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Regular version of the site

Personal Cars

What Determines the Number of Cars in the City


HSE Centre for Transport Economy has conducted the first econometric analysis of the factors influencing the level of automobilization in major Russian cities. The results were discussed at the 20th April International Academic Conference. Here, IQ.HSE reveals the main results of the study.

As it was

The level of automobilization is based on the number of cars per 1,000 residents. In developed countries, it has actively grown since the middle of the 20th century: the US surpassed the level of 300 cars in the 1940s, while in Germany, this happened in the 1970s.

In the USSR, these dynamics were a result of restrictions on the purchase of personal transport. The bright сommunist future predicted 150-180 cars per 1,000 residents. In 1990, there were only 80 cars per 1,000, including no more than 50 private cars.

As it is

After the breakup of the Soviet Union the figures increased 4.8 times from 63 to 305 cars between 1991 and 2017. The volume of passenger traffic by trams and trolleybuses fell just as dramatically by 5.8 times from 15.6 to 2.7 billion people.
Currently, the level of automobilization in different regions of the Russian Federation varies significantly. For example, in large cities it can be anything from 177 cars per 1000 residents in Makhachkala to 515 in Vladivostok.

Level of automobilization in large Russian cities
(with population greater than 500,000 people, January 1, 2018)

Highest rates
(number of cars per 1000 residents)
Vladivostok — 515
Krasnodar — 361
Samara — 335
St. Petersburg — 316
Tyumen — 298

Lowest rates
(number of cars per 1000 residents)
Makhachkala — 177
Novokuznetsk — 231
Perm — 236
Kemerovo — 238
Khabarovsk — 243


To determine factors affecting the level of automobilization, the researchers analyzed the rates in 35 Russian cities with a population of more than 500,000 people (except Moscow and St. Petersburg) for seven years — from 2009 to 2015.

Two types of econometric models were built using data from the Rosstat and AUTOSTAT agencies: disaggregated (analysis based on the results of the population survey) and aggregated (analysis of different geographical scales — transport areas, etc.).

The impact of social and economic factors on the level of automobilization
(a modification of the econometric model)

log(car_rate it) = α i + β 1 log(rwage it) + β 2 log(square_pp it) +
+ β 3 log(density it) + β 4 log(trip it)

car_rate it — level of automobilization
(number of cars per 1000 residents of city i in year t);
rwage it — actual salary in city i in year t;
square_pp it — total living area per resident,
square meters, in city i in year t, 
density it — population density in city i
(1000 residents per square km) in city i in year t;
trip it — average number of trips
by public transport in city i in year t.


The analysis of geographical parameters (aggregated model) determined the connection with the average level of salaries in the city, housing, population density and the number of trips on public transport:

 with an increase in the average wage of 1%, the level of automobilization rises by 0.59%;

 with an increase in the total living area per resident of 1% it rises by 1.07%;

 with an increase in population density of 1% it decreases by 0.82%;

 with an increase in the use of public transport of 1% it decreases by 0.06%.

The results of the study of households (disaggregated model) showed that the family income positively influences car availability in a family: with income growth of 1%, the probability of owning a car increases by 0.34%.

Suburban real estate also contributes to automobilization. If family members actively use public transport, car ownership reduces.

The obtained results conform to the results of studies conducted in other countries.


Tatiana Kulakova, Director of the Centre for Transport Economy
Elena Koncheva, Junior Research Fellow of the Centre for Transport Economy
Maria Moiseeva, Chief Expert of the Centre for Transport Economy
Author: Svetlana Saltanova, April 25, 2019