The future of travel demand

A report led by Professor Greg Marsden has found that Britain was the most congested country in western Europe, but that government assumptions about rising car use were "limited and sometimes wrong".

The report All Change? The future of travel demand and its implications for policy and practice is the result of a 12 month inquiry conducted by the Commission on Travel Demand. The Commission, comprising academics and practitioners and chaired by Professor Greg Marsden, presented its findings on 3 May at an event in London.

The study found that people are travelling less by car and have been doing so for the past two decades. This is unevenly spread across the population, with over 60s travelling more than the generation preceding them and the under 60s less.

The study suggests that the reasons for this decline in travelling are varied but are more about how society is changing than has previously been acknowledged:

•    Although more people are in work than ever before there are fewer commuting trips. The changing nature of employment with more part time work, home working and people not having a single ‘usual place of work’ is more important here than preferences to drive or not.
•    The decline of our high streets is a clear indicator of the significant drop in shopping trips and, whilst some of this is due to the rapid rise of internet shopping the decline predates the ‘Amazon boom’.
•    There are fewer trips to visit friends and family which some associate with increased use of social media but transport planners have been so busy thinking about the growth in travel they cannot explain such reductions.

The commission highlights that in forecasting how much we travel, we have a significant impact on what we choose in invest in and what the environmental and social consequences will be. We are also effecting how we reach targets, such as improving the air quality in cities.

The difference between assuming that the trends described above continue or stop is a massive 70 billion vehicle kilometres a year by 2040 – a total of 1.1 trillion miles over the period from today.

There are some uncertainties around the future of travel. The rise in shared transport services, such as Lyft and Uber, and the implementation of autonomous vehicles will change the landscape of transportation; however, it is also crucial to consider how people will adopt new transport systems and technologies into their daily lives. 

The All Change? report sets out the evidence and discusses alternative approaches to cope with these uncertainties. 10 recommendations are set out to galvanise a cross governmental effort to use these trends to create better and more prosperous places to live and work where society is ever less dependent on the car. View an infographic showing the findings of the report here.

Further information

Professor Greg Marsden is Chair of the Commission on Travel Demand and holds a chair in Transport Governance at the Institute for Transport Studies at the University of Leeds. 

All Change? The future of travel demand and the implications for policy and planning is available to download on the Demand website where you will also find all of the evidence.

The Commission on Travel Demand was established through a major UK Research and Innovation energy programme grant which the Institute for Transport Studies was a major player.

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