Temporal dynamics in local vehicle ownership for Great Britain

Stephen D. Clark, Sergio Rey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


This article explores the stability of local vehicle ownership rates in Great Britain using the technique of spatial Markov chain analysis. Non-spatial Markov chain processes describe the transition of neighbourhoods through levels of ownership with no regard to their neighbourhood context. In reality however, how a neighbourhood transitions to different levels of ownership could be influenced by its neighbourhood context. A spatial Markov chain accounts for this context by estimating transition properties that are conditioned on the surrounding neighbourhood. These spatial Markov chain properties are estimated using a long run census time series from 1971 to 2011 of household vehicle ownership rates in Great Britain. These processes show that there is different behaviour in how neighbourhoods transition between levels of ownership depending on the context of their surrounding neighbours. The general finding is that the spatial Markov process will lead to a greater homogeneity in levels of ownership in each locality, with neighbourhoods surrounded by relatively low ownership neighbourhoods taking longer than a non-spatial Markov process would suggest to transition to higher levels, whilst neighbourhoods of high ownership surrounded by high ownership neighbourhoods take longer to transition to lower levels. This work corroborates Tobler's first law of geography “Everything is related to everything else, but near things are more related than distant things” but also provides practical guidance. Firstly, in modelling ownership, spatial effects need to be tested and when present, accounted for in the model formulation. Secondly, in a policy context, the surrounding neighbourhood situation is important, with neighbourhoods having a tendency towards homogeneity of ownership levels. This allows for the effective planning of transport provision for local services. Thirdly, vehicle ownership is often used as a proxy for the social and aspirational nature of an area and these results suggest that these properties will persist for a prolonged period, possibly perpetuating and exacerbating differentials in society.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)30-37
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Transport Geography
StatePublished - Jun 2017


  • Census
  • Spatial Markov chains
  • Temporal and spatial correlation
  • Vehicle ownership

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Transportation
  • General Environmental Science


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