Economic Downturn?... What is Really Driving a Downturn in Trip Rates?



Economic Downturn?... What is Really Driving a Downturn in Trip Rates?

Authors

Jeff Davidson, MVA Consultancy, Kevin Lumsden, MVA Consultancy, Alison Irvine, Transport Scotland

Description

This paper considers how the economic downturn and other transport influences, (such as the rise of e-commerce, mobile technology and the expanding offer from supermarkets) may impact the level and frequency of travel (‘trip rates’).

Abstract

This paper considers how the economic downturn and other transport influences, (such as the rise of e-commerce, mobile technology and the expanding offer from supermarkets) may impact the level and frequency of travel (‘trip rates’). It explores if these behavioural changes are ‘here-to-stay’, and examines whether adjusted trip rates should be considered more widely when forecasting travel demand and appraising transport investments.

These relatively new influences or trends may not be specifically accounted for within traditional transport forecasting and appraisal techniques, and the paper discusses the potential impact of recent changes to the frequency or rate at which people travel.

Historical data indicates a relatively stable trip rate within the UK. However, since the late 1990’s, the frequency of travel has reduced, with this UK-wide trend continuing downwards throughout the present economic climate. In 2012/13, research was undertaken to update Scottish transport modelling tools. The project cross-referenced emerging economic and demographic data sets with observed travel levels to understand potential variations to regional trip rates since the beginning of the economic downturn. Analysis suggested a considerable reduction to the rate at which people are choosing to travel – at a scale which could potentially affect transport forecasting predictions.

A key issue relates to the permanence of these trends, especially the current economic influences on peoples spending power, and their incidence on the various travel market (or purpose) segments. The paper explores the inter-connected and sometimes competing nature of alternative travel options (or choosing not to travel), assessing the likelihood of the impact in forecasting future levels of travel.

For example, how may the attractiveness of e-commerce impact on traditional retail trips, and what could be the subsequent impact to delivery activity? Similarly, how may the attractiveness of teleconferencing (reducing the need to travel), compare with the use of mobile technology, which enables travel time to be used more productively. Could this impact the volume of both business and commuter journeys?

Transport forecasting tools can be complex and heavily data dependent, whereby adding further variables can significantly increase resource requirements and the complexity of appraisal, but this may be necessary. The paper discusses if we can use and/or should refine these tools to measure the choices and travel costs associated with new behavioural change - ensuring that potential changes to trip rates or the frequency of travel can be incorporated into the appraisal environment.

Publisher

Association for European Transport