Americans Moving Greener, New Federal Data Shows

Americans are walking, cycling, and taking transit more. (Percentages do not add up to 100% -- not all modes are included in this chart.)

Americans are making a significantly higher share of daily trips on transit, on foot, and by bicycle, according to newly released data from the Federal Highway Administration. Together, walking and bicycling trips now account for 11.9 percent of all personal trips, up from 9.5 percent in 2001, a growth in mode share of 25 percent. Transit’s mode share increased by 23.5 percent, while the share of trips taken by car, motorcycle, and truck or SUV dropped by 4.4 percent.

The new data is from the 2009 National Household Travel Survey (NHTS), which collects one-day travel diaries from 150,000 households across the U.S. Dating back to 1969 (when it was called the National Personal Transportation Survey), the NHTS is the most authoritative national source of travel behavior. Because it captures data on trips made for all purposes (commuting, shopping, visiting friends, etc.), and even separates trip segments (a walk to the subway followed by a subway trip to work is counted as two separate trips), the NHTS provides a far more comprehensive picture of how Americans get around than the Census, which reflects only commuting.

Of course, the good news for walking, bicycling and transit use may reflect fluctuating gasoline prices and the current economic recession (respondents were surveyed between March 2008 and April 2009). But when asked to interpret the findings, FHWA staff told MTR that “the general public is more aware of the need to walk and bike for environmental and health reasons, thus they make more of those trips and they report more of them in our survey.”

Image: TSTC table using data from 2009 and 2001 National Household Travel Surveys.

1 Comment on "Americans Moving Greener, New Federal Data Shows"

  1. Proof that traffic forecasting models need to be updated.

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