But car use is dropping – I make most of my jouneys by road at night and in the past year have seen a dramatic falling off in traffic, on one night I travelled 50 miles from Penrith to Scotch Corner on the A66 and saw no other vehicles going in my direction, and a handful passing the other way.
Car parks are not filling up either, Glasgow has been displaying discounted prices Virgin has cut the annual rate for Preston Station by 40% but still the ugly system-built car park (costing £23,000 per space) is far from filled up. Leicester has closed half of Lee Circle, and the other half is barely filled.
Only at peak times do we seem to demand all that road space, and even then here in Glasgow with car ownership at 35% and falling we suffer from the clogged streets for 2 very brief periods each day and occasionally when the SEC has a big event on, later at night at other times the streets are almost deserted. Like the cars themselves a hugely expensive asset which is used for just 10-20% of the time, and left idle for the remainder of the day
Odd that we blindly continue to do this. If George Osborne wants a quick and cheap way to get more spending power out there, he should look to move people from the costly exercise of car ownership without losing the option of car use. I’ve not owned a car long term since 1976, and save a substantial amount through hiring or belonging to a car sharing club. At a rough estimate a typical houshold could boost their disposable income by £2000-£4000/year, through doing this, and the car club system with car hire operations could deliver a stable demand for replacement vehicles from the UK car industry, lifting the standards for the cars on the road to more modern and well maintained vehicles – many Car Club cars are hybrid or all electric further improving the emissions profile for UK transport.
The new car scrappage scheme should offer the option to take the money as a first year (or 3) of free public transport use, and membership of a car club plus a bike hire/leasing scheme, rather than just stepping on to the same old ladder of buying a new car and watching it wear out and lose value.
Certainly overall mileage dropped because of the recession and there is a lot of speculation that personal mileage will fall as ‘peak car’ is reached and people adapt their lifestyles because of changing work patterns and the scope offered by computer technology. However any drop in individual use is likely to be dwarfed by an overall rise – 44% traffic growth by 2035 the DFT predicts – driven by the expected ten million increase in population by the same year.