LOS ANGELES (Bloomberg) -- Los Angeles embodied America's love affair with the automobile in the last century. In this one it's trying to kick the car to the curb.
The city that put drive-thru restaurants on the map has doubled its network of bike lanes to 292 miles (470 kilometers) and expanded light rail by 26 percent in the past eight years, with another 18 miles of track coming by 2015.
Bus and train ridership is on the rise, while the total number of passenger cars registered has declined in Los Angeles County -- evidence more commuters are breaking their dependence.
"I feel pretty spoiled by the transit system in L.A.," said Madeline Brozen, a 26-year-old transplant from New Orleans who uses a bicycle and buses to make a 12-mile trek from the Los Feliz neighborhood to the University of California, Los Angeles in Westwood, where she researches urban transportation.
The one-family car Americans grew up with -- equipped with a combustion engine and gasoline-powered -- is under assault from an array of options: electric cars, hybrids and alternatives like bikes, light-rail and car-sharing plans such as the one operated by Avis Budget Group Inc.'s Zipcar Inc.
Los Angeles, the largest market in the biggest U.S. state for vehicle sales, could be the ultimate test of the conventional car's future.
"The next 10 years will be as important to the auto industry and transportation literally as the invention of the Model T," Scott Griffith, former CEO of Zipcar and a strategic adviser to the company, said at the Bloomberg Link Next Big Thing Summit in Half Moon Bay, Calif., on June 17. "We're now on the edge of all these new business models coming along and the intersection of information and the car and transportation. If you look out 10 years, I think we're going to see a huge change, particularly in cities."
While the new-car market has rebounded from the recession, Los Angeles County had 28,000 fewer passenger cars registered in 2012 than five years earlier, according to California Department of Motor Vehicles data.
Boardings on the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority's buses and trains increased 4.7 percent to 41.3 million in May 2013, compared with May 2011.
Authority officials plan to spend $14 billion to accelerate that shift. A shrinking allegiance to cars in the region, where a two-car garage and freeway gridlock are a given for many commuters, would present challenges to automakers if it took hold.