Developments in passenger transport

In the Basis scenario, traffic volume grows less markedly over the next 30 years than the increase in population would suggest. On the one hand, demographic ageing reduces the share of the most mobile part of the population, i.e. the workforce. On the other hand, the socioeconomic development will reduce the distances travelled for commuting or shopping activities. Instead, we will travel more in our leisure time.

Key results on passenger transport relate to transport use. This is expressed in person-kilometres (pkm) per year. A 10km trip by one person in one car results in a value of 10pkm, while the same trip by two people, together and in the same car, gives a value of 20pkm. In the description of the results, the focus is on the Basis scenario.

Transport use grows at a disproportionately low rate compared to the population

From 2017 to 2050, the population will grow by approximately 21 per cent. Meanwhile, transport use in the Basis scenario increases by 11 per cent, i.e. it grows at a disproportionately low rate compared to the population. To provide a comparison: between 2010 and 2019, the population grew by 9 per cent, while transport use increased at a rate of 13 per cent. One reason for this is that the average age of the population is rising and thus the number of people in work as a proportion of the total population is falling.

The disproportionately low growth in traffic becomes particularly clear when one considers the use of passenger cars alone, rather than all modes of transport; this increases by only three per cent in the Basis scenario. This means that although more people will be living in Switzerland in 2050, car traffic increases only slightly compared to today. The number of vehicle-kilometres remains roughly at the current level. One reason for the stagnating vehicle-kilometres is that more people share vehicle use overall.

In contrast, there is a large increase in public transport use (29 per cent) and cycling (97 per cent). The individual trips made using these modes of transport get longer; in particular, public transport is used more for long-distance trips. In the case of pedestrian traffic, the average distances are constant across all scenarios.
In the Business-as-Usual scenario (BAU), transport volume of cars develops in step with population growth. The greatest increase in vehicle-kilometres occurs in the Individualised Society (InS) scenario, at 22 per cent.

Shift in the share of public transport, walking and cycling in transport use

The modal split is calculated as the percentage of the different modes of transport in overall transport use. In the Basis scenario, public transport use increases by 3.4 percentage points. Cycling increases by 1.7 percentage points, and passenger car use decreases by 5.4 points. Despite the decline in passenger car use, in this scenario two in every three kilometres are still travelled by car in 2050. Only in the Individualised Society (InS) scenario does passenger car use as a share of the total transport use increase compared to today.

Major changes in mobility behaviour from the 2030s onwards

In the Basis and Sustainable Society (SuS) scenarios it is assumed that private vehicle use will become more expensive than public transport use from around 2035. This is because measures are implemented which take into account the external costs for using a private car, and there is a greater tendency towards higher subsidises in public transport.

Owing to the increased costs of passenger car use, in the Basis and Sustainable Society scenarios more smaller cars are purchased. The share of medium-sized and large passenger cars decreases. In the Individualised Society scenario, there is a growing trend towards medium-sized and large vehicles.

Based on Energy Perspectives 2050+, the Transport Outlook depicts an ambitious development in vehicle engines. In particular, the high penetration of electrically powered vehicles in the Sustainable Society scenario reflects a package of policy measures aiming to achieve 2050 net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

Automated vehicles and on-demand transport become established

It is assumed that there will be a boom in highly automated vehicles from about 2035 onwards. These are vehicles that assist drivers with keeping in lane, keeping to the speed limit and braking; in some cases, they are entirely self-driving. The share of automated passenger cars will increase to around six per cent in 2040 and to 32 per cent in 2050 in the Business-as-Usual and Basis scenarios.

The share of automated delivery vans and commercial vehicles grows even faster: here, projections suggest that seven per cent of all vehicles will be automated in 2040 and 39 per cent in 2050. Even higher penetration is assumed in the Sustainable Society and Individualised Society scenarios.

In future, we may be making increasing use of on-demand call buses, which operate only when required. It is also conceivable that parts of the fleet will be driverless after 2035. In the 2050 Basis scenario their share is still low, but nonetheless on the increase.

Road network and public transport capacity remain stretched

In the Basis scenario, the distance travelled increases when passenger and freight traffic are considered together. However, this is not because of an increase in private car use, but because the volume of road freight traffic rises. There are more vans and heavy goods vehicles on the road. In particular, the distance travelled by vans rises markedly, by 58 per cent.

Only in the Sustainable Society scenario is there a reduction in road use. In all other scenarios, it continues to rise. There are still many bottlenecks in the road network. In the Basis scenario, the increase in distance travelled flattens out from 2035 onwards, partly owing to the increase in the cost of passenger car use from 2035 mentioned above.

In public transport, passenger numbers increase consistently until 2050, with the exception of some routes in the Individualised Society scenario. The necessary capacities are provided by the expansion of public transport as set out in the Transport Outlook. Rail transport, which is mainly used for longer trips, develops more dynamically than local public transport.

Less commuting, more recreational traffic

People make fewer trips to work and to shop, but more trips for recreational purposes. One major reason for this is digitalisation. For example, thanks to video conferencing, a business appointment no longer requires a 100-kilometre drive, so there is more time for an evening stroll. The Transport Outlook assumes that working from home will become a permanent feature of working life. In the Basis scenario, employees who are able to work from home will spend half of their working time doing so in 2050. This results in 13 per cent fewer commutes than today, despite the increase in the number of people in work.

Shopping trips are increasingly replaced by online shopping in all scenarios, and this means a parallel increase in delivery van trips. While fewer shopping and work trips are made, this is balanced out by people making more leisure trips. These are usually shorter and are therefore more likely to be made on foot or by bicycle. The number of trips a person makes in a day is not drastically different in each scenario.

Change in length of trips

In all scenarios, assumptions and developments influence the distances we will travel in the future; for example, spatial planning determines the distances between the places we live and the places we work, shop or pursue leisure activities. These distances differ according to scenario.

In the Basis scenario, longer distances are covered by bicycle, in particular electric bike. For long trips, transport users favour the train. This is because trains are not slowed down by congestion, and because train travel allows passengers time for activities not possible when driving.

Only the Individualised Society scenario presents a different picture; because of the high degree of urban sprawl assumed in the scenario, which includes workplaces, sometimes there are shorter distances between places of residence and places of work. Furthermore, public transport is significantly more expensive over long distances in this scenario, as it is less subsidised. As a result, people tend to seek destinations closer to home.

Regionalised transport development for Switzerland

In the Transport Outlook, differentiated statements on transport developments can be made for individual regions. The national passenger transport model calculates the number of trips made for each mode of transport for almost 8,000 traffic zones in Switzerland. Many results can be summarised and can be used by the cantons.

The importance of pedestrian traffic becomes clear when considering the number of trips made. In 2050, as today, every third trip made in Switzerland will be on foot. There are differences between the more rural and more urban cantons. For example, in more rural cantons, such as Appenzell Ausserrhoden or Uri, over 20 per cent of all trips will be made on foot, while in more urban cantons, such as Basel-Stadt and Geneva, this figure rises to 50 per cent. Furthermore, people in more urban cantons make an above-average number of trips on public transport.

For Switzerland as a whole, these trends are stronger in the Basis scenario than today: more trips are made on foot, by bicycle or using public transport.

The traffic loads per segment of the rail and road networks are available as a map on the federal geoportal.


Transport Landscape 2050: Assumptions

Assumptions about developments in population, the economy and spatial structures and in political, technological and social developments affecting transport.

Scenarios and methodology

Description of the four different scenarios and how their underlying assumptions, described in the previous chapter, vary depending on the scenario.

Developments in passenger transport

Results for the development of passenger transport in different scenarios and with varying time horizons.

Developments in freight transport

Results for the development of freight transport in different scenarios and with varying time horizons.