commuting why do we do it?

commuting time for a change?

Britain Is A Nation Of Car Commuters. Will We Ever Change? A Recent RAC Survey Suggests Not.

It's about time the Government took a fresh look at commuting from the perspective of the commuter. After all, consider the facts according to a recent RAC survey: 11% of commuters outside London commute by public transport of whom most (68%) take the bus 22% of car driver trips are made for the purpose of commuting Only 5% of commuting is by national rail but these journeys account for 46% of rail with more than half of these journeys made in London and the southeast Almost 50% of rail travel is by those in the top 20% of household incomes Only 3% of commuters cycle to work but 28% cycle to work in Cambridge 10% of commuters walk to work but in Norwich 24% use their legs UK has the longest commuting time in Europe at an average of 45 minutes per day The average UK commute is almost twice as long as the Italians In the last decade commuting passenger miles have increased 6% The average distance travelled by the average commuter has gone up 17% to 8.5 miles

The survey found that most people lived in the same house for at least ten years and therefore often had to commute further as their jobs changed. People these days are, it seems, unwilling to move just because the location of their job changes. Certainly, there has been a sharp reduction in the proportion of households that move home because of job relocation: between 1984 and 1994, it halved and there have been further falls since. This reflects choices related to second earners' employment, children's education and improvements in transport facilitating longer journeys.

According to the survey, reasons for not living closer to work included:

Like the area 28%

Easy journey 6%

Good housing 7%

Good schools 7%

Never thought about it 27%

Have always lived there 16%

To be near friends and family 8%

Like to separate work and home 7%

One respondent chose the area they lived "because it looked nice on a Calendar". A small minority (7%) say they like to keep home and work separate. Nearly three in ten had never thought about it. Drivers also commented that commuting time is not entirely lost time as it helps them to prepare for the day in the morning and to unwind in the evening.

One of the critical issues for transport planners is whether commuters would want to move closer to work if congestion got worse, or whether they are insensitive to changes in commuting times. The research suggests that most people live where they do because they have deep roots in the area or because they made a positive choice to live there, rather than choosing a location on the basis of their commute. On average, surveys suggest that car commuters would be willing to travel for about 15-20 minutes more than they do at present with a commute of over 50 minutes being acceptable. If car-commuting time doubled, 46% would leave more time with 23% using other routes. Just 7% say they would use public transport.

So what are the main reasons for driving to work? According to the RAC survey :

55% quicker than other options

36% need to use car at work

28% public transport is inconvenient

26% more comfortable than other options

23% enjoy driving

21% convenient/cheap parking at work

Parking is an important factor in commuting. Some local authorities are looking at introducing workplace-parking levies. These moves would not be popular with motorists. If a £5 charge was levied to park at work, the RAC discovered that the effect would be considerable:

53% of people would park on road

13% of people would change job

10% of people would use alternative transport

6% of people would pay to park elsewhere

4% of people would share driving

2% of people would pay the charge

The strength of the car dependence is clear. If people could not use their own car to commute, the majority (58%) would get a lift and 8% would even change jobs.

What it all boils down to is that we're a nation of car commuters. We have the longest commute in Europe and even if our commuting time doubled, most of us would just shrug and leave more time for the journey. Drivers would rather sit in their cars twice as long rather than change jobs, move house or change their work base. However, many commuters would revolt over the prospect of having to pay workplace-parking levies.

People are wedded to the car for practical reasons. Public transport performs an excellent function for high volume radial journeys into cities. In London and the southeast, the rail network and the underground fulfil that role. Elsewhere commuting into cities is by car with the bus a poor runner up. Outside of London, rail only plays a small part in commuting.

So what would make a difference? Can the UK's determined car commuter ever be weaned off the road? Well, choose from the following suggestions. Doubtless you'll have a few of your own too...

Work place travel plans

Individualised travel plans

Teleworking/video conferencing

Business parks linked to public transport

Better road access to business parks

Car sharing incentives and high occupancy vehicle (hov) lanes

Park and ride

Better cycle/motorcycle facilities at work

Improved capacity on rail commuter route