Peak Car in London: How does London's experience challenge key assumptions of transport planning?

Anna Keyes

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


Over the past twenty years, Greater London has seen a significant modal shift towards public transport and active modes, whilst use of private vehicles has declined. This has occurred during a period of steady growth in population and incomes in the city. Looking in detail at London's experience, using the characteristics of the Peak Car phenomenon elaborated by Goodwin (2012), demonstrates that long-established assumptions of transport planning are much less applicable in England's capital. Traffic forecasts for London have wrongly predicted not only the scale but also the direction of change. Modal shift has occurred more quickly than anticipated in the current Mayoral transport strategy. Department for Transport car ownership modelling has overpredicted the size of London's car fleet (Whelan, 2007). Such gaps between forecasts and reality also have implications for the accuracy of emissions modelling, including estimates of carbon emissions from transport. This paper analyses the factors underpinning Peak Car in London, with particular focus on the institutional and policy features unique to the city. The extent to which the establishment of Transport for London in 2000 was a prerequisite for subsequent policy interventions is discussed. The implications of Peak Car in London for transport planning are then considered. Questions posed include: does Peak Car in London produce a netting-out problem for national forecasts? Can the differences in demand for car travel between London and the rest of England be adequately captured using elasticities? And what transferable lessons can be taken from London regarding transport planning and the efficacy of policy?
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2 Sept 2016
EventThe Royal Geographical Society Annual International Conference 2016 - The Royal Geographical Society, London, United Kingdom
Duration: 30 Aug 20162 Sept 2016


ConferenceThe Royal Geographical Society Annual International Conference 2016
Abbreviated titleRGS-IBG 2016
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


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