Urban mobility trends show a shift towards private vehicles and electric vehicles

24 August 2021

As want for personal transport puts pressure on our roads, coupled with a shift to electric vehicles, Transurban’s latest report reveals our acceleration toward a transportation renaissance.

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The COVID-19 pandemic, while creating short-term trends such as eased congestion during lockdowns, has shifted the longer-term priorities and proclivities for Victorian commuters. The Transurban Industry Report, Urban Mobility Trends: Road Funding Reform has revealed the shifting focus toward electric vehicles and growing concern about road congestion. 

The survey of more than 3,000 people across Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland has also presented an eye-opening snapshot of the current behaviour and future intentions of the public transport networks.  

Electric surge 

While electric vehicles in countries such as Norway make up 75 per cent of new car sales, the sluggish adoption in Australia isn't due to lack of demand. 

Over the past five years, there has been major growth in the desire for electric vehicles as unit prices decline, environmental concerns grow, and State-funded incentives such as purchase rebates are introduced. Some states have also set goals for the introduction of electric vehicles: 

  • Victoria: 50 per cent by 2030 
  • South Australia: 100 per cent by 2035 
  • New South Wales: 52 per cent by 2030-31 
  • ACT: New vehicle sales to be zero emissions by 2030 

As time passes and more Australians adopt electric vehicles, the reduction in fuel consumption and resulting decline in fuel excises will erode Australia’s main source of road-related revenue - in the 2018-19 financial year, the Federal Government collected $11.6 billion in fuel excise.  

In order to continue funding road maintenance and infrastructure projects, some State Governments have introduced, or are considering the introduction of, an electric vehicle charge. 68 per cent of respondents in Transurban’s survey believe a per-kilometre electric-vehicle charge is fair. 

Though the high price point of electric vehicles is currently the leading barrier for purchasing an electric vehicle, Infrastructure Partnerships Australia believe that when price parity is achieved, owners of zero-emission vehicles will save at least $3,600 over an eight-year lifespan per vehicle by spending less on traditional fuels and maintenance.  

Traffic jam 

Before the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the behaviour and lifestyles of millions of Australians, the increase in road use and traffic congestion was a major concern, explaining why 93 per cent of respondents across Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane said congestion was a concern. Understandably, because of the increase in road congestion, demand for public transport grew. 

However, since the COVID-19 pandemic forced people off the roads and into their homes, the resulting decline in road use led to little or no congestion to be observed.  

Once restrictions were lifted, traffic rebounded quickly across all states where lockdown was enforced. In the cities which drew fewer restrictions, Transurban observed a traffic increase, even when compared to pre-pandemic levels. Sydney witnessed work-day traffic increase in May 2021 by 2.1 per cent and 5.7 per cent in Brisbane compared to May 2019.  

On average 22 per cent fewer people across Australia plan to use public transport in their daily commute post-pandemic. The growing desire for personal transport is supported by data from Apple Maps, which shows demand for driving directions in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane have surpassed pre-COVID-19 levels. 

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