Big data drop: DfT National Travel Survey

September 1, 2015 § Leave a comment

trafficBig data drop! The DFT has released the England National Travel Survey 2014 (7000 households, 16,000 individuals, on the basis of a week’s travel diary) and on the surface of things, some trends reported do suggest downward trends in driving… Average no of trips per year continues to fall to an average 921 (lowest yet recorded), with particular falls in trips for shopping, commuting and visiting friends (home-working/online shopping thought to be a factor); car travel accounts for 64% of trips but 78% of distance travelled; walking accounts for 22% of trips but only short distances; walking and car trips have fallen whilst use of surface rail and buses has risen in London; cycling distances have risen 26% since 1995-97; the wealthiest people travel twice the distance of those in lowest income-brackets, rural people 50% further than urban (and 90% more than London-dwellers).

Yet in the context of long-term trends, while number of trips has fallen, this is mostly down to less walking (though fewer car trips are being made), and overall distance and travel time continue to grow, as a reflection of greater access to cars; 73% of adults aged 17 or over now hold a driving licence, up from 48% in the mid-70s, and while male licence-holding has plateaued, female licence-holding has been slowly rising; though licence-holding has fallen in younger age-groups, there are more older drivers with licences. It’s also a mixed picture for car ownership; in 1985-6, 38% of households had no car, but by 2005 just 25%, and those having more than one car rose from 17% to 32% in that time; while ownership has levelled off in the last decade, there are regional differences: no-car households rose from 41 to 43% in London, but fell from 37% to 30% in the north-east, and rose overall outside of London. Unsurprisingly, people with access to cars make more trips, spend more time travelling, and go a lot further.  Other pull-outs include: active travel (walking, cycling) down from 28% to 24% since the mid-90s though public transport use up 2% to 11%; 56% of car trips are less than 5 miles; economic/employment factors and changes to company car tax are thought to have influenced the fall in car use in the last decade; cycling accounts for just 2% of trips and 1% of distance travelled.

Overall, the conclusion of the DfT is thus: it “concludes there is little evidence to confirm that car ownership levels or distance travelled have reached saturation”, also pointing to resumed growth in traffic levels since in the latest year. Anyway, more detail and number-crunching in the full report.

And in other news today, in no particular order…

  • …but only 44% of commuters in England could get to work by bike or car in the event of a ‘fuel shock’, according to research from the University of Leeds: Dr Ian Phillips looked at dependency on motorised transport, with reference to different areas, and identified areas which enable high levels of active transport (and low levels). Access to bicycles was key, though it had different effects in different areas – the greatest impact was in suburban areas of larger cities 5-10km from the centre, suggesting these types of areas are well-suited to cycling.  However, districts on the outer edge of London had a particularly low capacity for people to commute by bike or on foot, with rural areas and certain ‘prospering suburbs’ (low-density new-build housing?) also scoring poorly. The most deprived areas had a relatively high adaptive capacity but some – such as areas in East London, South Birmingham and post-industrial Yorkshire – were the least resilient. While this is looking at an emergency-case scenario, it says a lot about dependency on motorised transport, including car-dependency.
  • And are increased numbers of taxis (especially Uber cabs and other private-hire vehicles) in London leading to lower use of public transport, greater traffic congestion and increased air pollution? Debate – based around stats from Transport for London – at TechCrunch. London car ownership levels continue to fall, nonetheless, with 307 cars per 1000 people as of the end of 2013 and 2.6million cars registered; 54% of London households have at least one car, though car-less households rose from 38% to 42% 2001-2011. So let’s not hail Uber as a sustainability-success just yet, then…
  • Car use Stateside: picking out some of the US data in the INRIX 2015 Urban Mobility Scorecard (see earlier post). Traffic congestion has returned to pre-recession levels, with 95 of 100 metro areas seeing increases 2013-2014; worst gridlock is in Washington DC (82 hours of delay per commuter each year), followed by Los Angeles (80 hours), San Francisco (78 hours), New York (74 hours) and San Jose (67 hours). This is put down to growing urban populations – and cheaper fuel. Average travel delays are more than twice those in 1982 (and 4x worse in smaller cities of fewer than 500,000 people.) This follows data showing an all-time record in US VMT (vehicle mileage travelled), and further traffic and congestion growth is expected.  So yeah, peak car? Mind you, as pointed out at Citylab, only looking at commuter habits and building extra road capacity just to cope with rush-hour demand certainly ain’t the answer (agreed).
  • Meanwhile, University Hospital Brussels has released a study (again) linking air pollution with heart attacks and other cardiovascular ‘events’, pointing to fine particulates (PM2.5s), larger PM10s, ozone and nitrous oxides – the results of burning fossil fuels – as the prime candidates, even when emitted within ‘safe’ Euro-legislated levels.
  • OK, vapourware alerts to the ready, but… Edison Power (Delaware) and SunVault Energy are to build a “a revolutionary electric supercar”, which is probably less about the vehicle itself than showcasing graphene energy storage tech. The car – Edison Electron One’ – will feature a graphene-hydrogen fuel cell for on-board hydrogen generation, and while tech detail is thin in the official release, it is to be displayed at the Battery Show in Michigan later this month. Spec allegedly includes an electric motor driving each wheel to give a total 1000lb ft of torque, 0-60 in just over two seconds, and recharging in five minutes; it appears to be a range-extended EV with the fuel cell in place of an ICE.  Sales by special order, availability from Q1 next year, they say…
  • Heating is a drain on the battery-range of EVs – but researchers at the Frauenhofer Institutes have come up with a heat-radiating film which is coated with carbon nanotubes, and applied to the interior door trim panels. This is said to heat the cabin more effectively and quickly than a conventional heater, as well as being energy-efficient. More here. Fraunhofer IWES has also come up with a cost-effective coil system for under-road induction charging, and this will be exhibited – along with the heating film and other electromobility solutions, including an air-cooled wheel hub motor, a lightweight energy pack and high-performance energy storage modules – at the Frankfurt Motor Show.
  • Latest report from JD Power echoes previous findings on in-car tech: many (US) buyers simply don’t use it, or find it of any interest. The 2015 DrIVE Report (Driver Interactive Vehicle Experience, 4,200+ responses from owners/leasers after 90 days of ownership, carried out April-June 2015) finds that at least 20% of new car owners have never used 16 out of the 33 tech features measured. 43% “never use” concierge services; 38% mobile routers; 35% auto parking systems; 33% head-up displays; and 32% built-in apps. 14 specific no-go areas were identified – which 20% or more of owners do not want in their next car – including Apple CarPlay and Google Android Auto, as well as the concierge services and voice-texting, and interestingly, Gen Y-age buyers cited 23 unwanted techs, particularly those related to entertainment or connectivity. If a dealer/retailer did not adequately explain how a feature worked, it was less likely to be used, and likewise if this was not activated at the point of delivery – which resulted in some owners not even knowing they had it fitted. Owners do, however, like tech which aids safety and their driving experience, such as blind spot warning, adaptive cruise control or vehicle health diagnostics. JD Power exec director of driver interaction/HMI research Kristin Kolodge points out that “in many cases, owners simply prefer to use their smartphone or tablet because it meets their needs; they’re familiar with the device and it’s accurate.”
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