Gerry Brownlee’s media release yesterday trumpeted up traffic levels in 2013 surpassing those in 2012 – apparently this is a sign of New Zealand’s economic recovery that we’re driving a bit more.
Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee says increases in vehicle travel and vehicle registrations reflect New Zealand’s economic recovery and growing population.
“Total travel [measured in kilometres travelled] was flat between 2005 and 2012, but growth returned in 2013 with a 1.6 per cent increase in total travel nationwide, and more recent data suggests larger increases are on the way,” Mr Brownlee says.
“Data collected by the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) on State Highway usage from the first six months of 2014 suggests we will continue to see increases in travel demand.
“The highway data shows a 3.6 per cent increase in Northland and Auckland, and a 5.4 per cent increase in Canterbury in the six months to May 2014, compared with the same period a year before.
Setting aside the question of whether it makes any sense whatsoever to celebrate people driving more, further details in the release tell a more interesting story of what’s happened over the past few years:
As you can see, the total level of vehicle fleet travel (known as “vehicle kilometres travelled or VKT) in 2013 finally made it back to 2007 levels after a sustained period below 40 billion kilometres.
Of course New Zealand’s population has grown quite significantly since 2007, which means that VKT per capita is well below the levels in early years – despite a slight uptick in 2013:
It will be interesting to see the 2013 figures specifically for Auckland, as generally Auckland has seen a faster drop in per capita VKT over the past few years than other parts of New Zealand.