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Personal Travel Planning must focus on all household travel

Personal Travel Planning (PTP) is a potentially valuable tool for achieving mode shift away from the car driving, but are current projects cutting car use? The approach described by WSP ('Is a hi-tech future the way ahead for personal travel planning' LTT 15th November), appears to be too limited in scope to draw any conclusions about the impact on driving.

Local Sustainable Transport Fund-delivered PTP projects apparently are "primarily focused on the journey to work". But if a car commuter switches to another mode, that leaves a car at home available for use by other household members during the daytime. Therefore unless the evaluation includes ALL household travel, the net effect on driving cannot be established.

So why target only work trips? The early soft measures were "green commuter plans" and the focus on work journeys has persisted into "Smarter Choices" practice, no doubt because work trips account for a high proportion of peak hour traffic, and congestion is often the main concern. But work trips now account for only 26% of all distance driven, and so PTP that is limited to work trips leaves the rump of traffic untouched. Moreover, if mode switch is achieved only for peak hour work trips, this may further exacerbate the"peakiness" of public transport demand, which is bad for viability, which in turn leads to worse off-peak services and a higher car mode share for non-work trips.

In order to embrace environmental and social inclusion objectives as well as traffic congestion, the target must be total driving, and PTP should therefore address all household travel, not just that by individuals who drive to work. If the scope of PTP projects is being constrained by lack of resources, wouldn't it be better to target and monitor a smaller number of households properly? Once the benefits of particular actions in particular circumstances have been clearly demonstrated, it may then be reasonable to relax a bit on the evaluation of projects involving larger numbers.

The article in the on-line version of the magazine can be viewed here.

Following Peter Headicar's response (see pdf in right sidebar), Tim Pharoah wrote a further letter to Local Transport Today, published on 10th January 2014:

What happens when commuters stop using their car?
Peter Headicar makes a strong case for focusing Travel Planning efforts on the journey to work (Letters, LTT 19th December), but further aspects deserve consideration.

First, he rightly says that "main drivers" outnumber "other drivers" by about five to one. But that means where car commuters switch their mode away from the car, 20% of those cars can potentially Be used use by other drivers during the day. Thus if a Travel Plan monitors only the mode switch of car commuters, a reported reduction of car driving by, say, 10% could in reality be only 8%. (It is worth noting that in London there are only three times as many main drivers as other drivers, so the potential for car trip transference may be greater there.)

Second, Peter points to the very important dynamic impact of less car commuting on household car ownership; namely that with a car no longer tied up on a daily basis with the work journey, the household may be able to give up their second (or third) car. However, is there not the possibility that the dynamics could work in the reverse direction? There are as many adult "non-drivers" as "other drivers", and with a car now resting outside all day, these non-drivers may be tempted to get a licence and to start making trips by car. He refers to the importance of the "transformative situation" and one scenario by way of example is where a new parent perceives getting around with young children as much more convenient by car.

Third, mode shift from car to public transport as a result of Travel Planning may often involve the use of Park and Ride facilities. This may or may not avoid the use of the car during the day by other household members, but to find out the true impact on driven mileage, it is necessary to monitor all stages of trips, not just the main mode.

The issue is really about the diversity of possible responses to Travel Planning interventions, and the orders of magnitude involved. To establish the truth of what happens, as I said in my original letter, it is necessary to survey all household travel and - if we acknowledge the transformative effects - to monitor changes over a period of time.

I agree with Peter that workplace Travel Planning is generally easier and more effective than residential Travel Planning. But to tackle the rump of car travel (74% of distance driven is for non-commuting trip purposes), different policy levers are required to act on individual and household behaviour. These include disincentives such as vehicle taxation and road user charging, and incentives such as free public transport tickets issued with car park tickets or road user charges. In addition, land use planning should play a much stronger role, with all new development and changes of use being planned in relation to non-car accessibility.

Article TitlePersonal Travel Planning must focus on all household travel
Article AuthorTim Pharoah
JournalLocal Transport Today 29th November 2013


Personal Travel Planning, Personalised Travel Planning, traffic reduction, mode split, mode shift, household travel

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