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Occupancy rates of passenger vehicles

Indicator Specificationexpired Created 04 Jul 2008 Published 01 Jul 2010 Last modified 04 Sep 2015, 06:59 PM
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This content has been archived on 06 Aug 2015, reason: No more updates will be done
Indicator codes: TERM 029
This indicator is discontinued. No more assessments will be produced.

Assessment versions

Published (reviewed and quality assured)
  • No published assessments


Justification for indicator selection

Vehicle occupancy rates can be used to explain changes in levels of vehicle ownership and to illustrate changes in the efficiency of mass passenger transport. Efficient usage of passenger vehicles results in the need for less vehicle-kilometres to transport the same number of passengers. Utilisation efficiency is one of the main parameters that determine energy and emissions efficiency, meaning that the vehicle occupancy indicator is important in relation to the environmental impact of different transport modes.

Passenger transport occupancy rate (%) is monitored for air, cars, bus/coach, and train. Car occupancy rate is assessed by the number of passengers per vehicle. Other relevant indicators are passenger km: cars, bus/coach, air, train, tram, metro, vessel (inland and sea); and vehicle km: cars, bus/coach, air, train, tram, metro, vessel (inland and sea). Inland and sea transport occupancy is not monitored.

Scientific references

  • No rationale references available

Indicator definition

The indicator consists of the occupancy rate for cars, occupancy rate for buses, occupancy rate for trains and occupancy rate for aircraft expressed as a percentage (see below definitions for each transport mode).

The occupancy rate is calculated as a ratio between transport performance (passenger-kilometres) and the supplied vehicle kilometres. A vehicle-kilometre is a unit of measurement representing movement of a vehicle over one kilometre.


Percentage (%) of available seats occupied, passenger-kilometres and vehicle-km.

Policy context and targets

Context description

The total number of vehicle-kilometres can be significantly reduced if the efficiency of passenger transport (in terms of vehicle occupancy rates) increases. Consequently, fewer vehicles would be needed to transport the same number of persons, which would help to combat congestion and avert environmental damage. A potential downside is reduced passenger comfort due to fuller vehicles.

Measures to increase occupancy rates for cars include schemes for favouring vehicles with more than one occupant (through-traffic privileges and financial incentives). There are no explicit targets for this indicator at EU level, and neither are there any policy targets for car sharing programs. There are, however, a number of different initiatives in place to increase levels of car occupancy. Private companies are, for example, increasingly promoting car sharing. Some member states have also developed policies for improving transport occupancy rates.


No targets have been specified.

Related policy documents


Methodology for indicator calculation

Rail, air and bus occupancy rates (%) are calculated using a passenger-kilometre / vehicle-kilometre ratio. Data was collected from Eurostat, the Association of European Airlines (AEA), and through a Europe-wide e-mail questionnaire. Information was made available for a selection of European states. The occupancy rate for cars is calculated as the average number of persons occupying a car, including the driver. Air, train and bus figures are based on the percentage of seats occupied. Air transport refers to principal European airline carriers.  The data may be obtained from the airports. The Council Regulation on statistics on air transport requests information on passengers and number of flights (EC, 2003).

Methodology for gap filling

Train data is available for 13 EU states, obtained through questionnaire results.  Bus and coach data was obtained from questionnaires sent by 10 EU states. Car occupancy rates were received from 11 EU states. Due to limited data being available, the results have been presented by Member State and therefore no gap filling has been required in order to present the data.

Methodology references

No methodology references available.

Data specifications

EEA data references

  • No datasets have been specified here.

External data references

Data sources in latest figures


Methodology uncertainty

The data only reflects information from those Member States that responded to the questionnaire. Therefore, the data trends may not reflect the position in Europe as a whole.

Data sets uncertainty

The value of occupancy was calculated differently across countries. For example, in some cases the value of occupancy for a particular year was calculated based on trend information. This can create some discrepancies when collating, analysing and reporting the data.

Questionnaire responses in 2008 were limited and scarce. However, TERM 2009 produced a higher number of responses than 2008. Therefore, it is likely that there will be considerable differences between the data collected in 2008 and data collected in 2009.

Rationale uncertainty

No uncertainty has been specified.

Further work

Short term work

Work specified here requires to be completed within 1 year from now.

Long term work

Work specified here will require more than 1 year (from now) to be completed.

General metadata

Responsibility and ownership

EEA Contact Info

Cinzia Pastorello


European Environment Agency (EEA)


Indicator code
TERM 029
Version id: 1
Primary theme: Transport Transport


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Frequency of updates

This indicator is discontinued. No more assessments will be produced.


DPSIR: Driving force
Typology: Descriptive indicator (Type A - What is happening to the environment and to humans?)
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