Skip to main content
European Commission logo

Car-free Households

Switzerland Flag
Complete with results
Project Acronym
A2 (NRP 41)
STRIA Roadmaps
Smart mobility and services (SMO)
Transport policies
Environmental/Emissions aspects,
Societal/Economic issues
Transport sectors
Passenger transport


Background & Policy context

The NRP 41 was launched by the Federal Council at the end of 1995 to improve the scientific basis on which Switzerland's traffic problems might be solved, taking into account the growing interconnection with Europe, ecological limits, and economic and social needs. The NRP 41 aimed to become a think-tank for sustainable transport policy.

Each one of the 54 projects belongs to one of the following six modules:

  • A Mobility: Socio-institutional Aspects 
  • B Mobility: Socio-economical Aspects 
  • C Environment: Tools and Models for Impact Assessments 
  • D Political and Economic Strategies and Prerequisites 
  • E Traffic Management: Potentials and Impacts 
  • F Technologies: Potentials and Impacts 
  • M Materials 
  • S Synthesis Projects

Traffic planning activity aimed at reducing Motorised Individual Transport (MIT) has, until now, been aimed primarily at minimising road usage, even though it is a well-known and widely accepted fact that motorcar availability is one of the most important criteria for the choice of transport.

Despite this, there has been very little discussion about influencing motor car ownership as a traffic-planning instrument. Car ownership is still very much a question of income. This leads to the conclusion that anybody with sufficient disposable income will purchase a car.

The present study questions this rather short-sighted conclusion and starts with the hypothesis that certain individuals might see it as an advantage, and a major issue of quality of life, not to own a car.

In this context, it is of vital importance to ascertain whether members of a household have volunteered to live without a car or whether they have been forced into this situation by economic, health or other circumstances.

An additional question would ask whether these individuals are cultivating a new kind of life style, and whether they are relatively immune to the temptations of car ownership. If this is a valid thesis, then one can assume that voluntary abstention from car ownership indicates a rather more mobile segment of society.

Among pensioners' households with – in comparison with other segments of society – fewer journeys and activities, those without cars would be more likely to have been forced by circumstances to live without a car. One can assume that the mobility patterns of a larger proportion of the new car-free lifestyle groups mentioned before would be similar to the mobility patterns of car owners, especially as these groups would tend to lead a predominantly urban lifestyle.


The objective of the study is to provide quantitative and qualitative findings from car-free households and to demonstrate measures for traffic planning that could make life without a car less difficult, or even more desirable.

The present study is based on a relatively small random selection of 300 households and has been limited to non-pensioners' households in order to preserve the validity of evidence for voluntary abstention from car ownership. An analysis of raw data from the Micro Census Traffic Behaviour Patterns 1994 is used to create a profile of car-free households in Switzerland.

The survey is representative of the resident population of Switzerland in regard to households and persons over 6 years of age.

The study consists of three sections:

  • Evaluation of the Micro Census Traffic Behaviour Patterns 1994 (MZV 94);
  • Execution and evaluation of a representative survey of 300 households in the conurbations of Basle, Bern and Zurich;
  • Development of measures to influence the living and mobility conditions for car-free households.


Parent Programmes
Institution Type
Public institution
Institution Name
Swiss National Science Foundation SNF
Type of funding
Public (national/regional/local)


Many more people achieve mobility without their own car than has been realised hitherto. Most car-free households hardly miss having a car.


Good access to services in the vicinity, good public transport services and car-sharing are the most important foundations for the promotion of car-free households. These are the main results from a project within the research programme 'Transport and Environment'. <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = 'urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office' />


'Virtually everybody in Switzerland has a car and those who haven't are either unhappy or eco-fundamentalists'.

This hypothesis has been contradicted by the A2 project implemented under the National Research Programme 'Transport and Environment':

  • One in four Swiss households do not have a car, and in major cities as many as 40% of households are car-free.
  • More than 80 per cent are content with their existence without a car.
  • Although in most cases environmental issues are of no major importance, many of these households made their choice voluntarily.
  • Only about one fifth are car-free against their will, e.g. for financial or health reasons.
  • As soon as a household purchases a car, naturally it will use it. <

    Policy implications

    Optimised development of public transport services and local services are the backbone of car-free mobility. At this time, the further development of car-sharing is considered to be the most promising action. <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = 'urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office' />


    This action is highly efficient through concentrated competence, spreading coverage, improvements to the image of a car-free lifestyle, and high acceptability. It guarantees car-free households the ability to remain car-free and it will be a major incentive for car owners to give up their car.


    The establishment of associations would be an interesting action, but fraught with numerous uncertainties. Most indirect actions contribute to improved awareness about the existence of car-free households.


    Awareness about the existence of car-free households needs to be improved significantly. Since competence for certain action areas is concentrated in large organisations or federal government authorities, they are suitable as stepping stones for a multitude of further individual actions, each of which, on its own, would have very little impact and could only prove successful if supported by improved and widespread awareness.



    Many more people achieve mobility without their own car than has been realised hitherto. Most car-free households hardly miss having a car. Good access to services in the vici


Lead Organisation
EU Contribution
Partner Organisations
EU Contribution


Contribute! Submit your project

Do you wish to submit a project or a programme? Head over to the Contribute page, login and follow the process!