Oops! What is happening to the American Dream? Are cars on the way out?

The concept of ‘Peak Car’ responds to the fact that developed countries around the world are seeing car traffic level off rather than increase in line with forecasts car early ladies policemanlike this, and that in dense urban areas traffic levels are declining. And the inaccuracy (of traditional forecasting methods) has always been one way – massively overestimating the amount of driving people will do. A major report today from the UK shows some of the factors behind patterns of car use, and how policies can change future trends.

 Peak car or bleak car?  The future is up for grabs

- From the UK Campaign for Better Transport

3 December 2012: A major report today shows some of the factors behind patterns of car use, and how policies can change future trends. Along with a growing group of academics and transport planners, we’ve been questioning the validity of current Government transport and traffic forecasts for some time.

UK car traffic growth forecasts

This chart produced by Professor Phil Goodwin from the University of the West of England illustrates best how forecasts from the past 22 years have failed to predict the actual number of miles driven in cars by people in England. And the inaccuracy has always been one way – massively overestimating the amount of driving people will do.

UK - On the Move car reportThe concept of ‘Peak Car’ responds to the fact that developed countries around the world are seeing car traffic level off rather than increase in line with forecasts like this, and that in dense urban areas traffic levels are declining.

The hypothesis is that this effect is cultural rather than simply economic, led by new trends such as fewer young people desiring cars of their own, and the growth of home offices, online shopping and radical changes in communication technology making face to face meetings and transactions less necessary, to the extent that they affect travel patterns in a significant way.

The years since 2008 have seen car traffic across the UK actually decline by around 2.5%, raising even more questions about forecasting, such as how and whether traffic will increase again when economic problems start to be resolved.

In an effort to shed some light on factors that may mean new traffic forecasts (and rail passenger forecasts) are needed in future, the RAC Foundation, Office of Rail Regulation, Independent Transport Commission and Transport Scotland have been carrying out a research project for the past few months with academics from UCL. Our Chief Executive, Stephen Joseph, joined a range of transport specialists on the steering committee for this work, and the results have been published today and highlighted in a set of BBC1 ‘Inside Out’ programmes broadcast tonight. . .

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* For  full text of this article – http://bettertransport.org.uk/blogs/roads/031212-rac-peak-car

* Read the full report here: http://www.racfoundation.org/research/mobility/on-the-move-main-research-page

* You may also wish to have a look at a BBC report taking it from another angle, including with a short video interview with  Stephen Joseph from the Campaign for Better Transport talking about car use – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-20526328

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