Last week Patrick launched a brilliant and scathing critique of the “charge of the RoNs brigade.” He argued that times have changed: The socio-economic conditions we are currently experiencing (and seem likely to face in the future) are different from those that characterised the recent past.
Patrick put it thus:
The RoNS look like a classic case of the general fighting the previous battle, assuming all conditions from that last campaign still hold, but being doomed to fail because he doesn’t see how the world has moved on. In this case it is necessary to believe that road is always the best mode, that sprawl will continue for ever, and that investing aggressively in both will always provide economic growth. The facts on the ground say otherwise.
I concur; times have changed. Two of my earlier posts (here and here) have explored the possibility that changing socio-economic conditions are placing inexorable downwards pressure on the demand for vehicle travel. In the last few days I was reminded of just how much the facts on the ground suggest that that times are changing, when I uncovered this dataset on the MoT website.
First we see that the total vehicle kilometres travelled in private light vehicles has plateaued since around 2005:
Second we find that per capita vehicle ownership peaked in 2007 and has since declined relatively steadily:
And finally, we see that light vehicle travel per capita is down 5% since its peak way back in 2005.
These graphs tell a compelling story overall (and for Brownlee’s benefit – I don’t see much “fluctuation”). But political digs aside, what’s interesting for me personally is how closely these wider trends align with my own “transport” experience.
For those of your fortunate enough not to know me, what follows is Stuart’s-life-in-a-nutshell:
- 1981: Born and quickly exiled to a “lack of lifestyle” block
- 1998: Exit comatose state, get licence, 1998 was oh so rad
- 1998-2001: A 1985 Holden Barina was my weapon of choice
- 2001: enrolled in engineering at uni; suddenly paying for a car was not so rad
- 2003: Befriended Julie Anne Genter, gratefully adopt her old bicycle …
The rest was history; my personal “love affair” with cars has been broken for nearly the last decade.
In that time I’ve done my fair share of walking, cycling, car-sharing, using Auckland’s (vastly improved) public transport, sharing rides, and paying for home delivery. Some might read that and feel stressed – they prefer a go-anywhere, all-the-time personal vehicle. For those people’s benefit I’ve rarely felt limited by not owning my own car, indeed on occasion I’ve just gone out and hired them to go on holiday. And from not owning a car I am now significantly healthier and wealthier than many people my age. From where I now sit personal car ownership seems to be more of a hindrance than an enabler of fulfillment .
Of course, it’s extremely dangerous to view the world around oneself solely through the lens of one’s own personal experience; I would never suggest that my transport preferences are “typical” of the average New Zealander. But while my transport preferences are relatively “extreme”, I want to emphasise that they have not always been so. Moreover, the direction my personal transport preferences have headed seems to be somewhat in step a few other people.
For example, if you analyse the MOT’s data then you find that since 2005 NZ’s population has increased 316,000, whereas the light vehicle fleet has increased by only 142,000. So while our average vehicle ownership is 677 per 1,000 people, the people being added at the “margin” effectively have a vehicle ownership rate of only 449 per 1,000 people. That’s a -34% difference in vehicle ownership rates for people being added at the margin compared to the base population.
The times they are a-changin’.