Amidst the Transport Decarbonisation Plan's anticipated focus on exciting new and emerging zero emission vehicle technologies and fuels, there is welcome recognition that significant reductions in emissions are also possible by boosting consumer choice and achieving better transport efficiency. Crucially this acknowledges that there are important roles for:
- improving choices for end to end journeys;
- educating transport users as to carbon impact;
- encouraging modal shift to shared transport or active travel;
- new zero emission services and modes; and
- boosting innovation in rural mobility
Where existing public transport options cannot cater, there will be support to enable zero emission shared car ownership and occupancy services or demand responsive transport. For those who are able and willing, active travel provision is to be improved. To navigate multi-modal journey options, the Government will consult on a code of practice for Mobility-as-a-Service and improve integration of services and transport data. And where they expand beneficial zero emission transport options, the Government affirms its commitment to pilot and enable new modes. This includes the ongoing e-scooter trials such as in the West of England where it has recently been reported that 1 million scooter trips have been undertaken displacing an estimated 370,000 car trips and 200 tonnes of emissions).
So far as surface transport is concerned, the Transport Decarbonisation Plan is reasonably clear that material reduction in sole occupancy private car trips is the primary target for behaviour change. Tackling this is far from straightforward (as the plan acknowledges) and the DfT's weekly Covid transport statistics already indicate private car use bouncing back to pre-Covid levels (and beyond) far quicker than public transport and active travel. The challenge is already on to deliver the Government's stated intention to make "public transport, cycling and walking the natural first choice for all who can take it". However, the Government is intent through its plan to encourage positive behaviour change through improving transport options, services and carbon emissions data, selling the benefits and rewarding positive outcomes and working directly with stakeholders on travel demand drivers (in particular with employers on workplace commuting).
Inherent in this plan is the hope that, in removing barriers and enabling or incentivising lower carbon alternatives, people will choose lower emission options for themselves, their families and communities and for the places they live and work - without the need for behavioural nudging to become increasingly urgent behavioural shoving.
By better understanding people’s different needs and preferences, including motivations for, and barriers to, using these technologies, we can encourage changes in behaviours and more sustainable travel to increase the pace of decarbonisation.