles as the highest determinant for automobile transportation. This is derived from the comparison in the elasticity of car ownership with respect to income as compared to number of miles with respect to income. The latter is considerably higher than the former when the number of cars is held constant. Rising income in the average U.S household has led to the increase in number of cars with more households having more than one car.

Private vs. public transport

            The choice between public and private transportation can be equated to choosing between substitutes. As opposed to private transportation, public transportation apart from being cheaper to the users is seen as a way of reducing gas and oil consumption which would save the country billions of shillings. This is done by combining the demand of different users into one vehicle. Further, public transport reduces congestion in available parking areas within the town centers and contributes to traffic jams. The U.S currently consumes 2/3 of the world’s oil with approximately 2.9 gallons of fuel being consumed per person, per day (Wolff, 2007). The public transport campaign also takes into account the rate at which the price of oil and gasoline has been rising over the years. A 10 percent annual average increase between 2005 and 2007 was recorded and the extra expense incurred by Americans to fuel their cars has led to the decrease in spending in other necessities (Wolff, 2007). In return, recession is being felt in other sectors of the economy. However, many would rather spend more in order to maintain their comfort and lifestyle. On the other hand, the responsiveness to increase in gasoline prices is that drivers are likely to change to more fuel efficient vehicles rather than turn to public transportation. This goes on to show the extent to which the society has gotten used to private vehicles and will go to any lengths to maintain this.

            Even with these kinds of disadvantages, Americans continue to favor private transportation. The U.S public is yet to accept the use of public transport as advocated by a movement to replace automobiles with public transport vehicles. The number of private vehicles continues to rise despite the high prices of oil and private transportation users find it quite hard to adjust to public transport owed to the advantages that they derive from the use of private means. Firstly, private transportation is convenient in that the user can schedule his or her movement as required. With public transportation, the movement of the vehicle has to be scheduled such that passengers cannot travel at a particular time that he or she wishes but would have to adjust to the scheduled time of the public transportation. For example, is a bus or a train is scheduled for 10 am, the passengers cannot go to their destinations before this time. Another limitation is that in public transportation is that the public transportation is limited in terms of destinations. A train for example will stop at the train station and the passenger has to use other means to get to where he or she is going. A private car conveniently takes you up to the desired destination. The feeling of privacy, comfort of not having to collide with people at public transport stations among others are some of the factors that make private transportation more favorable and the reasons as to why Americans hold on to private transportation.

            It is evident that the as opposed to the high number of private automobiles, private air transportation is not as prevalent. This can be attributed to the competition from public air transport and the improvement of the services by public air transportation providers. These include the first class cabins offering maximum comfort and the spacious settings that many airplanes are fitted with. Liability costs are also extremely high for manufacturers such that availability of small planes has reduced. Demand for private air transportation can therefore not be said to have impacted heavily on the society.


            The use of private transportation in the U.S is highly prevalent and this trend is not likely to reduce soon. The number of vehicles continues to increase largely influenced by income and the convenience that comes with private transport. This is despite the fact that maintaining a private car as opposed to using public transportation is significantly higher. What is evident is that the use of private transportation has impacted on the American society such that most people cannot consider public transportation.

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Wolff, R. (2007). Oil and Efficiency Myths. Retrieved on May 9, 2009 from   

 Principles of Transportation Economics.