Carrying large packages, suitcases, or shopping bags on transit is awkward at best and impossible at worst. Anyone who expects to travel with such cargo, even if only some of the time, will do best with a car.
In 2007, Ikea opened its first store in Portland. It is 280,000 square feet, has around a thousand parking spaces, and is near a light-rail station. How many people who plan to do more than just window shop do you imagine carry their purchases home on the light rail?
Drag right to see the Cascades light-rail station, which is much further from Ikea than any of the parking spaces.
The land was available for Ikea because the city of Portland had given it to Bechtel in 2001 as partial payment for its no-bid contract for constructing the airport light-rail line. The city zoned the land for small-box retail, because who would want to take a light rail to a big-box store like Wal-Mart? It turned out the real question was: who would build small-box stores in a shopping area with no big-box anchor stores? The answer was no one, so Portland reluctantly rezoned the land to allow for two big-box stores so long as neither of them were Wal-Mart. Apparently, Portlanders were okay with a store selling cheap furniture made in Asia if the store is from Sweden, but not from Arkansas.
Fifteen American airports are served by rail transit lines. Yet few if any of these lines have baggage racks or any other convenient place to put luggage. Just 15 percent of air travelers take the train to Washington DC’s Reagan National Airport, and just 12 percent take the train to Boston’s Logan Airport. As near as I can determine, it is less than 10 percent for every other airport. Most of the riders on airport trains are airport or airline employees.
Unless you go grocery shopping every day, it simply isn’t feasible to carry your purchases on transit. A bicycle with large panniers can carry more groceries than can easily be carried on a bus or train.
Moving to a new home? Buying gardening supplies? Taking a load to the
dump recycling station? Transit’s no help. Most people don’t even trust transit to bring their dry cleaning home (at least, I’ve never seen anyone carrying dry-cleaned clothes on the transit lines I’ve been on).
People don’t carry Ikea furniture or ten bags of groceries on every trip they take. But those who sometimes do will probably have a car to do it in. As previously pointed out here, once most people have a car, it becomes their mode of choice for nearly all travel that is beyond walking distances.