Urban Move

Running to stand still – the role of travel time in transport planning


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Author David Lindelöw
PhD, Transport Planner

The means of transportation available to people have evolved dramatically since the first European cities were built. Over the past 200 years alone we have gone from walking, to horse riding, to driving vehicles. Public transport networks have developed to help us get where we need to go, faster and more comfortably. However, the time we allocate for travel has not changed significantly. Rather, the distances we travel have been extended. The report "Running to stand still – the role of travel time in transport planning" explores the concept of the travel time budget and its implications for urban planning.

The existence of a travel time budget has long been recognised by many researchers. Studies of travel time show that, on average, we have allocated the same amount of time for travel over many decades. People's daily use of travel time varies from 1 to 1.5 hours, averaging around 70 minutes of travel per person and day. Intuitively, the introduction of faster transport modes, such as trains or cars, would imply that travel time nowadays takes up less of people's daily lives. However, findings in recent years suggest that the travel time budget, if anything, appears to be increasing rather than decreasing. This increase is not necessarily a result of faster travel, but may also be related to cars' increased comfort level, greater diversity in daily life, or increased options for combining travel with phone or computer use.