Data released from the RAC as part of its latest Report on Motoring has revealed that 35% or one in three of drivers say they are more dependent on their car than a year ago. Public transport is viewed as an unreliable and expensive alternative, although the data also suggested more people would use it if it improved.
This report comes at an important time as local councils are attempting to improve air quality and cut congestion in line with Government support. However, the RAC believe the findings are a strong indicator that for many people, especially those who live outside cities, are still reliant on a car to get them around.
Only 14% of drivers reported becoming less dependent on a car in the last year, an increase from 2018 at 12%. The top reasons drivers provided for using their cars more are:
• A greater need to transport family members (28%)
• Family and friends moving further away (24%)
• A reduction in the provision or quality of public transport (25%) – with drivers in the North East (42%) significantly more likely to call this out as a reason for them increasingly using a car
More than half (57%) say they would be willing to use their cars less if the quality of public transport was better. Agreement with this statement in the annual report has been high for 11 consecutive years.
Around half of drivers (53%) say they are frustrated by the lack of feasible alternative modes of transport for long journeys, with a similar amount (52%) saying the same for short journeys. These figures both rise to 55% for drivers aged between 25 and 44.
This displays a common frustration with a lack of alternatives for using the car for a variety of journeys, with 50% of drivers citing high or unaffordable fees as a reason for not using public transport more often. 41% say services are not frequent enough to warrant using them.
A growing number reported that services don’t go to where they require them to (38%) and 36% said punctuality stops them for using public transport as an alternative to driving to their destination.
Of the people who would consider public transport if service offerings improved, a third said they would use it more if services were more greatly available. Interestingly, this figure rose to 40% for motorists living in rural areas. This could be seen as a reflection to significant cuts made to rural rails and bus services, as highlighted in previous reports and the Parliamentary Transport Committee.
The RAC Report on Motoring also highlights that London’s motorists are more likely to use alternatives to cars that anywhere else in the UK, with an average of 38% of each driver’s weekly journeys being made by waking, cycling, or using public transport. This is compared to a national average of 24%. For those who live in villages or other rural areas, cars typically account for 85% of all journeys, with just 15% currently represented by public transport, cycling or walking.
Speaking on the findings, RAC Data Insight Spokesman Rod Dennis said: “These findings present the stark reality for so many people in the UK – that for good or bad, in 2020 the car remains an essential means of getting about whether that is for commuting, dropping off and collecting children or going to visit family and friends.
“While the car might be the obvious choice for many people’s journeys, especially for those who have already invested a lot of money in buying or leasing one, it is also clear just how frustrated many drivers are with the lack of decent alternatives for some of their trips.
“For more than a decade now, drivers have been saying that they are willing to use their cars less if public transport was better – and this year’s figures indicate it’s the high cost and low frequency of services that are the biggest problems cited by drivers. At the same time, the ongoing challenge for national and local government, and combined authorities, is therefore to deliver credible alternatives to the car for specific journeys that are regularly completed by a lot of people.
Dennis suggested that connecting large residential areas with popular locations for work would be a good starting point, giving drivers an opportunity to swap sitting in traffic jams for a fast, frequent alternative.
He continued: “Greater investment in walking and cycling infrastructure could also go a long way to encouraging drivers to use of their cars less, especially for short journeys that make up around a quarter of all drivers’ trips.
“But it remains the case that short of cheap, reliable and integrated public transport systems operating all over the UK, it is very difficult to see things changing radically in the years ahead.
“The car remains an integral part of so many people’s lives, whether that is for carrying heavy shopping, transporting family members or going to visit friends in all the corners of the UK.”