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Mobility Trends in New Zealand

Principal Investigator: Associate Professor Ben Wooliscroft

Project Summary

In this project, we are developing a bank of questions to quantitatively examine New Zealander’s expectations and aspirations relating to transport. To do this, we will use focus groups, academic literature and the research team’s knowledge of research methodology to consider the best ways to illicit the information required.
These questions will be used by the New Zealand Ministry of Transport in their annual household surveys and other panel surveys, to gain a better understanding of what New Zealanders want from their transport system, moving away from what they ‘have’ (e.g. cars, bikes) to consider what they know, want and desire.

Project Overview

A series of mobility trends are emerging in industrialised countries globally, that are, to varying degrees, challenging the status quo.
Preference for new technologies, ownership models, and changing aspirations are among the change trends that impacting upon transport policy and planning. A wide range of trends have been identified, but the degrees of importance for discrete trends will vary between and within countries.
However, by tracking changing mobility trends across time, countries can better prepare for future transport demand. From an Energy Cultures perspective, while we have a relatively good understanding of household’s material culture (what they have), and their practices (what they do), less is known about household norms relating to mobility (what they think), and how external factors affect these three elements [Figure 1, the Energy Cultures Framework].
This project will develop a range of measures to explore mobility expectations and aspirations amongst New Zealanders, through the household travel survey. In particular the project will find ways to better understand why individuals choose particular modes or have particular preferences, and what their expectations and aspirations relating to travel and transport are.
A series of factors are, and will continue to impact upon travel demand. These include the relative attractiveness of particular modes, and the desire and/or need to travel. These factors will affect most industrialised countries, to varying degrees and include:
• Environmental: climate change, local air quality
• Resource-based: Peak Oil, fuel price volatility
• Socio-cultural: Changes to norms, values, and mobility aspirations
• Demographic: Immigration (cultural norms, population growth), ageing population
• Economic: (perceived) financial stability, cost of housing, availability of mortgage lending, relative cost of modes
• Technological: low-carbon technologies (e.g. EVs, hybrids, alternative fuels, (semi)autonomous), Information Communication Technologies [ICT]
• Behavioural: travel substitution, urbanisation
For New Zealand, the ageing population, urbanisation and internal migration, volatile fuel prices, growing freight demand, and international responses to global issues (e.g. transport-related GHG emissions, transport security) have been identified as particular challenges in the coming decades (Ministry of Transport, 2011).
Other research has provided evidence of changing mobility patterns amongst generation Y (Hopkins & Stephenson, 2015), and large, sustained growth in public transport use dependant on lead investment (Rive et al., 2015).
Following a round-table discussion between the Ministry of Transport and researchers from the Centre for Sustainability (CSAFE) at the University of Otago, six subthemes were selected as particularly relevant for New Zealand, and of growing interest over the coming years and decades. These themes are:
1. Concepts of ownership
2. Travel substitution
3. Public transport
4. Active transport
5. Transport technologies
6. Environmental (social, cultural, natural).
Each of these themes will be addressed in turn, with a bank of questions developed, and tested, before being presented to the Ministry of Transport.

Research Updates

The project is still underway. 

Project Publications