Trends in passenger transport demand by mode alongside developments in GDP (18.1)

Indicator Assessment
Prod-ID: IND-324-en
Created 26 Jan 2012 Published 30 Mar 2012 Last modified 04 Sep 2015
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Total passenger transport demand has seen a relative decoupling from economic growth but has still increased in absolute terms by 22% since 1995. Moreover, unsustainable transport modes of air travel and the private car have seen higher growth than more sustainable modes.

Key messages

Total passenger transport demand has seen a relative decoupling from economic growth but has still increased in absolute terms by 22% since 1995. Moreover, unsustainable transport modes of air travel and the private car have seen higher growth than more sustainable modes.

18. Has demand for mobility for all types of trips been decoupled from economic growth and is it shifting to more sustainable transport modes?

Total passenger transport demand has seen a relative decoupling from economic growth, but still increased in absolute terms by 22% between 1995 and 2009 compared to a real GDP growth of 30%. Unsustainable transport modes of air travel and the private car have seen higher growth than more sustainable modes, showing that there has been no positive shift in transport modes – in fact the reverse.

Air travel grew by around 65% between 1995 and 2007, but was the transport mode hardest hit by the economic recession and had dropped back to around 50% above 1995 levels by 2009 – still far above economic growth. Growth in private car travel was more moderate, increasing slightly above the total growth in passenger transport at 23% and thus showing a small relative decoupling from GDP. The only positive trend is that passenger km taken by tram and Metro grew slightly faster than growth in private car use at 25%. 

Other more sustainable modes such as trains and bus and coach saw growth but slower than air and private car. These growth patterns mean that the domination of private car use has remained steady at 73% of total passenger km, while the share of air transport has increased from 6.5% to 8%. Nine of the EEA-32 Member States still meet over 85% of their passenger transport demand by car, and 20 have a car share of over 80% (see EEA CSI 035 Indicator).

It is important to note that, with the exception of powered two wheelers and passenger cars, all modes of passenger transport have seen a drop in line with the ongoing adverse economic conditions. 

Indicator specification and metadata

Indicator definition

This indicator shows developments in passenger transport demand by mode in the EU, both in relative terms to 1995 and in absolute levels. Developments in GDP are provided alongside (also indexed to 1995).

Units

This indicator is expressed in billion passenger-kilometres (pkms) for absolute levels of passenger transport demand (Figure 1) and in an index to 1995 for the relative passenger transport demand alongside GDP development (Figure 2).


Policy context and targets

Context description

This question is directly linked to the objective on sustainable transport in the renewed Sustainable Development Strategy for the EU from 2006. ‘Decoupling economic growth and the demand for transport with the aim of reducing environmental impacts’ as well as a ‘shift towards environment friendly transport modes’ are targets formulated in the strategy.

Again, at the macro strategic level, the Roadmap to a Resource Efficient Europe (2011) includes a specific sectoral theme on Ensuring Efficient Mobility that can contribute significantly to competitiveness and sustainability. This doesn’t, however, expand in terms of specific policies or targets on the 2011 Transport White Paper described below.

Improving the sustainability of mobility is also high on the agenda; most recently grounded in the Roadmap to a Single European Transport Area – Towards a competitive and resource efficient transport system (2011) and the Communication from the Commission - A sustainable future for transport : Towards an integrated, technology-led and user friendly system (2009), as well as the Communication from the Commission: Greening Transport (2008) together with the mid-term review of the European Commission’ 2001 Transport White Paper Keep Europe moving – Sustainable mobility for our continent (2006), in which the disconnection of mobility from negative side effects is set as target.
A sustainable mobility and efficient transport mode is also formulated as one of the four pan-European priority goals in the Amsterdam Declaration – Making the Link: Transport choices for our health , environment and prosperity published at the third high-level Meeting on Transport Health and Environment in 2009 (UNECE Transport Health and Environment Pan-European Programme).

Targets

The Roadmap to a Resource Efficient Europe (2011) includes the milestone that “by 2020 overall efficiency in the transport sector will deliver  greater value with optimal use of resources like raw materials, energy, and land, and reduced impacts on climate change, air pollution, noise, health, accidents, biodiversity and ecosystem degradation. Transport will use less and cleaner energy, better exploit a modern infrastructure and reduce its negative impact on the environment and key natural assets like water, land and ecosystems. There will be on average a 1% yearly reduction, beginning in 2012 in transport GHG emissions.”

The Roadmap to a Single European Transport Area – Towards a competitive and resource efficient transport system COM(2011) 144 final includes the following relevant goals for 2050:

  • No more conventionally-fuelled cars in cities.
  • 40% use of sustainable low carbon fuels in aviation; at least 40% cut in shipping emissions.
  • A 50% shift of medium distance intercity passenger and freight journeys from road to rail and waterborne transport.
  • All of which will contribute to a 60% cut in transport emissions by the middle of the century.

 

A sustainable future for transport : Towards an integrated, technology-led and user friendly system COM(2009) 279 final, states that the ultimate goal of European transport policy is to “establish a sustainable transport system that meets society’s economic, social and environmental needs and is conducive to an inclusive society and a fully integrated and competitive Europe.”

Related policy documents

No related policy documents have been specified

Methodology

Methodology for indicator calculation

Figure 1: Data acquired from the Transport statistical pocketbook for 2011.

Figure 2: In order to calculate the index (base year 1995) for the passenger transport and the GDP, the EU27 raw value of each year (obtained by the Transport statistical pocketbook for 2011 and Eurostat) is divided by the EU27 raw value of year 1995 and then multiplied by 100.   

Methodology for gap filling

No gap filling was necessary for producing this indicator from the Eurostat database.

Methodology references

No methodology references available.

Uncertainties

Methodology uncertainty

No uncertainty has been identified in the methodology used by the EEA to process the source data.

Data sets uncertainty

For information on data source uncertainty on the transport data please see table 2.3 here: http://ec.europa.eu/transport/publications/statistics/pocketbook-2011_en.htm

For information on data source uncertainty on the GDP data please see metadata here: http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/cache/ITY_SDDS/EN/nama_esms.htm

Rationale uncertainty

This indicator does not answer the question fully because it doesn’t look into different types of trips i.e. leisure, work, shopping etc. and therefore whether demand for these trips have been decoupled from economic growth.

Data sources

  • No datasets have been specified.

Generic metadata

Topics:

information.png Tags:
DPSIR: Driving force
Typology: Efficiency indicator (Type C - Are we improving?)
Indicator codes
  • SCP 026
Temporal coverage:

Contacts and ownership

EEA Contact Info

Almut Reichel

Dates

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European Environment Agency (EEA)
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