[Cross-posted] At high school, one teacher told us that he was proud of the fact that New Zealand, when he was younger, had the highest car ownership rate in the world, due to our world-beating standard of living in the 1950s. In the 1980s, we were still in the top ﬁve, but behind the US and Japan.
It’s still high today, but it’s hardly anything to be proud of. As the mood of our society has changed toward one that is more environmentally conscious, car ownership is not as cool as it once was—in fact, car ownership may be said to be warming things up. Still, the love affair with the car has not abated, and with India now getting excited over the Tata Nano, we may see a slight change in ownership rates there.
Here are the 2004 ownership rates from Earth Trends, which suggest that we have been lousy at getting public transportation up to speed with consumer demands. Still no one has considered putting wiﬁ into trains, even if Singapore Airlines has done so with planes for years. About the only innovation that I have seen are the GPSs that tell people at a bus stop how far away their bus is. They aren’t enough.
There seems to be little correlation between ownership and petrol prices. Iceland leads the table these days, and their petrol costs more than any western country I know of. There are other interpretations which I won’t go in to for a casual blog post.
I have compiled this manually, so there may be errors or omissions in the ordering. The number is vehicles per 1,000 people. I have only noted 450 and up. Japan is just outside at 441, which suggests, inter alia, relative progress in public transportation since I last looked at these stats in the 1980s. We and the US seem to have swapped places in the last 20-odd years, which to me means that the Americans have done better with public transportation than we have.
One of the few good sides to our stats is that New Zealand is a spread-out country with low population density where the car is more a necessity. The other favourable interpretation is that there are more young men buying cars, whereas 20 years ago they could only afford a motorcycle. Environmentally, this might not be ideal, and young men are high-risk for insurers—but the ﬂip side is that they stand a better chance of surviving inside a car than on a bike.
Whatever the interpretations, I dont believe these are useful indicators of a societys afﬂuence any more.
592 New Zealand
451 UK Posted by Jack Yan, 00:40
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