Will Higher Fuel Costs Reduce Distances Travelled? An Exploratory Assessment of the Impact of Recently High Fuel Prices



Will Higher Fuel Costs Reduce Distances Travelled? An Exploratory Assessment of the Impact of Recently High Fuel Prices

Authors

M Lanzendorf, Goethe University Frankfurt, DE

Description

Abstract

For a long time transport researchers believed that increased fuel costs will contribute only relatively little to travel behavior changes. Research showed that the elasticity of travel patterns by changing prices and costs is relatively small. Thus, the expected impact on travel distances or mode use is limited although relevant when including the mid- and long-term behavioral effects (Graham 2004, Goodwin 2004).
With the tremendously increased crude oil prices over the last two years, petroleum prices in many countries more than doubled and, thus, reached a price level never expected before. Although the energy prices decreased in the last months as an effect of worldwide recession, another important increase in the next years is expected by most experts since fossil energy resources are limited and simultaneously the global demand for energy still increases.
With high fuel costs in dimensions not expected beforehand, in our study we expected significant adaptations of household?s travel patterns to this new situation. It is the main research question of this paper to elaborate possible reactions of households to increased fuel prices and to assess empirically if these reactions actually take place. In particular we question if reduced travel distances can be expected from the high fuel prices. Moreover, we analyze the impact of social and spatial characteristics on the propensity for behavioral changes. In particular the role of household income and of the residential environment?s accessibility (urban vs. non-urban) on behavioral responses is discussed.
The paper draws on a sample of 170 respondents who were questioned face-to-face regarding their self-perceived travel behavior changes and other behavioral reactions (e.g. less consumption in other areas of daily activities) to increased fuel costs. The survey was part of a university course on the impact of prices on travel behavior.

Publisher

Association for European Transport