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Who Made Peak Car, and How? A Breakdown of Trends over Four Decades in Four Countries

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This paper investigates the contribution of underlying trends to per-capita car travel development since the 1970s in France, Germany, Great Britain, and the USA. In these countries, after a long period of growth, car travel began to show signs of stagnation — or even decrease — after the 1990s. Our paper breaks down underlying demographic and travel trends for two study periods: first, a period of per-capita car travel growth (until the mid-1990s); second, a period of stagnation or decrease in car travel (beginning around the turn of the millennium). Two patterns of development emerge: (1) in France and the USA, the reversal in the trend in car travel per capita was due mainly to trend changes in total travel demand by drivers; (2) in Germany and Great Britain, the levelling off of motorisation, and shifts to other modes, played a much larger role. Ageing has in recent years gained weight in shaping per-capita car travel trends. In Europe, the continued increase of car availability for seniors has had a damping effect on peak car. Even though all age classes have contributed to peak car, young adults stand out in this regard and therefore deserve special attention.

Keywords: cohort effects; demography; motorisation trends; peak car; trend decomposition

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Institute for Mobility Research (ifmo), Munich, Germany 2: Institute for Transport Studies, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Karlsruhe, Germany

Publication date: May 1, 2013

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