‘Forced Car Ownership’ (FCO) describes low income households with high car ownership, resulting in a high proportion of their income going to their cars. The cost of running multiple cars, combined with housing costs, puts considerable stress on low income households. Contemporary research has identified that FCO is one of the most prevalent social and economic problems in Australian major cities. The aim of this paper is to explore whether trends in FCO have continued or even accelerated over time. The recent 2016 census provides the opportunity to explore whether this concerning trend is continuing. The results of this paper suggest a growing problem is getting much worse. Between 2011 and 2016 FCO households in Outer Melbourne increased by 36%. Alarmingly the rate of growth of fringe urban FCO households is accelerating; there was a 25% growth between 2006 and 2011 but this has increased to 36% between 2011 and 2016. Furthermore, FCO households now outnumber low-income households with no cars, particularly in Middle and Outer Melbourne. The paper discusses the policy failures that have caused these outcomes, suggests solutions and identifies areas for future research to better understand the problem and its impacts.
From a public transport viewpoint accelerating rates of fringe FCO is occurring in a context where per capita service levels are in decline. Although service supply has increased between 2011 and 2016, it has not kept pace with population growth which means that service per capita fell by 7%. Far greater investment is needed into public transport in outer areas, supported by a range of supporting policies and practices such as safe cycling and walking infrastructure.