Occupancy rates of passenger vehicles (TERM 029) - Assessment published Jul 2010
Transport (Primary topic)
Typology: Descriptive indicator (Type A - What is happening to the environment and to humans?)
- TERM 029
Key policy question: Is passenger transport becoming more efficient?
The objective of the indicator is to monitor the efficiency of passenger transport through vehicle occupancy rates.
Although comparative data are only available for five years (2004 - 2008), the data suggest that passenger car occupancy rate is generally stabilising in Western Europe (UK, DK, NL, NO, AT, ES, IT) but is declining, from a higher baseline, in the Eastern European countries (CZ, SK, HU). This would be expected given that car ownership levels are growing more rapidly in Eastern Europe (see Figure 1). Rail and bus occupancy rate data is scarce and trends available for some countries might be representative only of certain regions (Figure 2 and Figure 3).
Car occupancy rates
Note: Car occupancy rates between 2004 and 2008
UK transport trends DfT. Transport trends. HMSO UK. Data available:http://www.dft.gov.uk/pgr/statistics/datatablespublications/trends/current/section1rvc.pdf
Specific questionnaire. Europe-wide questionnaire responses. Response from Netherlands containing data. Data was sourced from: "Mobiliteitsonderzoek Nederland 2007", 1/4/2008. http://www.rijkswaterstaat.nl/dvs/Images/Tabellenboek%20MON%202007%20v1%2E0_tcm178-177711.pdf
Train occupancy rates
Note: Train occupancy rates between 2004 and 2008
Czech ministry of transport (MDCR). Transport Yearbook. Czech Republic. Data available:http://www.sydos.cz/en/yearbook-2006/yearbook/htm_uk/uk06_514000.html
UK transport trends DfT. Transport trends. HMSO UK. Data available: http://www.dft.gov.uk/pgr/statistics/datatablespublications/trends/current/section1rvc.pdf
Specific questionnaire. Europe-wide questionnaire responses. Response from Netherlands containing data: " Mobiliteitsonderzoek Nederland 2007" , 1/4/2008. Data available: http://www.rijkswaterstaat.nl/dvs/Images/Tabellenboek%20MON%202007%20v1%2E0_tcm178-177711.pdf
Long distance bus occupancy rates
Note: Long distance bus occupancy rates between 2004 and 2008 (Bus/coach occupancy in %)
Slovenia Bus Data. Available at http://www.stat.si/pxweb/Database/Economy/22_transport/02_22212_road_transport/02_22214_passenger_transport/02_22214_passenger_transport.asp
CZ Bus Available at: MDs - Transport Yearbook 2006 http://www.sydos.cz/en/yearbook-2006/yearbook/htm_uk/uk06_514000.html
MDS - Transport Yearbook 2001: http://www.sydos.cz/en/yearbook-2001/yearbook/html/e513.htm
In Western Europe the rate of car occupancy is slowly starting to stabilise after a long term downward trend. The most recent data for the average number of passengers per car for the Eastern European countries sampled (Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary) is approximately 1.8 passengers per vehicle (in the Czech Republic - 1.4, Slovakia - 2 and Hungary - 1.9 passengers accordingly) (see Figure 1). This is considerably higher than the average number of passengers per car for the Western European countries sampled (UK, Denmark, The Netherlands, Norway, Germany, Austria, Spain and Italy) which were 1.54 passengers per vehicle (2007 data).
Although the data sets are incomplete and long term occupancy trends are only available from a very few countries, the figures show, as would be expected, that car occupancy rates have declined over a period when car ownership increased. In Western Europe occupancy rates appear to be stabilising, while in the Eastern European countries, where car ownership is lower but growing more rapidly than in the West, occupancy rates are higher than in the West but yet declining. Eastern Europe is therefore at an earlier stage in the car ownership trend than Western Europe. A further difference is that the Eastern European data are taken from larger cities such as Budapest and Prague compared to more rural areas in Denmark and Norway.
The occupancy rate of rail (Figure 2) has seen a mixed trend in those countries that completed the 2009 survey (Estonia, Norway, Poland, Spain, Hungary, Lithuania, Slovenia, Czech Republic). The occupancy rate differs for different times of day, as well as between route types. Variation in occupancy rates can be significant; urban/suburban rates in Turkey showed occupancy of around 70 % in the late 1990s, but this fell to 50 % in 2007. Similarly, occupancy rates in Hungary dropped from around 45 % between 2004-2006 to 34 % in 2007 and 2008. This differs from Slovakia and Slovenia which has seen occupancy rates remain at around 23 % and 32 % respectively over the 10 years sampled.
Buses and coaches
Bus and coach data is difficult to obtain as it is rarely made publicly available due to the increasingly privatised nature of national public bus services. The result of privatisation has been the closure of less profitable bus routes (those with low occupancy rates) and a shift to smaller sized buses.
Ten countries provided data on bus and coach occupancy. Few provided information on both long and short distance journeys. Data on long distance journeys obtained from the ten countries shows no particular trend in bus and coach occupancy between 2004 and 2008. Denmark, Norway, Poland, Germany, Czech Republic, Austria, Hungary, Spain, Italy and the UK provided the occupancy rates in % and are shown in Figure 3. Although the occupancy figures fluctuate considerably, some countries (UK, Denmark, Italy and Spain) seem fairly steady. Other countries such as Hungary, Czech Republic and Austria show a slight decrease in coach and bus occupancy rate for long distance journeys.
The seat occupancy of European airlines is high and has increased slightly over the past decade. Growing competition among airlines has put pressure on profit margins and airline efficiency. On average, aircraft seats are now around 70% occupied. There is significant variation from airline to airline, and since only five airlines control more than half of the market, a change in practise in one airline can lead to large changes in overall load factor.
Data of air passenger occupancy rates was not collected via the TERM/EEA questionnaire in 2009. The International Air Transport Association (IATA), however, released data showing that the global passenger occupancy factor was 73.3% in February 2008. This is 0.6 percentage points less than the passenger load factor in February 2007. Moreover it is the most significant drop in the passenger occupancy factor for 4 years. The same source points out that the European air passenger occupancy factor in February 2008 was recorded at 71.7% (4hoteliers.com, 2008).
provided by Association of European Airlines (AEA)
Czech transport trends
provided by Czech ministry of transport
UK transport trends
provided by UK Department for Transport (DFT)
EEA-32 transport trends
provided by Europe-wide questionnaire responses
More information about this indicator
See this indicator specification for more details.
Contacts and ownership
EEA Contact InfoCinzia Pastorello
EEA Management Plan2010 (note: EEA internal system)
Frequency of updates
For references, please go to www.eea.europa.eu/soer or scan the QR code.
This briefing is part of the EEA's report The European Environment - State and Outlook 2015. The EEA is an official agency of the EU, tasked with providing information on Europe’s environment.
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