Lobbying ahead (continued)

21 Nov

The RAC Foundation has published another doom-laden but impressive report (60 pages this time). This one published last week was promoted with the heading ‘Millions more cars, billions less investment, much greater delay’ and goes on to detail how bad transport in the UK is and that it is going to get worse. They claim that there will be far more cars coming onto the road, that motorists are ‘over taxed’ and that there is not enough investment in roads. Do also check out my post about their last report and road lobbying generally which puts out the same general message.

RAC fears over lack of roads spending as cars increase

Here is a key graph they reproduce in the document as evidence for their case. The DfT, who produced the figures, clearly believe that the leveling off is a minor disturbance in a graph that will soon start romping upwards again. Others believe that this graph shows a peak and the possible beginnings of a decline – this theory is called ‘peak car‘.

Traffic projections (DfT as reported by RAC Foundation)

So… is this a pause in an upward trend, is it a permanent leveling off or is it about to turn down (peak car)? This is clearly a very important question  for planners.  Peak car is mentioned briefly on page 20 before being dismissed with the comment “But, significantly, ‘peak car’ does not remove the impact of ten million more people – who between them will drive four million more cars30 – in the UK in little more than two decades’ time. Whichever way you look at it, the result will be: more congestion“. What they are failing to acknowledge is that ‘peak car’ is about decline not leveling off.

They mention car clubs briefly (car sharing the North America) before dismissing it with the comment: “the impact on car usage, however, is not yet fully understood. Car sharing, car clubs and car rental are all growth areas and are likely to make their mark, mainly in large urban areas“. Others, including the founders of Zip Car, are delighted with the explosive growth of car clubshaving created a business with a valuation of $1 billion in just 11 years.

They also fail the growth of the express coach network and the phenomenal success of Megabus both in the UK and in the USA (a £400 million turnover business created from scratch in under 10 years according to Brian Souter). Greyhound is also doing well in this country and usage of National Express services are also increasing.

And of course they certainly do not quote Professor John Urray from Lancaster University who has predicted that “petroleum car system will finally be seen as a dinosaur (a bit like the Soviet empire, early freestanding PCs or immobile phones). When it is so seen then it will be dispatched for good and no one will comprehend how such a large, wasteful and planet-destroying creature could have ruled the earth. Suddenly, the system of automobility will disappear and become like a dinosaur, housed in museums, and we will wonder what all the fuss was about… changes in existing firms, industries, practices and economies. Just as the Internet and the mobile phone came from ‘nowhere’, so the tipping point towards the ‘post-car’ will emerge unpredictably“.

On a positive note they do talk up ‘pay-as-you-go’ driving, saying “‘Pay As You Go’ is a concept we are all deeply familiar with and find wholly acceptable. Phone charges are based on how much we talk and when we do so. Electricity and gas bills are calculated on the amount of energy consumed and the time of day it is used. Increasingly, water usage is also metered. Even in the transport sphere – on trains and planes, buses and coaches – we are comfortable with, or at least understand, the idea of differential pricing related to when we travel, and where we travel to“. What I don’t understand is why ‘pay-as-you-go’ won’t reduce the amount of driving if it was applied across the board. If the amount is driving is reduced then why would new roads be needed?

 

One Response to “Lobbying ahead (continued)”

  1. Henz November 29, 2011 at 3:56 pm #

    I had a quick play with the data and reckon the DfT had just fitted a straight line to the data, joined up the ends, and left it at that. http://aroomwithmyviews.blogspot.com/2011/11/lies-damn-lies-and-government.html

    Anyway, peak car is inevitable, as resources are finite. The peak may not have arrived yet, but it will arrive.

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