Public Transport Quality As a Tool for Reducing Car Dependency

Public Transport Quality As a Tool for Reducing Car Dependency


Johan Holmgren, Molde University College - Specialized University in Logistics, Pernilla Ivehammar, Linköping University


This paper studies the impact of public transport system design on car ownership. The aim is to determine how sensitive car ownership is to different aspects of the public transport system such as, price, frequency, travel time and accessibility.


In order to attain a transport system that promotes sustainability instead of being part of the problem, the dominance of the private car has to be reduced. Therefore, a greater proportion of future travel has to be made by bicycle, by foot or by public transport. The greatest potential for such development is found in built up areas with high density of both population and activities.
Despite this, local public transport has been on the decline, in absolute terms, as well as in market shares in many countries. The loss of market share has primarily been to the private car. This negative trend has been going on since the 80s.
Alongside increased levels of income and traffic volume, car ownership has also increased in most countries. In Sweden, car ownership has increased by 190% since the mid-60s and it is estimated to increase by another 55% until 2030. Since car owners are hard to influence into using more environmentally friendly modes of transport, breaking the link between income and car ownership is especially important for the development of the future environmental impact of the transport sector.
In the short-run, the design of the public transport system in an urban area affects the decision of which mode of transport to use for a specific trip but it is also a potential tool for influencing long-run behavior. It is possible that if a city has a well-functioning public transport system, its citizens might, to a lesser degree, feel the need for owning a car. Another important effect might be a reduced need for owning two (or more) cars in a family. This would increase the positive environmental effects of public transport in the long run.
The purpose of this paper is therefore to study the impact of public transport system design on car ownership in urban areas. The effects of accessibility, public transport price and travel time will be analyzed.
The study will be based on data from a mid-size Swedish town obtained through a survey sent to 3000 randomly selected individuals. This data will be complemented with national statistics from Sweden. The reason for selecting a mid-size (small in international terms) is to study the decision to own a car in an environment where bicycling and walking as well as public transport and private car are viable options for people for most purposes.
Hopefully, this study will contribute to increased knowledge of how the public transport system could be designed in order to promote long-term sustainability.

It is concluded that in addition to income, level of education and age, the design of the public transport system and the time it takes to reach your destination by bicycle do have an effect on car ownership. The elasticities for car ownership with respect to income, bus fare, bus time, and bicycle time was found to be 0.7, 0,1, 0,079 and 0,15 respectively.


Association for European Transport