Phil Goodwin, a transport economist at Oxford University, has a pile of statistics saying that car use is already on the decline — in the U.K. In its place, walking, bicycling, and trains are roaring back to life.
Transport economists never predicted the precipitous drop-off in use of rail or buses in the early part of the 20th century, so they're determined not to be caught flat-footed again in the transportation revolution that's only just beginning. Academics have determined that miles traveled by auto and the number of car trips have both been declining since the mid-90's, but meanwhile the bureaucrats in the U.K. government don’t have a clue, as they have continued to obliviously predict increases in car trips.
Meanwhile the percentage of 17 to 20 year-olds with licenses has dropped 12 points in 10 years, to just over a third.
No one really knows why this is happening. Gas is more expensive, London has a congestion charge, insurance rates are up, and the economy is in recession, but this trend started even before most of those forces were in effect.
So we are left to turn to our core authority on all things: an old white guy and his boner. “The car was our core cultural icon and expression of personality,” Goodwin told Prospect Magazine. “It was about sex, and keeping up with the Joneses. Now perhaps that period is passing.”
- End of the road , Prospect Magazine
Get Grist in your inbox