Determinants of Commuter Trends and Implications for Indirect Rebound Effects: A Case Study of Germany's Largest Federal State of NRW, 1994-2013
Institute for Future Energy Consumer Needs and Behavior (FCN) Working Paper No. 9/2014
39 Pages Posted: 6 Dec 2014
Date Written: September 1, 2014
Home-work commuting distances are increasing in Europe. Many studies see this as due to geographical mismatches between workplaces and homes, or worker skills and job locations, and often recommend policies to close geographical gaps between jobs and suitable workers. A different approach sees commuting as essential in a modern economy, as it facilitates information flow across complex economic networks in geographically dispersed regions. In this ‘city-network’ view, many workers make deliberate choices to commute and many employers encourage this. This paper explores these viewpoints in a case study of increasing commuting in Germany’s most populous state, North-Rhine-Westphalia, in 1994-2013, using Federal data on workers’ home and work locations. It finds an average annual increase in commuter numbers of 1.35%, from 43% to 55% of the workforce. Some of this increase can be explained by worker skills and job location mismatches, but steady increases in various commuting metrics lead to the suggestion that commuting is also something people choose to do. This supports the city-network hypothesis, and also implies a rebound effect of increased travel due to increased economy-wide energy efficiency. Qualitative and quantitative studies are needed to identify the actual reasons people commute, and to more accurately estimate rebound effects.
Keywords: Commuting, city networks, rebound effect
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