More communication, less travel

Communications has changed radically via the Internet and smart phones. Has this and will this have a significant effect on how much people travel?

In his ODT column today Colin James writes:

If all cars are electric by 2030 and relatively cheap to maintain and run, might not there be more demand for roads, not less? Rail is nearly two centuries old. What will “public” transport be in 2025?

The Ministry of Transport (MoT) has been grappling with these sorts of questions, looking out 10 to 30 years. It has found the future is unlikely to be a projection from the past through the present.

When MoT looked at future demand for personal mobility, it found vehicle kilometres travelled flattened in the mid-2000s at around 40 billion kilometres a year and only recently have picked up again (perhaps reflecting record net immigration?).

Young people are far less likely to get a driving licence or buy a car than their elders. They have other, digital, ways of linking with friends or getting entertained.

I hadn’t thought of that. Back when I was young the Internet didn’t exist and phones were used far less than now.

We used to find friends and socialise by travelling, and many of us did this by car. I booked for my drivers license as soon as I turned 15 and had my license 2 weeks later. I owned my first car when I was 16, and travelled to communicate and socialise.

We used to cruise to find fun.

From what I hear many young people don’t bother getting licenses let alone cars now. They can save travel by organising what they are doing in advance.

It may be that a lot of socialising has moved from in person to electronic, cutting the necessity to travel.

We can see the sights of the country and the world (and the solar system and universe) from the comfort of our homes. While this may encourage some people to get out and travel to see things for themselves it may also reduce the need for others.

I can now communicate with family who are overseas by video phone so the pressure and need to travel to see them is reduced.

In the early days of working in Information Technology (I’ve worked in IT since before it was called that) I had to travel to customers to work.

Now much of that travel is unnecessary because I can work remotely -from a desk in an office in Dunedin I can be working in Auckland, Sydney and New York virtually at the same time (and have to be careful which client window I do things in).

I think it’s impossible to predict how travel will be affected in 10 or 20 years, it’s a complex issue. But the necessity to travel is certainly reducing in some ways.