Friday, 22 August 2008
Car ownership in decline (in Japan)
For many months now car ownership levels in Japan have been declining, from well before the recent oil price increases. As far as I know this is the first example of a highly developed economy where this is happening. Various reasons are offered including the aging population and stagnant economy, but projections based solely on these factors saw car ownership increasing for many more years yet.
More interesting observations note the high cost of car ownership and use, which includes parking charges (since on-street parking is not generally allowed) and tolls for using major roads, combined with an excellent railway system and of course a bicycle friendly environment. Car ownership seems to be far less of a necessity than it is perceived to be in the UK.
But most encouraging of all is the suggestion that there is a declining interest in car ownership, particular amongst the young. Perhaps the sophistication of electronic gadgetry means that there are other status symbols to aspire to. This could be the first sign of what may rapidly become a global trend as much higher fuel prices start to bite.
If car ownership rates start to decline here it would call into question almost all the transport planning of recent years. Would there then be any point in pursuing such unpopular policies as congestion charging and residents parking charges? Would there be any point in investing over £11 billion on expanding the capacity of the highway system? Would there even be any point in capital investment in public transport when this would only ever have been justified by projections of greatly increased congestion?