Relentless Automobility: An analysis from three perspectives

By Jérôme Laviolette, Catherine Morency, E. Owen D. Waygood

The phenomenon of “peak-car”, the growth in the use of active and collective modes and a renewed interest in more dense, mixed and human scale urban developments, all raise the question of the decline of car mobilities. A three-perspective analysis framework is proposed to assess, on the one hand, whether this decline is real and, on the other hand, whether it is accompanied by a paradigm shift in transport and urban planning that would indicate the end of automobility. The question is applied specifically for the province of Quebec and its two metropolitan areas, Montreal and Quebec. As a first perspective, the analysis of motorization and automobile use indicators reveals a sustained increase in car mobility over the past two decades. As a second perspective, the analysis of official planning documents and framework policies for mobility and urban development reveals an adequate understanding of mobility issues, but an uneven recognition of dependence on the automobile. In addition, none of the municipal and metropolitan documents presents specific objectives for reducing car use or car ownership. Finally, from a third perspective, the priority given to some infrastructure projects are not consistent with the objectives and visions of planning documents. Indeed, the benefits expected from ambitious public transit projects are compromised by highway development projects in Montreal as well as in Quebec City. The justifications for these road projects come from a classic planning paradigm widely shown to be outdated and inadequate. The priority given to them seems to stem from political resistance to a paradigm shift. Taken together, these three perspectives tend to show that despite certain positive signs, the decline in automobile mobility, which would be based on a real shift of paradigm in transportation and urban planning, does not seem to have started in Quebec.

  • car dependency
  • automobility
  • urban planning
  • transport policy
  • transportation infrastructures
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