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Annual Vehicle Miles of Travel

Area Graph showing annual vehicle miles of travel from 1960 to 2000, for total, urban, and rural

Source: Office of Highway Policy Information, Federal Highway Administration

Annual travel on the Nation's highways reached an estimated 2.7 trillion vehicle-miles in 2000, or earn four times the level in 1960. Travel grew about 47% during the 1960's, another 38% in the 1970's, and another 37% in the 1980's, and another 26% in the 1990's.

Annual travel on roads and streets in urban areas accounted for 1.7 trillion vehicle-miles in 2000 or 61% of total travel compared 44% in 1960. Compared to the urban travel growth of 45% in the 1990's, rural travel grew 27%. Much of the urban travel growth can be attributed to expanding urban boundaries.

Travel by Vehicle Type

Line chart of travel by vehicle type from 1970 to 2000

Travel by all motor vehicles has increased by 148% compared to 1970. Truck travel has increased 231% since 1970. This includes travel by combination trucks and single-unit trucks. Combination truck travel is up over 285% and now accounts for 4.9% of total annual vehicle-miles of travel versus 3.2% in 1970. The most dramatic increase in travel has been by other 2-axle, 4-tire vehicles with an increase of 650% since 1970. This rapid increase is due to the popularity of minivans, pickup trucks, and sport utility vehicles. The percentage of annual travel by passenger cars in relation to travel by all vehicles has decreased from 82.9% in 1970 to 58.6% in 2000.

Rural Interstate Travel by Vehicle Type (Distribution of Average Daily Traffic Volumes and Equivalent Axle Loads 1/ on the Rural Interstate System as a Percent of Total)

Bar chart showing rural interstate by vehicle type

1/ Equivalent axle loads provide a means of measuring vehicle wear on pavement by relating them to an 80 kilonewton (18,000 pound) single axle load.

2/ All 2-axle, 4-tire trucks. Includes pickup trucks, vans and other vehicles (such as campers, motor homes, etc.).

3/ All vehicles on a single frame having either 2 axles and 6 tires of 3 or more axles (including camping and recreational vehicles and motor homes

On rural Interstate routes in 2000, combination trucks with 5 or more axles accounted for 18% of average daily traffic but 89% of equivalent axle loads. All other vehicle accounted for 82% of average daily traffic but only 11% of traffic loads. Form 1990 to 2000, traffic on the rural Interstate routes increased by 36.4% and the equivalent axle loads increased by 88.3%.

Distribution of Person Trips and Person Miles by Purpose

Bar chart illustrating trips and miles by purpose of the trip

Source: Federal Highway Administration, 1995 Nationwide Personal Transportation Survey.

The 1995 NPTS data provides information on the reasons for travel. Family and personal business, which includes shopping and services such as haircuts, car repair and banking, accounts for 46% of all person trips and about 35% of person miles. Social and recreational trips, which include visiting friends and relatives, attending movies and parties, and participating in sports, comprise 25% of all trips and account for 31% of all miles. Trips to work and for work-related purposes, such as attending a meeting constitute 20% of person trips and 28% of person miles. The average person trip length, encompassing all trip purposes is 9.1 miles, and the average commute to work is 11.6 miles.

Walk/Bike Trips by Purpose

Line graph showing Walk/Bike trips by purpose of trip

Source: Federal Highway Administration, 1995 Nationwide Personal Transportation Survey.

The data from the 1995 NPTS shows that there are approximately 56 million daily walk trips in the U.S. Family and personal business rips, which are usually the shortest trips, account for just over 43% of all walk trips. Social and recreational activities share another 34%, with the remainder of walk trips for going to school, church or work.

The majority of bike trips, 60%, are for visiting friends and relatives and other social and recreational activities. Another 22% are for shopping and other family and personal business. Only 8% are for travel to and from work, which is not surprising given increasing work trip lengths and weather comparisons.

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United States Department of Transportation - Federal Highway Administration