Congestion charges would lead to *more* driving, RAC Foundation says

The RAC Foundation (a UK organization dedicated to "protecting the interest of the motorist") doesn't think congestion charges, like those in effect in downtown London, will help reduce driving, especially shopping trips, in the rest of the country.
This opinion is based on the results of a GfK/NOP survey of 1000 shoppers last June. The RAC announcement is after the break, and the full results will be up on the RAC website later today.

GfK/NOP found that 31 percent of the respondents said they would "drive to a different town or city centre to shop if a £5 congestion charge were introduced." And, while that's the RAC headline, almost as many, 27 per cent, said they "would choose to travel by different means." 21 percent said they would go shopping less often. The RAC Foundation's director is giving a speech at the Association of Town Centre Management annual conference today explaining the findings.

[Source: RAC Foundation] Cars used as shopping trolleys...Drivers will vote with their wheels to avoid congestion charges

One third of shoppers would drive to a different town or city centre to shop if a £5 congestion charge were introduced, according to the RAC Foundation's director speaking at the Association of Town Centre Management annual conference today (14).

The figures come from a report "Motoring towards 2050: Shopping and Transport Policy" launched by the RAC Foundation and British Retail Consortium. The report reveals opinion data from GfK/NOP showing that shoppers are very cautious about road pricing schemes being considered by several towns and cities as part of the Government's Transport Innovation Fund. The RAC Foundation survey showed:
  • 31% would drive to a different destination if a £5 charge were introduced to drive into their local town or city centre shops.
  • 27% would choose to travel by different means.
  • 21% would make the journey less often.
In order to stop one third of shoppers voting with their wheels and driving further to other destinations the RAC Foundation is urging town centre managers to consider lower off-peak congestion charges or no off-peak charges together with better parking provision.

The ACTM conference will be told:
  • 70% of shoppers arrive by car
  • Those without a car travel by car for a third of their shopping trips, by getting lifts from friends or taking taxis.
  • 54% have experienced congested roads when shopping.
  • On average we make a trip to the shops every other day.
  • Twice a week we go for personal business (e.g. hair dressers, dry cleaners etc).
  • The average number of shopping trips has fallen 13% over past 10 years. The average length of trips has increased by over 10%
  • Buses account for 6% of all trips but nearly 30% of bus trips are for shopping.
The car has become the shopping trolley of choice due to its convenience (63%), carryability (56%), and distances travelled (47%). Respondents also felt the car was cheaper than alternatives and safer. However people are often unaware of costs and availability of public transport. Others favoured the car as it allows for chained trips, for example visiting the shops on the way back from work before going to the gym.

In his presentation, Edmund King, will consider future trends and question whether the up-take of online shopping will have implications for transport. Internet shopping is the fastest growing market in the retail sector. Sixty per cent of UK households now have computers and 80% of those have broadband. The GfK/NOP survey found that almost half of men (45%) and woman (46%) had shopped online for goods other than airline/theatre or sports tickets.

Different reasons were given for Internet shopping. Three out of four Internet shoppers stated that they use the Internet to compare prices. Three quarters stated that it saved the hassle of getting out the car, waiting for the bus or it avoided the frustration of congestion. Older people without cars recognised the cost saving by not making the journey.

But has e-tailing reduced overall trips by replacing the trip to the store, are these trips replaced by leisure trips and does home delivery increase the number of delivery trips? If the shopping trip was part of a chained trip for other purposes, the trip may still take place without the shopping component.

The study also found that almost 80% of Internet shoppers still want to go to the store to look at the products even if they are buying on-line. This does not necessarily generate more car trips as the visit may be part of a trip chain or as they will not have to carry home heavy goods some may be more inclined to use pubic transport.

King will tell the conference: -

A long-term vision is essential for a town's vitality. The consequences of traffic management changes on the vitality of retail must be considered.

Cars can't be wished away – not even with Internet shopping – so they must be planned for. 60% of shopping trips and 80% of shopping mileage is done by car.

Parking is a service not a source of revenue - and should be designed accordingly. 44% shoppers could not find a space when out shopping in the last 12 months.

Planning needs to reflect the realities of how people live – retail deserts with miles of houses and no local shops are dire. Each housing estate should have good transport links to at least one supermarket.

Edmund King, executive director, RAC Foundation, said;

"Good transport links – for cars and public transport - are vital for successful retail and successful retail is vital if town and city centres are to remain prosperous and attractive. Too many local authorities fall into the trap of looking at traffic and transport in isolation from the wider needs of the area. Minor changes such as parking controls or major changes such as congestion charging can ruin retail if not well planned. Cars are the shopping trolley of convenience but motorists will vote with their wheels if too many restrictions are brought in."

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