Lifestyles, Quality of Life and Sustainability (1997) | Brussels Blog

Lifestyles, Quality of Life and Sustainability (1997)

posted by on 14th Jun 2016

A Contribution to “Developing an Integrated Transport Policy” (DETR 1997)

Lifestyle research is an essential addition to the factual background in the development of an integrated transport policy. The average behaviour of the whole population is not detailed enough to understand the behaviour of the different lifestyles that comprise to the whole population.

Consider some example households in or near York (these are illustrative pending further research):

A. Flat in central York: Young couple, no children

B. Terraced house in inner suburbs: two parents and two children

C. Semi detached in outer suburbs: two parents and three children

D. Rented house on peripheral council estate: divorced mother of four

E: Cottage in country park: two parents and two children

The transport system affects their lifestyles in different ways…

Household A uses the transport system sparingly. They both walk short distances to work and have no car. They occasionally use the train to visit friends and relatives in other towns. Most of their income is spent in the city centre.

Household B live in a street where half the households have a car, but some have two or even three. The mother uses her car for work. The father cycles into work in central York. One son cycles out of town to school, the other gets lifts from fellow students to the sixth-form college which is located two miles out of the centre. They visit friends and relatives by car or camper van. Most of their shopping comes from a branch of Sainsburys just outside the centre.

Household C live in a recent outer suburb. The father works in the centre of Leeds and drives his car to Garforth to park and finishes his journey by train. The mother drives her car to work in the centre of York after dropping the children off at their schools. They mostly shop out of town at Tesco.

Household D is on an estate with some shops and a reasonable bus service. They have no car. The mother walks the younger children to school, the elder ones go to the local secondary school on their bikes.

Household E live in the country. The father works as a country park warden and driving is part of his job. The mother is a teacher and travels 20 miles to work. Their children must be delivered 5 miles to school. Any substantial shopping requires a ten mile round trip. They mostly shop out of town.

The households outlined above have very different transport requirements and have very different environmental (local and global) impact. They also suffer side effects of other people’s transport in different ways. The inner urban households, for example, suffer more from air pollution, congestion and the physical dangers of traffic.

An important side effect is “missing demand”. This is particularly damaging for the lifestyles of the rural non-motorist. Because many of their neighbours withdraw their support for public transport, the services decline and disappear. To a lesser extent, similar difficulties are felt by city dwellers.

A good lifestyle analysis could also help another aspect of the current problem: urban and rural patterns of traffic generators and attractors. This is moving on from the pure transport question “How do we fulfil people’s transport requirements so they can get efficiently from A to B?” It is addressing the questions “How can we help people to live in places which enable them to get to their required destinations easily?”, and “How do we encourage the location of jobs, shops and leisure facilities to control the environmental impact of traffic?”

One purpose of lifestyle analysis in the current context is as a heuristic to generate new policy ideas.

Our experience strongly suggests that data and techniques are available which can help inform policy makers and planners. A more detailed study can reveal patterns of behaviour which are masked when taking a broader view.

Update August 2002

John Barratt from the Stockholm Institute at the University of York is the author of a report which looks at the “ecological footprint” of York Citizens. This results from a detailed study of materials flow in York. See The Eco Footprint of York.This shows the impact York’s citizens have on the rest of the world, including a brief investigation of the impact of different lifestyles.

PostScript June 2014

In Lifestyles, carbon emissions and consumer surplus, I discuss “missing demand” again. This examines the issue in terms of consumer surplus. The consumer surplus is the benefit someone gets for a good or service in excess of the price paid. e.g. I may have been willing to pay up to £2 for the bus ride but it only cost £1. The consumer surplus is the extra value (£2 less £1). The question is when motorists use their car rather than supporting the bus service, how can the concept of consumer surplus identify this as an external cost?

If one section of the population (e.g. motorists) cause a fall in the consumer surplus of another section (e.g. bus users), how should economists regard this? Can it be classed as an external cost?

In the past, I have argued for separate settlements for non-motorists (1, 2). Some people choose to live in car limited places, like Venice, and others prefer to live in motorway cities like Los Angeles. See The parable of the smoking carriages.

I am pleased to say that the economist, Dr Antoine Dechezleprêtre of the Grantham Institute, supports this.

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