We’ve been discussing the ‘peaking‘ of car travel – not only in Auckland and New Zealand – but internationally too, for a long time on this blog. What’s really interesting though is to look at the breakdown of this data into things like drivers license rates, car ownership rates, distance driven per person and so on. The Atlantic Cities has a recent article which looked into this further:

The handy thing about “peak car” as a concept is that it can nominally be proven in many ways. You’ve got Peak Driver’s License. Peak Registered Vehicle. Peak Gas Consumption. Peak Miles Traveled. There are peaks per person, per household, per demographic. Then you’ve got your absolute peaks when you add up all of our vehicles and miles together, as if we were all cruising the highways at the same time.

The point of all of this is that any one number is a little dubious, especially in light of that inconvenient economic recession. But Michael Sivak at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute has been methodically slicing the question every which way. And the totality of the picture he’s built is starting to look pretty convincing.

Earlier this summer, Sivak released data showing that the number of registered light-duty vehicles in America (cars, pickup trucks, SUVs, vans) had peaked per person, per licensed driver and per household in the early to mid 2000s, before the onset of the recession. Because the U.S. population continues to grow, he predicted that the absolute number of vehicles had not yet peaked. But per person and household, we seem willing now to own fewer of the things.

Now he has released a follow-up study [PDF] of how much we drive. As a nation, our total mileage has leveled off (but again, because the population continues to grow, we may surpass this 2006 peak again)

The graph showing distance driven still blows me away at the extent to which this is a disruption from what’s happened before:

But what’s most interesting is looking behind this result into what makes it up on a per capita basis.

peak-everything

The article highlights that all these peaks occurred around 2004 – well before the recession of 2008 and at a time when the US economy (and indeed the NZ economy) was still ticking along quite nicely.

There are many questions which arise from this kind of analysis – that I hope someone is looking into in more detail:

  • To what extent has the economic downturn in recent years contributed to these trends and is it likely a sustained economic upswing would revert things back to ‘normal’? I tend to think not as we have already seen a lot of economic recovery and little change in current trends – and even if that happened we’d still be way below previously forecast traffic volumes.
  • To what extent will a decline in per capita travel eventually be outweighed by population growth? This is the key issue in Auckland where it’s pretty clear that each person will probably drive less in the future as the city intensifies and has improved public transport – but will population increase still mean an increase in absolute totals? By how much?
  • To what extent are these trends being taken into account by future planning? We know that NZTA have been blatantly dishonest about the forecast traffic volumes for the $5 billion Harbour Crossing project – but how rampant is this blatant dishonesty? We also know that they have now removed the ability of roading projects to use constantly increasing traffic volumes as a justification
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131 comments

  1. I’m still amazed how little attention fuel prices get in all this – i.e. the Atlantic Cities article and both the pieces of analysis by this Sivak chap (which are not econometric studies, just graphs showing trends, similar to the ones we create here on the blog) don’t mention them, or only in passing.

    In the next week or so I’ll get a post up, looking at why I think higher fuel prices are the main reason for declining travel in the last decade.

      1. Sorry, good point, I’ll rephrase, “the main reason for declining travel over 2003-2007”, and certainly still a factor since 2008, exacerbated by the GFC/ recession.

  2. An interesting article here on failed toll roads in the US. The credit agencies, such as Moodys are now very nervous about this and are downgrading the companies associated with the toll roads:

    http://dc.streetsblog.org/2013/08/05/credit-rating-agencies-uneasy-about-toll-roads-as-americans-drive-less/

    Doesnt seem to bode well for the PPP tolled RoNS.

    And more than likely it will be the NZ tax payer who has to bail these companies out because you can be damn sure the PPP company will be asking for the government to underwrite the risk. They are reading the same articles we are and wont be blinded by NZTA’s assurances of constant traffic growth.

    1. What risk, the NZTA has already confirmed that they will carry all of the risk as they will pay the builders based on the availability of the road regardless of how many people use the road.

        1. not quite. The private sector will be taking all the risk for all costs related to the design, construction and maintenance the road over a period in excess of 20 years

          1. Yeah but how much risk is there in that? Construction companies these days have a lot of experience with big projects and so seem to be pretty good at being able to do those things already.

          2. Bugger all risk. The govt is expected to pay $120M per annum over 25 years. That’s $3B to build and maintain a $1.3B (build cost) project.

          3. Would be fascinating to see what the contract says about ‘acts of god’ such as landslips, especially caused by earthquakes.
            The Wellington lifelines study still suggests Transmission Gully would be closed for a month after big earthquake, better than coastal road (3 months) but still along time. And that months clean up would be very expensive, and more expensive the more it is rushed. Who would be responsible for those costs, and a private sector company less likely to spend huge extra money to speed up the cleanup.

        2. For TG the private sector takes on more risk than in any other sort of road project.

          In the normal case the contractor is required to build a road, gets paid and then walks away.

          For TG the government has said they will pay someone a fixed sum of money annually for a fixed number of years to provide a service. If for any reason other than an earthquake or something the road is not fully available at a compliant level of service the PPP group losses money.

          So if there is a small slip, they lose money, if there is a car crash that closes the road they lose money. If the pavement fails or the road floods they lose money.

          1. Well we don’t know the contract details yet. Of course the more penalties NZTA put in the contract the higher the price will be.
            The only real beneft incentive is for contractors to lay long life pavement that doesnt have to be replaced very often, as they will be paying for that replacement.
            However in a contract like Transmission Gully that really is in the minority of costs, and can be better dealt with by other means.

          2. Yes, but we have become distracted by the issue of low traffic numbers on toll roads.

            If the traffic projections are wrong and the tolls are much lower than forecast, the tax payer is the one who has to pay the loss. Great business model for the company.

            This is the roading equivalent of guaranteed lamb prices in the 1980s or the Common Agricultural Policy subsidies in the EU.

            I always remember my father (who was an electrician at the Belfast meat works in Chch) about perfectly good lamb carcasses being feed into mulchers because there was just no demand for that many lambs. Farmers were laughing all the way to the bank and we had 30 sheep for every person.

  3. There’s an anguement to be made that the total amount available to be spent on driving / pertol has some sort of soft cap (or doesn’t change fast), therefore when prices increase significantly the result is a reduction in cars and driver milage, with certain sections of the population being more sensitive than others. Could you consider this idea in you post John?

    1. Thanks Simon, and yes I’ll be talking about that in the next few weeks… fuel is actually seen as having comparatively “inelastic” demand, so when prices go up you just mutter under your breath and keep driving to some extent, and have to cut your spending in other areas as a result.
      Of course, this is only true up to a point and I’ll be looking at that in the future.

      1. The stuff I’m reading, especially out of the States, has a more subtle take on the elasticity of oil demand: basically agreeing that in the short term there is very little but over the medium to long term this grows.

        The idea is that people take time to adjust their circumstances; moving location, downsizing a car, changing modes. This seems likely. Remember despite the hype about new oil production in the US the really interesting news is the over 10% drop in consumption despite a growing population and growing economy.

        So another discontinuity with the previous age is a decoupling of economic activity growth from growth in consumption of key inputs, especially oil and electricity.

        People are urbanising, cities in the US are finally building transit systems and cycling networks. But all of this takes years not weeks. Inelastic response to ‘shocks’ but more elastic over time. The big problem is the policy and propaganda from our agencies and government telling us we dont need to change when really the reverse is the case.

        1. Roads lobbyists love saying, ‘the demand for car transport is fairly inelastic…’

          They forget the necessary qualification ‘… in the short term, but may be more elastic in the long term.’ [depending on fuel prices, transport alternatives, trends in urban design etc]

        2. I do not believe this is a transport issue alone, this is a symptom of wider economic problems that are leaving many Americans short of the ability to travel as freely as they once did.

          An incredible 53% of all American workers earn less than US$30,000 per year (most are in part time work only) and it is hitting the young hard than other groups. The same thing appears to be happening here where employers are squeezing the conditions of workers as they are getting squeezed by the current economy themselves (even though the politicians preach that is getting better) – unfortunately this can only lead to a downward spiral.

          Here is an article that contains information on the current US employment issues:

          http://theeconomiccollapseblog.com/archives/if-you-think-the-employment-numbers-are-good-then-you-really-need-to-read-this-article

  4. Sample of one: We’re in the process of selling our 2nd car, as have a Cityhop car parked 200m away, so from next week: 4 adults in our household, 1 car.
    John, I don’t think petrol prices fully explain it- else why is the NZ fleet 2nd or 3rd worst in the OECD for fuel efficiency- surely price sensitivity would drive people to buy more efficient vehicles? (Not saying it’s not a factor, but there’s other stuff going down as well).

    1. Well, everyone’s had to deal with the higher petrol prices, and NZ actually has among the lowest prices in the OECD, and we also haven’t had the same recessionary crunch as the Euro countries.

      But I would say our fuel efficiency has more to do with our relatively clapped-out fleet, consisting mainly of used imports which are already 8 years old or older when they get here (but we get ’em cheap). And also, many Euro countries have policies in place to encourage the purchase of more efficient cars – we don’t.

    2. We (family of four) became a one car family at the beginning of last year when one of our vehicles gave up the ghost. Couldn’t really justify the expense of another one in our current circumstances. It has been interesting. About 95% of the time there is no problem. It is usually kid related activities that throw a spanner in the works, especially sport!

      1. My wife and I each had a car when we started dating but at one point her’s (which was older so on the street) got broken into which prompted us to question if we really needed it. Ever since we have only had one car and there are very very few times where having a second one would have been useful. One of the things that helps is that we are close to a train station giving us much more choice.

        1. When I got together with my girlfriend, it was a bit in reverse – I had lived a totally car-ownership-free life for about 10 years, 5 of those in Auckland. Now we are a 1-car couple.

        2. I’m another one – half of a 2-person household which has gone from two cars to one. On the 2-3 times a year we need a spare car a $20 taxi fare sure beats thousands of dollars in car depreciation costs. Mind you it helps if you live in transit-rich Newmarket. Proof that when the whole city becomes transit rich we will see a huge reduction in car use.

    3. Did this a year ago and never have missed only having one car. Have a Cityhop car at the top of the street but have never used it- only used them ex CBD for work journeys (for which they are excellent- fully claimable and you don’t have to worry about parking and all that).

  5. The only way fuel prices are going is up. I live a 5.5km commute entirely along from the Northwestern cycleway from work, so I don’t notice gas prices but some of my colleagues are paying insane amounts for gas ($60-$70 PW) to commute from as far away as Howick and Pakuranga to Kingsland. I’ve seen the writing on the wall and I now am buying an electric bike, which will hopefully allow me to expand my bike from a work commute to a more flexible general purpose vehicle that can include the supermarket and garden centre and the like – after work trips that at the moment mean I take the car on those days.

  6. I spend $35 a week on petrol, though I wouldn’t mind an electric bike to take to work, but my commute is a 60km round trip.

    Regarding this trend it is pretty scary stuff. if we don’t start changing our planning to take this into account, we are going to have some bigger issues down the line.

    1. 60km round trip on an electric wouldn’t be that hard though? they have a range of around 20-80km so if you say realistically 35-40km on a single charge you could just juice it up on the bosses dime at the office and you’d be sweet. Plus, you’d get along at just a bit slower than normal commute speeds at rush hour.

    2. yes, I agree – the main risk as I see it is that NZTA seem to be keen to lock us into long-term deals that require ongoing payments for debt instruments and/or those funny PPPs where all the risk sits with government. Because such payments are locked in for decades, they would seem set to reduce our ability to respond to these trends, should they persist into the future.

      In terms of the trends themselves, it’s interesting that the “VMT per registered vehicle” indicator seems to be declining at a slower rate than the other metrics. This seems intuitive to me – and suggests that people are concentrating their travel into fewer vehicles. Such a trend would also be supported by things like car-share, or even the increasing use of taxis for short trips, where people give up a personal car instead “share”.

      1. Tolling would of course recover some money but not much at all in the scheme of things. However this could cause real conflict with NZTA priorities, esp with public transport investment. NZTA would want as many cars as possible using the section to make the money back, regardless of the effect on the wider road network. For example if Kapiti rail line double tracked along the coastal section would reduce number of cars using Transmission Gully, and therefore reduce NZTA’s toll money.

    3. Of course on the bright side this could mean less congestion as people are naturally going away from there cars onto something else.

      So once all these big motorway projects are done anyone who choses to keep driving will find it a breeze.

        1. How do you work that out Max. In real terms petrol costs about as much today as it always did. And if you don’t drive then you hardly pay anything towards roads.

          1. “And if you don’t drive then you hardly pay anything towards roads.”

            True of NZTA funded roads. 50% of the cost of local roads are paid for by ratepayers.

          2. Sailor boy, as you well know only one road in the country was built using credit and it has a toll on it.

            And Conan, as you well know only q small fraction of your rates goes to roads which you use regardless of if you drive a car or not.

          3. “Sailor boy, as you well know only one road in the country was built using credit”

            The council has $6billion in debt, any road, or water pipe, or rail track that is paid for by the council is serviced by that debt, as by not building it we could have reduced the debt. The exact same argument applies to NZTA roads.

            There is no reason for which they fuel tax couldn’t be used to repay debts all it takes is for one government to budget it.

          4. So what are you saying Bryce? That only 30% of the 30% is spent on roads that are used by everyone? So that sounds like about 10% which is on average about $100 for someone that doesn’t drive.

          5. Nope. From those figures, 84% of the Auckland transport budget is spent on roads. Now, those are older figures but I understand that the breakdown has not changed by much. So lets say 80% of the $35 per $100 of our rates. Or, based on my rates bill ($2,200) roughly $528. That is not insignificant. Remember that there is also a fuel / tax component to go on top of that.

          6. Bryce, how does someone who doesn’t drive end up paying fuel tax?

            And swan, I don’t have a clue as to what you were on about with that post.

          7. Lauren,

            Ill be more explicit.

            When did motorists pay for the realestate underneath Queen St?

            Given that they never have, that land belongs to council. Given the council chooses not to (or is not legally able to) derive an economic return from that land, they are subsidising the users the same. That applies for every bit of land given over to roading that the road users have not paid for. So that obviously doesnt apply to all the land roads sit on. But still, quite a lot of land that road users are not having to pay a rent on.

          8. All those fizz boats that run on petrol from regular pumps, who pay fuel tax for roads. A rort if you ask me.

          9. Swan, I still don’t know what your getting at but; if we were to pay rent on crown land who would we pay it to? The queen?

            Bryce, if your boat runs in petrol you can claim the tax back. Just the same as if you go through heaps of fuel in your lawn mowing business.

          10. Only if it is a business owned boat. This does not apply to privately owned boats (of which most are).

          11. It can be a private boat as well, I believe you just need to use a certain amount before you can claim.

            You could also just fill your boat up at the dock.

          12. I stand ccorrected, it seems we are all being subsidised by recreational boat users and motorsport enthusiasts to the tune of some 50c a litre.

            That is a rort.

          13. SF Lauren – the crown I would have thought. Or the council where it is council land.

            My point is that road users are subsidised to the extent that they havent paid for, or paid rent on, the land the roads sit on. Is that so hard to understand?

          14. I get that but I don’t get your point.

            What it seems is that you want the council to charge everyone rent for all of the public assets so that in turn the council can pay rent to the council who then does something with the rent.

            You will be happy to know this already happens in a way except it’s called rates and the council tries to break even rather than make a profit.

          15. What I “want” is not the point. The point is – what is the answer to the question: Are road users being subsidised?

            In much the same way the government derives an economic return from the power companies, the council derives an economic return from the port and airport, they can derive an economic return from the road assets they own. If the council did not derive an economic return from the port, it would be subsidising shipping companies. Whether or not that is desirable is up for the debate, but the fact is the shipping companies would be being subsidised. So similarly insofar as the council/crown is not deriving an economic return from its roading assets it is subsidising road users.

          16. They would only be subsidising your examples if they were making a loss and they needed funds from another income source to keep them going. However for both the power companies and the port a small profit is made so no subsidy is required.

            For roads the council charges everyone “rent” or rates given everyone uses them and they are able to get by doing everything they need to do with that rent.

            They have been having sine issues with PT however relying on government handouts to pay for some of the larger things and they certainly have no way to pay for the CRL even though 50% of it is already paid for by the government. Where they will get the money from we don’t know.

          17. In my examples they are NOT subsidising because they charge an economic rate of return.

            So we are agreed, road users are subsidised. Good stuff.

          18. So what you are saying swan is that the money roads collect through rates and tax is not enough to cover their operational costs.

            Well that sounds really strange as we currently have plans to spend billions over the next through decades with the surplus.

            So where is the subsidy coming from to prop up the rates on other road user taxes?

          19. Answers to your comments..

            1. Most definately its not enough money collected through rates and tax – otherwise why are the Reional mayors complaining that they can’t upkeep those rural roads they have and are letting them decay and in many cases, reverting to metal roads and not sealing any new roads unless neceasary – does that sound like a system awash with surplus cash?

            2. The billions that used to prop up these are going on RONS.

            3. The subsidy is coming from you and me – via a large chunk of asset sales cash and Government sleight of hand with the General Taxation.

          20. One big subsidy for roads is coming from people who drive cars but wish they had a better option. Every dollar they spend on RUC or fuel tax is considered a “vote” for more roads, even if they’d rather spend that money on public transport instead.

          21. Greg, currently no general tax or asset sales are going into roads. There is talk of that for the CRL however.

            Steve. If said people don’t want to drive why don’t they take a taxi? If the PT service is really so bad for them that they can’t use it it is most likely due to it bring uneconomic.

          22. SF: I’m talking about the money they pay to the government in the form of fuel tax and RUCs. New Zealanders, 48% to 37%, want the government to spend that money on public transport instead of roads.

            Now you and I have interesting discussions in these comment threads quite often. And the word “trolling” gets thrown around a bit too often on this blog. But your ludicrous comment about taxis is deliberately missing the point, with the intention of getting a rise out of people, and you know it.

          23. I thought it was 48% of people wanted better public transport. I don’t recall there even being the question asked as to if they wanted to tax road users but give it to public transport users.

            I suspect any existing PT users would love such an idea as it would be all gain no pain.

            The taxi idea was due to a lack of context. You say a large number of people drive but wish they had a better option. What this means we don’t know, are you saying 50% of drivers wish driving was slower so that the bus was now faster? Or are the traveling at 3am from old man Johnson’s place. Maybe they want to be able to walk out the door and catch a bus to work in the city that gets a pretty smooth run, in which case for most people their prayers have been answered.

          24. “So what you are saying swan is that the money roads collect through rates and tax is not enough to cover their operational costs.”

            Nope not saying that. The subsidy is via the forgone income on the asset. I’ll try again with my example. If the council started charging ships below market rates for use of the port, they would be subsidising said ships – regardless of the operating costs involved in running the port.

          25. Ok, so the port charges the market rate for docking a large ship in Auckland to cover their operating costs.

            The council and the government charge rates and tax (both on road users) to cover their operating costs.

            So in both cases users are getting charged the market rate for what ever service they are getting and the operators get enough money from this to operate the service and make upgrades in the future.

            When does the third party step in to provide the subsidy?

          26. “Ok, so the port charges the market rate for docking a large ship in Auckland to cover their operating costs.”

            No, they charge a market rate because they can. But if you want to frame it in your (reverse) way of thinking – the port charges in order to cover. It’s operational AND capital costs.

        2. SFL
          “The council and the government charge rates and tax (both on road users) to cover their operating costs.”

          But thats where you’re plainly wrong sunshine and ignoring the facts (for the 100th time today no doubt).

          Government and Councils can’t pay for the roads they have now with rates and taxes they levy – thats why the regions are complaining about the RONS sucking up the money.

          So yes, the roads are being subsidised – maybe less now, but certainly in the past – or they wouldn’t have been built in the first place.

          As for market rates – but the users of said roads are not paying for upkeep collectively – so the rates maybe be market rates, but they’re not sustainable rates either.

          1. So who is it that is paying this subsidy and how given as its not coming from rates taxes or asset sales?

          2. Ok. But where are they getting the extra money from seeing as it’s not coming from rates, taxes, asset sales or lending?

            Have they been doing bake sales or mowing lawns in the weekend?

          3. Given you seem to have the details sailor boy , what roads were they that we built with lines here in Auckland. I know the government gave the council a loan for the trains however I assume your not referring to that?

          4. If we have debt then every cost that could have been saved is funded by debt, Ihave said that half a dozen times now, stop asking.

          5. Actually that’s only the second time you’ve said that.

            So anyway, what you are telling us is that you think is the road users should subsidise the other parts of the council that have managed to get into debt? And based on fuel taxes the more they use the more the should subsidise the performing arts, stormwater separation, wynyward trams or what ever it is that’s losing money?

          6. No, I think road users should pay for the huge costs that they impose on society, which in my opinion is far more than they pay.

          7. So you no longer want them to pay off this debt? But you do want them to pay for the existence of civilisation that would not exist without them?

            Given none of us would likely be alive today if it had not been for road users of the past it would seem they have given us more than they have taken.

    1. What it essentially means is that the glut of vehicles imported from Japan in the early and mid-90s have left the road. They, and subsequent imports, kept prices down. This resulted in few new car sales, and meant the average age of NZ cars increased over time, with poorly maintained vehicles lacking safety features and modern efficiency becoming the norm in our environment. It also encouraged people to think of cars as cheap throwaways, rather than valuable investments that should be maintained. Competition for these vehicles from other markets, combined with regulations that prevent sub-standard imports, have put the brakes on the practice.

      I’m not in favour of any fossil-fuel burning vehicles being on our roads (I think we should phase them out over time), but this created a significantly worse situation than might otherwise have been the case. We’re shifting back now.

  7. Sorry but I’m missing where the “more” evidence part comes in as the data looks like the same 2 year old graphs that get posted fortnightly.

    On the topic however I would very much like to see a comparison between smart phones and car ownership. Certainly when the iPhone came out it cost the same as your average student car and was much more desirable.

  8. Another thing to look at here is the US housing bubble which would have been going full steam in 2004 with people taking on huge amounts of debt which is ultimately what caused the GFC in 2008.

    This would be similar to what is continuing to happen here in NZ.

    1. SFL I tend to agree with you most the time, but what concerns me most is that the first graph is pretty much steady through other major financial crashes in the last 30 years up till 2006. This seems pre-GFC and pre-crazy petrol prices which I find very surprising. This seems like a major shift in behavior with no specific reason, but perhaps a combination of reasons

        1. So people stopped driving in 2006 because they were getting rich from the boom in house prices, and were taking more foreign coach holidays instead of driving to work? And then in 2008, short of cash because of the falling house prices, students opted to sell their cars and walk to university, so that they could afford an iphone to impress their potential mates?

          1. Um no, dduring housing booms people put themselves into huge amounts of debt on the gamble house prices will keep going up. In the US so many people got into extreme debt that they were unable to make their repayments which caused their creditors to go bankrupt which in turn made the creditors creditors go bankrupt because they were all working on borrowed money.

          2. Except that these mileage peaks occurred in 2004. US mortgage delinquencies were at a very low level for two years after that, and it was another two years again until this spread to the broader market affecting “creditors creditors” and causing the GFC.

            So why did people stop driving in 2005 when delinquencies were at an all time low, house prices were still rising 10%, and unemployment was still dropping? Must be those foreign coach tours… cause it wasn’t till 2007 that those trends reversed.

            http://www.richmondfed.org/banking/markets_trends_and_statistics/trends/pdf/delinquency_and_foreclosure_rates.pdf

            https://www.google.co.nz/publicdata/explore?ds=z1ebjpgk2654c1_&met_y=unemployment_rate&hl=en&dl=en&idim=country:US&fdim_y=seasonality:S#!ctype=l&strail=false&bcs=d&nselm=h&met_y=unemployment_rate&fdim_y=seasonality:S&scale_y=lin&ind_y=false&rdim=country&idim=country:US&ifdim=country&tstart=941972400000&tend=1212840000000&hl=en_US&dl=en&ind=false

            http://www.economist.com/blogs/graphicdetail/2013/06/us-house-prices

          3. Dan, have you tried buying a house in an expensive market like Auckland before? If you had you will notice that when you buy a house you tend to have less money the day after than you did the day before you purchased it.

            And of course this is not the one and only reason way there has been a reduction in distance traveled or car ownership rates.

          4. Conventional wisdom, in a rising market people spend more money because their rising house value is making them richer.

            The day after you have purchased a house you are richer, because the value of the house has increased more than the difference between the rent and mortgage payments. In the market i have most experience with, London, mortgage payments are actually LOWER than rent, so you are doubly rich on rising capital value and lower monthly payments.

            Anyway that’s all on paper. You are suggesting that in the pocket, people actually have less money, because mortgage payments are higher than rent, which is sometimes the case.

            In that case we would expect general retail sales to be falling, not just auto-mobile miles travelled. In fact we would expect retails sales to fall more than miles travelled, as in the short term travel demand is inelastic, people still need to get to work everyday.

            However the data doesn’t bear your theory out, retail sales don’t go flat until the end of 2007, and start falling in mid 2008.

            https://www.google.co.nz/publicdata/explore?ds=d2p7r4l1574rh_&ctype=l&met_y=monthly_ret_sales_change&hl=en&dl=en#!ctype=l&strail=false&bcs=d&nselm=h&met_y=monthly_ret_sales&fdim_y=seasonality:Seasonally+adjusted&scale_y=lin&ind_y=false&rdim=country&idim=country:US&ifdim=country&tstart=1073473200000&tend=1370606400000&hl=en_US&dl=en&ind=false

          5. “Note also how strongly retails sales have picked up since the GFC, while vehicle miles haven’t.”

            Ha, must be people walking to and from the shops.

          6. One of the interesting statistics that came out during the GFC was that entertainment retail had a fantastic time as people went for perceived cheaper forms of entertainment such as gold class movies rather than long weekends away.

            Anyway, given you appear to be under the impression that there is only one exclusive reason why vehicle mileage has gone down and it is not related to the amount of free money people have to spend would you like to share with us as to what this one thing was that changed things?

          7. “you appear to be under the impression that there is only one exclusive reason why vehicle mileage has gone down ”

            Oh we have a mind reader… do please tell what this one exclusive reason that i am under the impression of? I thought i was just disagreeing that increasing house prices was a contributing reason.

            I’ll take a stab that it’s increasing urbanisation. I.e. more people moving to cities, and within cities more people moving away from the suburbs and into the centre. Could also be an increasing focus many North American cites are placing on public transit, delivering more viable alternatives to driving? And the price of gas of course, though in the medium-term you can simply downsize your vehicle to compensate for that. Oh wait that’s more than one reason sorry…

          8. Well that is highly interesting Dan as Americans have been moving to urban areas since the 1800 so it is rather strange that only in the past 10 years has this resulted in a reduction in vehicle mileage.

            It’s also rather strange that your claim that large numbers of people leaving the suburbs to live in the CBD occurred at a time when there were record numbers of new urban sprawl developments going on.

            It’s also interesting to hear that the likes of Manhattan are starting to use PT even though they have one of the oldest subway systems in the world. Or are you mote talking about LA where they are upgrading their rail system and so some people have decided to jump the gun and stop driving 10 years before the new PT system gets to them?

          9. For one such example lets take Atlanta, there the city itself grew by only 1000 over the past 10 years however include the metropolitan area and all the suburbs it grew by roughly 1 million making it the tenth fastest growing cities to join the likes of phoenix, Dallas and Houston.

          10. Yes Atlanta is the perfect contradiction. Meanwhile “according to a recent report by the Census Bureau, Chicago’s core exhibited a 36% boom in its population from 2000 to 2010—a gain of nearly 50,000. Rounding out the top five core-growth gainers were the cities New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Washington D.C. The report finds that, on average, “[T]he largest metro areas—those with 5.0 million or more population—experienced double-digit percentage growth within 2 miles of their largest city’s city hall…”

            http://www.newgeography.com/content/003812-the-persistence-failed-history-white-infill-new-white-flight

          11. Actually Dan, Atlanta proved to be the typical case for the 10 fastest growing cities for which New York, San Francisco Philadelphia and Washington DC didn’t feature.

            So really what your examples prove is that if you make residential accommodation at affordable prices in the CBD of some of the most desirable cities in the world people will move into them (don’t ask me how but my phone moved this paragraph up up here, it’s meant to be at the end).

            Of interest however, those very cities you mention have something unique about them, that being that they have old industrial land right in the CBD which is being redeveloped into residential apartments.

          12. You got some evidence that shows most population growth in the US was in new outer suburbs developments?

            Have you ever caught the NY subway? I did about ten years ago and it was a crummy service, stations totally neglected and unpleasant to be in. MTA has been investing allot lately, so it’s not surprising that more people might be choosing to use an improved service. http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2013/07/22/mta-to-invest-millions-for-service-improvements/

            Krugman recently did an interesting piece recently on the Social consequences of growing the Atlanta way. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/29/opinion/krugman-stranded-by-sprawl.html?_r=0

  9. I’d be interested in what the breakdown is between employment and non-employment related travel. From previous discussions on this topic here I had the impression that a lot of vehicle use change is due to the effects of the internet, and that people (and young people especially) are spending more time online and less time engaged with the physical world. If this is the case then I’d expect to see recreational travel falling while employment travel remains steady. Or steady-ish depending on the state of the economy.

    We’ve recently seen a drop in rail travel in Auckland. I’m guessing that rail travel is mostly employment related but not used as much for recreational travel. It would be nice to have a break down for rail as well so see if peak-rail is correlated with peak-car.

    1. Obi we haven’t seen a drop in rail travel we have seen an improvement in counting. The figures for average daily travel on rail are rising. We just used to have figures extrapolated from guesses, now we have actual HOP data.

    2. It also strikes me that the significance of transportation is diminishing. Where once transport infrastructure to enable getting from a to b be it by road or rail had enormous significance. Now days transport is just one of a number of things and arguably increasingly less of a consideration. For instance think of the significance of the Internet compared to supposed eimprovements that apparently enable minis ule tome savings

      1. Well perhaps but the unfortunate thing is that the primary focus of our investment continues to be in sustaining these habits. It is investment that undermines other modes.

  10. The decline is most likely a result of the growing divide between rich and poor. One thing that may reverse the trend is the growing car manufacturing industries in China and India. Eventually these are going to do the same thing that post-war Japanese car manufacturing did – develop into a decent product which can then be sold globally at a lower price.

  11. Things are starting to happen good to see in the U S of A. It absolutely needs to for a better environment and Im a chartered roading engineer, probably not your target support group but see it clearly for the environment and sustainability. We can achieve a balance with some panelbeating and probably for $1M can change the entire focus in Auckland and breakthrough. It involves just prioritising the existing network towards the mode gap areas and the city as a whole getting behind it. Then I think everybody will just keep focussing on those gap areas more. Try to phase in a little bit is just making things worse then we still need the mind swingshift.

  12. Economic recovery stimulates petrol demand leading to even cheaper petrol? Supply increases lead to increased demand leading to lower prices?

    Supply and Demand are two sides of the same equation.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Supply_and_demand#Equilibrium

    “Last time I looked buses and cyclists used roads”.

    Buses and bikes make far more efficient use of space and so need only one lane of traffic each way (and for bike only lanes you only need 1m wide or so). They don’t require the tax payer to build a northwestern motorway 11 lanes wide.

  13. I did not say that Dan. I said economic recovery will mean more demand for transport fuel but also the abundance of cheap shale oil (not available in 2004) will mean cheaper petrol prices. It is two different situations that mean road transport demand will increase.
    My point on buses and cycles is simply to illustrate that we all benefit from roads and you didn’t mention the commercial freight using the roads that deliver all the consumer goods you buy. It is disingenuous to suggest that tax payers money spent on roads only favours car drivers.

    1. Sorry i have mis-read your statement.

      “economic recovery in the US and Europe together with cheap shale oil will see an increase in transport fuel demand. This cheaper petrol will lean on the global wholesale prices meaning cheaper petrol for Kiwi drivers”

      That reads to me as: economic recovery and increase fuel demand means cheaper petrol for Kiwi drivers. I guess you meant those two sentences to be quite disconnected.

      Freight also doesn’t require 11 lane motorways. Only single occupancy cars commuting to work at the same time require an extensive motorway network.

      The vast majority of tax payers money spent in this country is on infrastructure that favours car drivers. http://greaterakl.wpengine.com/2013/02/26/why-arent-we-getting-what-we-want/

  14. Yes Dan, they were seperate points.

    My point about freight, cycling, and buses is just to say that it is silly to think everyone does not get benefit from roads. Of course cars also benefit but what do you want to do, force people out of cars just because a minority of tax payers don’t drive? That’s never going to happen.

    1. It is not silly to think eveyone does not get benefit from roads.

      I just looked at a house in Sandringham. Despite being a several blocks away, the noise from the traffic on St Lukes Rd was quite destroying the ambiance of the neighbourhood. The sellers is not benefiting from the road as their is now one less bidder bidding up the sale price due to traffic noise. As a purchaser i do not benefit from aucklands excess of wide arterials, because it’s hard to find a house in central Auckland not blighted by road noise.

      All the people selling up on Hendon Ave, are they benefiting from the building of Waterview?

      The idea that EVERYONE does benefit from excess road building is what’s silly. Some people like it, some people dont.

      A majority a tax payers drive because we only provide for driving. It is not a choice to drive in Auckland, it is forced on you because the alternatives are pathetic.

      If we had spent the last 50 years building great walking, cycling, and public transport infrastructure, you would find car commuters to be in the minority, and our neighbourhoods would be much more pleasant. I drive in Auckland, even though i haven’t driven for 10 years because i have been living in a city overseas.

    2. Apart from the negative externalities that every road has to a greater or lesser extent (eg noise; air pollution; abstraction of traffic from other modes, eg public transport; stopping the land being used for other purposes, eg agriculture, housing, industry, recreation; the opportunity cost, since the money can’t be spent on anything else), it is very silly to think that everyone benefits from the low-BCR roads being built under the RoNS banner. Every road with a BCR of less than 1 means that, on average, everyone in the country is worse off economically because of that road.

    3. To add some data to my supposition that the majority of people drive because there is no other option rather than by choice:

      As i’m sure you would have read here already polls have been showing for quite some time that the majority of people want to ease Aucklands transport woes with better public transport rather than more road building. For instance this survey on the Herald shows 54.6% of people want public transport improvements versus 20.7% who want roading and motorway improvements. http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11143807

      So no, i don’t want to force people out of their cars, but a majority of people want to get out of them of their own free will.

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