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Key departmental publications, e.g. annual reports, budget papers and program guidelines are available in our online archive.

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Using the Concept of Effective Speed as a Stimulus for Travel Behaviour Change and Policy Development

A report by Dr Paul Tranter and Dr Murray May
For the
Australian Greenhouse Office, Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2005

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Executive Summary

This project follows the publication of a paper on effective speed by Paul Tranter (2004) on, hosted by the Australian Greenhouse Office. This paper explored how desire for speed and for 'saving time' is a motivator for many people in their choice of mode of transport, and argued that the perceived speeds of transport modes are often false when the full costs of time involved are considered. Effective speed is calculated using the formula: speed equals distance divided by time. For effective speed, 'time' includes the total time devoted to transport, including time spent earning money to pay all the costs created by a particular mode of transport. Effective speeds for cars can be lower than a bicycle or a bus, even before taking into account the external costs of transport.

The project reported on here sought to examine the potential use of the effective speed concept to stimulate travel behaviour change, and involved interviewing key stakeholders in Australian transport policy and practice. Those interviewed generally supported the use of effective speed as a valuable concept in promoting sustainable transport policies and practices. Effective speed was seen as a holistic concept that could have useful application in encouraging people to reconsider the perceived advantages and disadvantages for differing modes of travel.

The interviewees identified the need to communicate the meaning of effective speed in an easily understood and succinct manner. Effective speed could be integrated within travel behaviour change programs such as TravelSmart. This would involve testing the ideas in household, workplace and school settings to explore how the effective speed concept can be applied in each case. We outline four possible pilot projects to further test such possibilities.

Two thirds of those interviewed considered that effective speed could be used to influence policymakers and politicians. The effective speed concept can offer new insights, and can support existing sustainable transport initiatives. A coordinated approach to applying the effective speed concept needs to tie in with a range of sustainable transport policies, including land use planning, traffic free precincts, traffic calming, road pricing, congestion charges and promoting car sharing schemes.

A coordinated and integrated communications campaign would optimise the promotion of the effective speed idea. This would involve in part, an extended media program over a period of several years in order to achieve changes in people's perceptions. Such a campaign would be part of a package encompassing social marketing and the expansion of travel behaviour change programs, leadership from politicians, and the presence of appropriate price signals.

Using the concept of effective speed as a stimulus for travel behaviour change and policy development The concept of effective speed has been raised in earlier times, for example by Henry David Thoreau in the 19th century and Ivan Illich in the 20th century. As a way of holistically evaluating various travel modes, it can and should be used now in the early 21st century in promoting sustainable transport policies and practices.

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