Long-run Trends in Car Use
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Long-run Trends in Car Use

The growth of car use in several advanced economies has slowed down, stopped, or turned negative. The change can not be attributed to adverse economic conditions alone. Socio-demographic factors, including population ageing and changing patterns of education, working, and household composition matter. Rising urbanization and less car-oriented policies in some cities also reduce the growth of car use, perhaps combined with changing attitudes towards mobility. Some groups choose to use cars less, others are forced to.

This report summarizes insights into the drivers of change in car use. It shows that explanations are place-specific, and that projections of future car use are increasingly uncertain. The task for policy-makers is to identify mobility strategies that are robust under an increasingly wide range of plausible scenarios.

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Are we heading towards a reversal of the trend for ever greater mobility? You do not have access to this content

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Author(s):
Jean-Loup Madre, Yves D. Bussière, Roger Collet, Irving Tapia Villareal

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In most industrialised countries, it can be seen that urban mobility and car traffic have stagnated since the early 2000s. In France, the report on traffic conducted by the National Transport Accounts Commission shows a similar break in the trend, which was confirmed by household travel surveys (EMDs) in most major cities, including Lille, Lyon and Strasbourg, and later by the National Transport and Travel Survey (ENTD), which shows that the trend can be attributed primarily to people living in large urban areas and provides an overall view of mobility: trips have become less frequent (with unbroken workdays) and less exclusively taken by car (as more young adults adopt multimodal behaviours), and car ownership is decreasing in the centre of greater Paris, as, for that matter, in the centre of London.

Does this levelling-off of traffic suggest that the saturation point is near (with a decoupling of traffic and income trends in the most densely populated areas or above a certain standard of living) or, rather, a cancelling out of opposite trends (continued growth in rural and suburban areas and decline amongst residents of the most densely populated areas)? Is this a structural phenomenon (population ageing, etc.) or a cyclical one linked to rising and volatile fuel prices and the recession?

We shall explore these issues in the light of data collected in France, supplemented by selected data from other developed countries, and then move on to a comparison with a number of Mexican cities in order to consider the extent to which, and in what timeframe, these trends could spread southward to the emerging economies.
Keywords: Outlook, mobility, car ownership, reversal of trend.

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