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Contemporary lifestyles and the implications for sustainable development policy: lessons from the UK's most car dependent city, Belfast

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  • Architecture And The Built Environment
  • Ecology


The rise in demand for car travel is fuelled more by the increased spatial separation of homes and workplaces, shops and schools than by any rise in trip making. Belfast is one of the most car dependent cities in the United Kingdom. A major household survey was intended to inform an understanding of the likely behavioural response to sustainable development policy initiatives. The survey was one of a series of linked tools within a wider EPSRC Sustainable Cities Project research project. Insights into consumer responses to the various policy measures considered in the overall project were drawn in part from the stated preference experiments included in the household survey. Initiatives included improved domestic energy efficiency, increased densification of housing, improved public transport and the introduction of traffic restraint measures such as road user charges. There were signs of some willingness to accept moderately higher densities on the basis that residents would be compensated by a lower than otherwise purchase price. The typical effect of introducing road pricing say at £1.00 per day equated to a reduction in property values of some 2.5% while the absence of any apparent statistical significance generated by the public transport variable reflects its current lack of credibility as an alternative to the car. While Belfast may not be wholly typical, it does offer a warning of the extent of the challenge faced by policy makers in more car dominated cities in the UK and beyond.

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