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Transportation policy - some underlying facts

by Jerome a Paris Mon Dec 4th, 2006 at 09:36:45 AM EST

The French government has published a study (pdf) including a number of statistics on transport use, with a few graphics that provide some important lessons for the purpose of our brainstorming on energy policies.

This show the costs of fuel (electricity in the case of railways) as a portion of the costs of transportation sector companies. This gives one indication on which transportation modes (see translation below) to focus on for a serious demand-side policy - or at least which will see their costs rise most as energy becomes more expensive.


Above graph categories:

  • Merchandise transport, by road
  • Air transport
  • Passenger transport, by road
  • River transport
  • Package delivery
  • Public urban transport
  • Rail transport

This second graph shows the evolution over the past 15 years of use, in passenger-kilometers, of various modes.

Voiture particulière = personal cars
Autobus et autocars = buses & coaches
Metro, RER, TER = metro & light railways
Autres transports ferroviaires = other rail transport
Transport aérien = (domestic) air transport

The arrows point to the big public transport strikes in 1995 and 2003.

What's striking is how air transport has declined since 2000 - which is the date when the TGV-Méditerannée was put in service, i.e. high speed trains linking all of Southeastern France to Lyon, Paris and beyond. With less than 3 hours needed between Paris and Marseille, the train captured from Air France more than half the market on that destination - and even more on shorter routes. Infrastructure building - of the right kind - has a huge influence on our energy use patterns - and on the choices made by the public on transport modes. The significnat growth of rail and light rail uses also coincided with the transfer of a number of local rail lines from national to regional authorities (whereby they invested significant amounts to keep the lines running and provide good quality rolling stock - I'm sure DoDo can provide good pics of the modern TERs), and a simultaneous push by many big cities to invest in tramways or other light rail urban systems.

The other notable point, also visible in the next graph, is the stagnation in the use of cars over the past few years. Not only cars are more fuel-efficient thanks to the massive switch of diesel, but they are also used less, which is something really new.

The graph below (which shows gas and diesel prices adjusted for purchasing power) suggests that prices are not the main driver of this change (or if they are, that people hve more flexibility to change their behavior than in the 1970s) - thus that the availability of alternatives is essential.

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Are these numbers normalized to account for ton-miles or passenger-miles? If they are the fraction of total cost due to fuel, wouldn't methods (like railroads) that have high infrastructure costs come out looking too good?
by asdf on Mon Dec 4th, 2006 at 09:53:20 AM EST
The first graph is about the cost to turnover of transport companies, so it's normalised to euros.

The other two focus only on passenger transportation, so these use passenger-kms.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Mon Dec 4th, 2006 at 10:28:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Regarding railroads, the footnote says that railroads are largely powered by electricity. This is just fuel costs.

Of course, if you make your electricity by burning fossil fuels, that's just skewed. But France uses mostly nuclear.

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Dec 4th, 2006 at 10:33:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But trucking has high infrastructure costs. Its just that much of its infrastructure costs are socialized.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Tue Dec 5th, 2006 at 06:11:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This gives one indication on which transportation modes (see translation below) to focus on for a serious demand-side policy
No, for that you would need to know what fraction of the fuel consumed goes to each more of transportation
or at least which will see their costs rise most as energy becomes more expensive
Yes, this is correct.

By the way, this gives you a row of the Leontieff input-output matrix for France.

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Dec 4th, 2006 at 09:58:34 AM EST
Infrastructure building - of the right kind - has a huge influence on our energy use patterns
Amen to that!

By the way, the first figure is from 2004. As oil prices have risen since, fuel should currently have a larger share of the cost, for all modes except trains, than what is showed by the graph.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Mon Dec 4th, 2006 at 01:26:09 PM EST


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