Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Trends in passenger travel: leisure down but commuting up

A year on from when my book was published I have been reviewing the latest statistics and what has changed. I covered freight transport recently, this post is about passenger transport. For freight, there was clear dip in 2009 due to the recession and then a recovery in 2010, the latest figures available. Changes in personal transport have been more erratic and the figures for 2010 are down rather than up. International air travel has been declining since 2007.

This graph shows the recent trend in passenger travel by road.

Trends in vehicle use in private cars and taxis. The drop 2009-2010 is 4%. [1]
Although there is a drop in distance traveled this is not due to a lack of cars to drive. The following graph shows trends in the number of vehicles licensed to be on the road. There are a hundred times as many cars as goods vehicles on the road, so the graph is normalised to show growth since 1991. The number of cars has been increasing steadily while there are less goods vehicles licensed. The number of motor bikes and mopeds has increased considerably since the mid 1990s. I have no idea why.
Trends in number of vehicles taxed for use on the road, normalised to 1991. [2]

As well as changes in the overall distance traveled by people, there have also been significant changes in the reasons why we are traveling [3]. From 2009 to 2010:
  • Leisure trips are down by 2% in number of trips but by 9% in terms of distance traveled.
  • Commuting and business trips are up by 1% in number of trips but 8% in terms of distance traveled.
Over the longer term, and looking at all modes not just car use, leisure travel has been reducing slightly since about 2005 -  now down 10% in distance traveled whereas commuting and business travel was flat to 2007 and is now recovering from a 12% drop from 2007-2009 [4].

Leisure is still the biggest driver for car use, responsible for 29% of trips and 39% by distance traveled, but the commuting/business sector caught up quite a bit and I would be surprised if this trend was not continued in 2011. I suspect the decrease in car use for leisure is due to rising fuel prices rather than a desire to reduce carbon emissions and energy use. From 2009 to 2010
  • General inflation was 4.5%
  • Rail fares went up 8%
  • Petrol and diesel costs rose 17%
  • Tax and insurance went up 25%
By the way, there is very little change in use of buses and coaches and use of trains is increasing albeit slowly although there have been some successful initiatives in shifting travel from cars to public transport, as  I discovered at a Transition Cambridge discussion meeting recently. I will have some more to say about this in my next post.

[1] Transport Statistics Great Britain TSGB0101
[2] Dept for Transport VEH0103
[3] National Travel Survey 2010 NTS0409 and NTS0410
[4] National Travel Survey 2010 NTS0404
[5] Transport Statistics Great Britain TSGB0123

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