Spend a billion, reduce car usage by 0.5%

Spend a billion, reduce car usage by 0.5%

Governments are full of ‘great’ ideas about how to get us out of our cars, even though they know that most of them won’t work, and they don’t want a lot of them to work because that would mean less fuel tax. Anyway, that’s my cynical conspiracy theory out in the open. One of these ideas is free or subsidised public transport. Unfortunately for our government the RAC in the UK has done a study showing that a billion pounds (about three billion NZ$) of public transport fare cuts would reduce car travel by less than half a percent.

The research paper, Public Transport Effects on Road Traffic: Potential and Limitations, was published today, and it finds that even with significant increases in investment the scope for switching from private to public transport remains limited because different types of transport serve discrete markets.

The RAC reckons it would need ‘several billion pounds’ to reduce car traffic. The problem over in the UK (apart from the weather and warm beer) is that the rail network is already congested. It gives the example of London to Glasgow (which I’ve experienced part of the way). It estimates that if a new line is built it would reduce car traffic might reduce road traffic by up to 7%, but at a huge cost, and it would more likely replace travel by air.

Lack of park and ride space in cities is a huge problem, and out of cities it doesn’t have as much effect

The report also found that improved local bus services would only stop a limited number of people travelling between towns in the car

Stephen Glaister, Director of the RAC Foundation says ‘Public transport is important but it will not solve our transport problems. Even if billions of pounds more than the UK is currently spending were available and spent wholly on public transport it would only have a marginal impact on getting people out of their cars.’

‘Motorists already pay in excess of £45 billion per year in motoring taxes. Many will say that the cost of motoring is too low and that it needs to be increased to make public transport attractive. The truth is that public transport will only ever be suitable for certain trips and certain markets, and the private car will remain the dominant form of transport. Rather than pricing people out of the market for car use, we need to develop a whole new system for paying for motoring, which supports the development of public transport, pays attention to vehicle emissions and allows people real choice when making their journeys’.

Let’s hope someone in the transport department of our government reads this report!

Governments are full of ‘great’ ideas about how to get us out of our cars, even though they know that most of them won’t work, and they don’t want a lot of them to work because that would mean less fuel tax. Anyway, that’s my cynical conspiracy theory out in the open. One of these ideas is free or subsidised public transport. Unfortunately for our government the RAC in the UK has done a study showing that a billion pounds (about three billion NZ$) of public transport fare cuts would reduce car travel by less than half a percent.

The research paper, Public Transport Effects on Road Traffic: Potential and Limitations, was published today, and it finds that even with significant increases in investment the scope for switching from private to public transport remains limited because different types of transport serve discrete markets.

The RAC reckons it would need ‘several billion pounds’ to reduce car traffic. The problem over in the UK (apart from the weather and warm beer) is that the rail network is already congested. It gives the example of London to Glasgow (which I’ve experienced part of the way). It estimates that if a new line is built it would reduce car traffic might reduce road traffic by up to 7%, but at a huge cost, and it would more likely replace travel by air.

Lack of park and ride space in cities is a huge problem, and out of cities it doesn’t have as much effect

The report also found that improved local bus services would only stop a limited number of people travelling between towns in the car

Stephen Glaister, Director of the RAC Foundation says ‘Public transport is important but it will not solve our transport problems. Even if billions of pounds more than the UK is currently spending were available and spent wholly on public transport it would only have a marginal impact on getting people out of their cars.’

‘Motorists already pay in excess of £45 billion per year in motoring taxes. Many will say that the cost of motoring is too low and that it needs to be increased to make public transport attractive. The truth is that public transport will only ever be suitable for certain trips and certain markets, and the private car will remain the dominant form of transport. Rather than pricing people out of the market for car use, we need to develop a whole new system for paying for motoring, which supports the development of public transport, pays attention to vehicle emissions and allows people real choice when making their journeys’.

Let’s hope someone in the transport department of our government reads this report!

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