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Long-run Trends in Car Use

image of 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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New Driving Forces in Mobility

What moves the Dutch in 2012 and beyond?

International Transport Forum

A mobility analysis, carried out in early 2011 by the Netherlands Institute for Transport Policy Analysis, showed that, following the remarkable growth in the 1980s and 1990s, the overall national mobility of the population in the Netherlands has not increased since 2005. This particularly appears to apply to car use. Except for the credit crisis around 2008-09, the reasons for this development remained unclear at the time. Based on further analyses of the developments in mobility over the last ten years and some findings from other countries, the following four hypotheses related to the apparent stabilisation of car use were formulated and investigated in further research:

- The mobility system has started to show signs of “saturation”; for instance, in car ownership levels, a reduced need for mobility to perform activities, less need to increase activity opportunities due to improvements in the mobility system, structural frictions in housing and labour markets, etc.;

- The broad implementation of the (mobile) Internet in society (e-working, e-shopping, e-commerce, use of social networks) is leading to a reduction in physical (car) mobility;

- The mobility of young adults is declining as a result of changes in socio-economic, spatial and cultural factors;

- National mobility is being taken over by international mobility.

In the first part of our contribution, a detailed description of the developments in mobility between 2000 and 2010 is presented, with emphasis on specific trends for various user categories (by travel mode, by age group, by gender). This part can be seen as a description of recent developments in mobility growth.

In the second part we present the findings of our recent research related to the four hypotheses. As some of these findings differ somewhat from research results in other western European countries, we will also focus on these differences and their possible explanations. We conclude this part of the contribution by formulating some possible implications from our findings for transport policymaking.

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