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Travel, Economic Growth, and Population (1970–2013)
Sources: Bureau of Transportation Statistics, National Transportation Statistics, Table 1-35, March 2014, http://www.rita.dot.gov/bts/sites/rita.dot.gov.bts/files/publications/national_transportation_statistics/html/table_01_35.html
U.S. Census Bureau, Population Division, Table 1, Annual Estimates of the Resident Population for the United States, Regions, States, and Puerto Rico: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2014 (NST-EST2014-01), http://www.census.gov/popest/data/national/totals/2014/NST-EST2014-alldata.html
U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Economic Analysis, National Economic Accounts, May 2015, http://www.bea.gov/National/index.htm
U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, The Employment Situation–February 2015, http://www.bls.gov/news.release/archives/empsit_03062015.pdf
Since 1970, growth in VMT has far outpaced population growth. VMT growth tracked closely with economic growth until the mid-2000s, but has since leveled off even as gross domestic product has increased.
Surface Passenger Miles Traveled (1990–2012)
Source: Bureau of Transportation Statistics, National Transportation Statistics, Table 1-40, January 2015, http://www.rita.dot.gov/bts/sites/rita.dot.gov.bts/files/publications/national_transportation_statistics/html/table_01_40.html
Between 1990 and 2012, the number of surface passenger miles traveled increased by 418 billion. Americans use cars more than any other form of ground transportation–98 percent of all passenger miles were traveled in personal vehicles (automobiles, motorcycles, and light-duty trucks) in 2012. From 1990 to 2012, transit and intercity bus and rail use increased by 18.8 billion passenger miles, or 26 percent.
FHWA anticipates growth in total VMT by all vehicle types to average 1.04 percent annually from 2013-2033. Growth in total VMT is expected to slow to only about 0.2 percent annually during the ensuing decade (2033-2043), reducing the average growth rate over the entire 30-year forecast period (2013-2043) to 0.76 percent annually. This represents a significant slowdown from the growth in total VMT experienced over the past 30 years, which averaged 2.08 percent annually.
Source: FHWA Forecasts of Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT): May 2015, Office of Highway Policy Information Federal Highway Administration, June 5, 2015, https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/policyinformation/tables/vmt/
Source: U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey, 2009, Supplemental Table A, http://www.census.gov/newsroom/releases/pdf/supplemental_table_a.pdf
Americans commute to work in single-occupant vehicles more than by any other method. In 2000, 76 percent of the workforce drove to work alone. That percentage increased to 79 percent in 2009. The share of people commuting by transit and carpooling declined slightly in the same period.
Source: FHWA 2009 National Household Travel Survey, Summary of Travel Trends, Table 5, January 2011, http://nhts.ornl.gov/2009/pub/stt.pdf
Commuting has declined significantly as a share of all vehicle trips. In 2001, 22 percent of all vehicle trips were made traveling to or from work. By 2009, only 16 percent of all trips were made for traveling to or from work.
The ability of our nation's transportation system to provide for and maintain the efficient movement of freight is important to the continuing economic health of the United States. Between 1997 and 2012, the amount of freight moved by truck and rail grew by 5 percent each.
Growth in Truck and Rail Freight Movement (1997-2012)
Source: U.S. Department of Transportation, Bureau of Transportation Statistics, Transportation Commodity Flow Survey, June 2015, http://www.rita.dot.gov/bts/sites/rita.dot.gov.bts/files/publications/commodity_flow_survey/2012/united_states/table1b
In 2012, trucks and rail carried the largest percentage of domestic commercial ton- miles, followed by pipeline, water, and multimodal.
Percentage of U.S. Commercial Freight Movement (2012)
Source: U.S. Department of Transportation, Bureau of Transportation Statistics, Transportation Commodity Flow Survey, Table 1a, June 2015, http://www.rita.dot.gov/bts/sites/rita.dot.gov.bts/files/publications/commodity_flow_survey/2012/united_states/table1a
Diesel exhaust from freight vehicles is a primary source of PM2.5, air toxic contaminants, and NOx emissions. Freight emissions comprise close to one-third of U.S. transportation greenhouse gas emissions. This growth in freight movement and accompanying increase in emissions has led to a growing need to find new ways to address air quality concerns and greenhouse gas emissions associated with freight movement.
Marine cargo vessels and port complexes are a large source of diesel freight emissions. In addition to cargo ships, ports use cranes, hostlers, and other equipment powered by diesel fuel. Cargo vessels typically burn bunker fuel. They are a major contributor to air quality issues in coastal regions. Cargo ships usually switch to their auxiliary engines to provide power for ship operations while they are in port. Although some auxiliary engines use cleaner fuel than the main engines, they still contribute to localized air pollution around port complexes since the ships may be idling for days at a time. To combat this problem, many ports are constructing shore power (also known as cold ironing) systems that provide cleaner electrical power to cargo vessels while they are in port.
Source: Federal Highway Administration, Freight and Air Quality Handbook, May 2010, http://www.ops.fhwa.dot.gov/publications/fhwahop10024/index.htm
Growth of VMT and Lane Mileage (1990–2013)
Source: U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration, Highway Statistics 2013 (Washington, DC: Annual Issues), Table VM-422C, https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/policyinformation/statistics.cfm
Despite significant growth in VMT, lane miles have increased only slightly since 1990. Over more than 20 years, VMT has increased 37 percent, while lane miles have increased only 7 percent. This is mitigated somewhat by targeted traffic flow improvements in some communities that enhance capacity without additional lane mileage.