Passenger transport demand
Published (reviewed and quality assured)
Justification for indicator selection
The main underlying cause of the increase in passenger transport demand is the growth in incomes, coupled with a tendency to spend more or less the same proportion of disposable income on transport. Additional income therefore means more money for travel, which allows for more frequent, faster and more luxurious travel over longer distances.
Transport is one of the main sources of greenhouse gas emissions and also gives rise to significant air pollution and noise, which can seriously damage human health and ecosystems. The modal split policy is important for the environmental impact of passenger transport because of differences in the environmental performance (resource consumption, greenhouse gas emissions, pollutant and noise emissions, land consumption, accidents, etc.) of transport modes.
This indicator explains how the sizes of different passenger transport sectors are changing, which in turn explains the observed trends in the impact of transport on the environment. It also helps to explain the main variables that influence transport modal choice and the relative success of the policy measures that the EU and/or each country are implementing in order to reduce demand or influence modal choice.
- No rationale references available
'Passenger transport demand' is defined as the number of pkm travelled every year in a country or group of countries. Inland passenger transport includes transport by passenger car, bus and coach and train.
'Modal split' is defined as the proportion of total pkm allocated to different transport modes every year.
The 'decoupling indicator' is defined as the annual changes in the ratio of pkm (inland modes) to GDP (in constant prices) growth.
The unit used to express passenger transport volume is the passenger-kilometre (pkm), which represents one passenger travelling a distance of 1 km. It is based on transport by car, bus and coach and train.
Gross domestic product (GDP) is expressed in constant euros, indexed to the year 2005.
Passenger transport demand and GDP are shown as an index (2005 = 100). The ratio of the former to the latter is indexed to the year t – 1 (i.e. annual decoupling/intensity changes) in order to observe changes in the annual intensity of passenger transport demand relative to economic growth (GDP). For the oldest indicators (i.e. before 2010), passenger transport demand and GDP are shown as an index (2000 = 100).
Policy context and targets
The EU has set itself the objective of decoupling economic growth from passenger transport demand in order to create a more sustainable transport system. This decoupling has been a central theme in EU transport policy and is intended to minimise the negative impacts of transport.
In this indicator, the policy target to significantly decouple transport growth from GDP growth in order to reduce the negative environmental effects of transport and congestion is considered.
Related policy documents
Review of the EU Sustainable Development Strategy (EU SDS): Renewed Strategy, by the Council of the European Union, No. 10917/06.
A sustainable future for transport
In 2001, the Commission issued a White Paper setting an agenda for the European transport policy throughout 2010. This programme was updated in the mid-term review of 2006. Approaching the end of the 10-year period, it is time to look further ahead and prepare the ground for later policy developments.
COM (2001) 264 final
A sustainable Europe for a better world: A European Union strategy for sustainable development. Communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament. COM (2001) 264 final.
Keep Europe Moving: Sustainable Mobility for our Continent
European Commission, 2006. Keep Europe Moving: Sustainable Mobility for our Continent. Mid-term review of the EC’s 2001 Transport White Paper.
Transport White paper 2011
Roadmap to a Single European Transport Area - Towards a competitive and resource efficient transport system
WHITE PAPER European transport policy for 2010: time to decide
The need for integration of transport in sustainable development
Key policy question
Is passenger transport demand being decoupled from economic growth?
Specific policy question
Is public transport increasing as a proportion of total passenger transport?
Methodology for indicator calculation
In order to measure the decoupling of passenger demand from economic growth, the volume of passenger transport relative to GDP (i.e. the intensity) is calculated.
Methodology for gap filling
No need for gap filling
EEA data references
- No datasets have been specified here.
Data sources in latest figures
To understand whether or not passenger demand is being decoupled from economic growth, the intensity of passenger transport demand relative to changes in real GDP is analysed. A reduction in intensity should signal the relative decoupling of transport demand from economic growth.
A decoupling indicator compares pressures on the environment with changes in the relevant economical variables, to which the environmental pressures are causally linked. This indicator compares the growth in pkm as a proxy of the pressures on the environment caused by transport. It is considered a good proxy; however, it is known to be inaccurate as pkm values in isolation do not fully explain the environmental pressures.
Data sets uncertainty
Figures on pkm travelled by air are available as an EU-28 aggregate only. Air pkm are a provisional estimate for domestic flights and flights between EU countries. Figures for car, bus and rail travel are available separately for all EU-28 Member States. The sources used by the European Commission (DG-MOVE) include national statistics, estimates, the International Transport Forum and Eurostat.
Even if two countries have the same passenger transport intensity, or show the same trend over time, there could be important environmental differences between them. The link to environmental impact has to be complemented on the basis of the energy consumption and fuels used to satisfy passenger demand, and the technology used, in addition to the new infrastructure-related impacts.
Short term work
Work specified here requires to be completed within 1 year from now.
Work descriptionIn 2009, Eurostat consolidated the development of community data collection on road traffic (in road vehicle kilometres). This improved-quality data will be incorporated into future indicators. The core set indicators (as opposed to the structural indicators) includes air transport demand as a proportion of total passenger demand. Air transport data originate from the European Commission's Directorate General for Transport and Energy. Eurostat is reviewing methods for the calculation and territorial attribution of air transport performance data so that they can be included in total passenger demand. Any change in the structural indicators, particularly with regard to the methodology (i.e. possible inclusion of air transport demand) and the metadata section (i.e. quality), will be incorporated as soon as Eurostat validates the data.
No resource needs have been specified
Deadline2015/12/31 00:00:00 GMT+1
Long term work
Work specified here will require more than 1 year (from now) to be completed.
Responsibility and ownership
EEA Contact InfoCinzia Pastorello
Frequency of updates
ClassificationDPSIR: Driving force
Typology: Descriptive indicator (Type A - What is happening to the environment and to humans?)
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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