Vehicle traffic grew at a fearsome rate worldwide for decades … until 2007. Then came the perfect storm of an economic collapse, a digital revolution and major changes to urban lifestyles. But is this just a blip? Here is what think theguardian.com
Snarled traffic in Guangzhou, China. Photograph: ChinaFotoPress/Getty Images
A funny thing happened on the way to Carmageddon: the predicted traffic failed to show up. As engineers continued to forecast traffic growth in line with historic averages – up, up and yet farther up, to an eventual “carpocalypse” – actual traffic not only fell short of projections, in many places it just plain fell. A growing number of researchers and commentators are now suggesting that we’ve reached “peak car”, the point at which traffic growth stops, and potentially even falls on a per capita basis.
Across industrialised countries, total vehicles miles travelled (VMT) has been outpacing population and jobs for decades. For example, check out the US from 1960 to 2012 by the link below.
Vehicle traffic grew at a fearsome rate, as any commuter can attest ... up until 2007. Then traffic not only plateaued, it fell. Similar trends are evident in the UK and other developed countries. Phil Goodwin at UCL has compiled statistics for various countries (to see by the same link).
The pattern is clear. The only uncertainties are about what caused it, and whether it will continue into the future. And, as it turns out, there are fundamental disagreements on those points.
Most highway agencies appear to be adopting what Goodwin labels the “interrupted growth” hypothesis: because the downturn in traffic parallels that in the global economy, the bad economy is to blame for the motoring decline. Traffic growth will resume once there’s a global economic recovery, they predict. Backing for this view comes from data from the last two years in the US, where total VMT increased as the economy recovered and gasoline prices fell. The miles travelled grew by 0.4% in 2013, and 1.7% in 2014.
Others – often people who are also advocates for public transit, curbing sprawl and so on – attribute traffic falls to changes in society and consumer preferences, such as the increasing rejection of the car by young people. Supporters of this view see the current situation as peak car, and expect these changes to continue into the future. The key point of debate is often less the forecasts than the policy response: how much public or private money to put into roads versus other transport?
Photograph: David Jones/PA Archive
How these changes will interact and play out into the future ?
Have we really reached 'peak car'?
What is your opinion?
To read also on theguardian.com :
End of the car age: how cities are outgrowing the automobile