More Peak Car

Peak Car is a the theory or projection that car use has reached its climax and is now declining. In our car-permeated society we find it hard to believe, especially as we have invested so much time and energy into provision for the car. We have put a strong bet on its prevailing in many ways, and continue to do so in an almost entirely automatic way. The car’s prevalence is its own reason for existence and its hope for the future. Looking at figures may help to gather behind the Peak Car forecast and show that it is a real phenomenon.

I recently looked at England’s National Travel Survey dataset. The data I could find online spans back to 2002; and the 2015 set had just been released. I wanted to see what travelled mileage dataset 6011 and trip numbers dataset 0612 are doing. These data include all modes, however knowing that most of our travel miles stem from driving, it is not unreasonable to extend the findings to driving, I would think.

Here is what happened for the different age groups since 2002. Annual mileage has reduced for most age groups. And number of trips has reduced too for most age groups. Interesting to me is that the reduction trend started before the economic crash in 2009. So whilst commuter miles will have a role to play (lost jobs, reduced economic activity and so on, after 2009 etc) other things are at play too.

What these are, would be a fine task to establish.

The Peak Car theory lives on – to date it could not be disproven.






One thought on “More Peak Car

  1. Suspect that if this is purely economic then the correlation would be 2008 onwards to household income. In the industry I work in the Great Recession started with the credit crunch in 2007, only really started hiring new graduates again in the last couple of years:

    If you look at the micro data for this count point in Newcastle you see the “slump” in car running from 2007 to 2013:

    More prosperous Cambridge has surpassed its peak already:

    Not to say that the recession won’t have been a trigger for a change in car use, but peak car looks shaky.


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