Excess commuting: Towards estimating the cost of restricting "wasteful" travel

All authors:
Del Mistro, R.
Host organisation: CoE Cape Town, South Africa
Publication year: 2010
Published in:
Research theme: Environment and Climate Change, Policy and Planning
peak oil, excess commuting
Transportation is major contributor to green house gas emissions. It is also a major consumer of energy, especially fossil fuels. Conferences such as those in Kyoto (1997/2005) and Copenhagen (2009) are aimed at multi-national pledges to reduce emissions. But underlying the proclamations, resolutions and negotiations, there appears to be an unwillingness of countries to implement potentially unpopular policies requiring their citizens to significantly change their commuting lifestyles. This is evidenced by major initiatives such as those to reduce vehicle weight, improve engine efficiency and develop alternative fuels to power motor cars. Countries seem to avoid asking why we are commuting so far using motorised transport, what would it cost if we did not / could not commute so much, and finally what interventions should they implement to reduce excess motorised commuting. There is a significant body of literature that has shown that excess commuting can be as much as 70% of current commuting. While the minimum value of commuting is a function of development density and the location of land uses to satisfy trip purposes; the value of excess commuting can only be reduced if the “friction” of distance is increased. Such an intervention will result in a reduction in the number of locations at which trip purposes can be satisfied. A reduction in choice will carry a “cost”. The topic of the “cost” of restricting the number of locations that can be reasonably chosen as trip ends is not clearly articulated in the literature. The paper is aimed at beginning a discussion on how to estimate these “costs”. The paper introduces the topic with summaries of the literature on the peak oil debate and excess commuting.
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