By Jenny Connelly-Bowen, CBN Graduate Research Assistant

This week, we’re exploring vehicle access by census tract in the St. Louis region. The maps below cover St. Louis City and St. Louis County in Missouri and Madison and St. Clair Counties in Illinois. They were compiled in QGIS using 2011-2015 American Community Survey (ACS) Five-Year Estimates (table B25044), which were released in December. This data covers occupied households and explores vehicle access according to housing tenure (i.e., whether occupants are owners or renters).

Here’s how ACS defines vehicle access (see page 44 of their most recent Subject Definitions PDF):

Data includes:

  • The number of passenger cars, vans, and pickup or panel trucks of one ton (2,000 pounds) capacity or less that are kept at home and available for use of household members.
  • Vehicles rented or leased for one month or more, company vehicles, and police and government vehicles (if kept at home and used for non-business purposes).

Data does not include:

  • Motorcycles or other recreational vehicles.
  • Dismantled or immobile vehicles.
  • Vehicles kept at home but used only for businesses purposes.

Responses to this question are tallied as one of six options:

  • No vehicles available
  • 1 vehicle available
  • 2 vehicles available
  • 3 vehicles available
  • 4 vehicles available
  • 5 or more vehicles available

On the maps below, each census tract is colored according to the most common vehicle access category among households in that tract. There are significant differences among owner-occupied housing units, renter-occupied housing units, and occupied housing units overall. To start, let’s examine occupied housing units overall. In the majority of census tracts (224; see table below), the most common level of access is one vehicle—although tracts where most have access to two vehicles seem to cover a larger geographic area:

Vehicles Available by Housing Tenure - All Households

By contrast, among owner-occupied housing units alone, the most common access level is two vehicles, which dominates in 295 census tracts. There are only three census tracts where the majority of housing units have no vehicles available (two in St. Louis City and one in St. Clair County):

Vehicles Available by Housing Tenure - Owner-Occupied

Among renter-occupied households, the picture shifts dramatically. Here, the “one vehicle available” category dominates in the majority of census tracts (305), and tracts where most housing units have access to no vehicle or two vehicles are more evenly split. Interestingly, this is the only housing tenure category where the three- and four-vehicle option dominates in at least one tract.

Vehicles Available by Housing Tenure - Renter-Occupied

The table below provides a more detailed breakdown of the most dominant vehicle access category by census tract, according to housing tenure.

Vehicle Access Table

If you would like more information about how these maps were compiled, please contact us at To access maps from previous editions of the Community Builders Exchange, click here.