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Is the Stagnation of Individual Car Travel a General Phenomenon in France? A Time-Series Analysis by Zone of Residence and Standard of Living

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At the aggregate level, the growth in individual car use (in vehicle*kilometres per adult) over time has considerably slowed down in France in the 2000s, but is this tendency observed whatever the area and standard of living? Relying on annual data drawn from the French Household Continuous Surveys (1974–1994) and the Car Fleet surveys (1994–2010), time-series of annual mileage per adult is compared in the four quartiles of the household income scale, in three types of zone: core cities, suburbs and low-density areas. We observe that the recent stagnation of individual car use is a general phenomenon, as it has occurred in all the income groups and in all the areas, but at different levels and moments in time nonetheless. In the 2000s, fuel price has dramatically increased, providing a likely explanation for the slowdown observed in the time-series. Using a Chapman–Richards growth model where the saturation level depends on economic factors, we disentangle their effect from the diffusion process of individual car use over time. As expected, the saturation level is found to be an increasing function of income, and a decreasing function of fuel price and population density. Besides, the estimation results show that the diffusion of individual car use among low-income households in 2010 was still ongoing in all the types of zone, while it was ending for high-income households. Moreover, the model assumes that the fuel price sensitivity of individual car use is decreasing as the standard of living raises: it is probably the combination of these effects that has led the annual mileage per adult to stabilize in the 2000s.
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Keywords: Chapman–Richards; car use; fuel price and income elasticities; growth model; saturation; time-series

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: SETRA, CSTM/DEOST, 110, rue de Paris Sourdun, 77171, France 2: IFSTTAR, DEST, 14-20 Boulevard Newton, Cité Descartes, Champs sur Marne Marne la Vallée Cedex 2, F-77447, France

Publication date: May 1, 2013

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