A selection of driven journeys in Tier 1 areas, that we believed might be simpler to switch to a different form of transportation, were examined. To create this subset, we filtered journeys that were driven in a main urban area and were shorter than 15 kilometres for the purpose of either:
- commuting, socialising
- entertainment / recreation
- shopping / personal business.
These journeys make up only 25 percent of light VKT in Tier 1 areas. This subset simply isn’t substantial enough to reach the desired reduction in the distance travelled by vehicles.
It's important to recognise that mode shift isn't a cure-all. The potential for mode shift in many Tier 1 areas is constrained by journey factors such as distance and purpose, the availability and suitability of alternative modes of transport, and personal travel preferences.
To achieve the needed reduction in light VKT, longer journeys will have to be targeted. To address the challenges related to Aotearoa's transport emissions, our travel patterns need to change.
We need to get light VKT on a downward trajectory, and fast, to meet our emissions target. This will be no mean feat. It will require system-wide change in the way we travel, and our need to travel. As well as reducing VKT, the change will bring benefits to people’s health, through fitness and air quality, and deliver safety benefits through the way we travel.
There must be a concerted effort to use urban planning and densification to shorten journey lengths, to promote and enable alternative modes, and to discourage driving.
We can adopt urban master planning strategies that encourage and enable shorter, more localised, journeys. Creating walkable neighbourhoods, improving active travel provision, and prioritising public transport over general traffic can achieve this. Urban planning focused on creating 20-minute cities, where people can access all necessary services within a 20-minute walk or bike ride, have been adopted overseas.
Public transport is more efficient at moving people, helps lower road congestion, and reduces emissions – it's a more sustainable way of traveling.
Introducing driving disincentives, such as congestion charging and parking constraints to reduce demand for driving, would incentivise people to consider whether their journey is worth completing and encourage them to consider alternatives.
Measures like these will not only reduce light VKT; they have significant positive impacts on the urban environment and public health. Lowering emissions by driving less in our cities will improve air quality, reduce noise, offer safer modes, and get the country closer to achieving its climate targets. Promoting active modes of travel, like walking and cycling, lead to better physical health, wellbeing, and social interaction, which are much harder to achieve when confined behind the wheel.
There's no doubt that the road to reducing our car dependency is set to be bumpy, but the benefit to people, communities, and the planet means that it's more important than ever that the nation works together to get light VKT on the downward track now.