U.S. Department of Transportation
Federal Highway Administration
1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
Washington, DC 20590

Skip to content

Policy and Governmental Affairs
Office of Highway Policy Information

FHWA Home / Policy & Governmental Affairs / Highway Policy Information / Office of Highway Policy Information

National Household Travel Survey – Presentations – Office of Highway Policy Information (OHPI)


National Household Travel Survey

Printable Version [PDF, 458KB]
PDF files can be viewed with the Acrobat® Reader®

Highway Information Seminar
  November 17, 2011


Adella Santos, NHTS Program Manager
  FHWA, Office of Highway Policy


Today's Talk

  • Background of the NHTS
  • NHTS Program
  • Data Collected
  • Example of data uses



  • Started in 1969-at Census as a Face to Face Interview
  • Collected information on the American Publics daily travel.
  • 1977 switched to DOT, FHWA as a telephone survey Periodically conducted as a telephone survey every 5 to 7 years
  • Labeled the "Flagship" of US travel surveys.


Heavy Traffic on Highway

Uses of NHTS

  • Measure the amount, type and trends in travel for national policies and programs
  • Determine vehicle or pedestrian exposure for safety measures (fatalities/million miles of travel)
  • Provide or compare trip rates for local transportation planning and air-quality analys
  • Research the mobility of groups: elderly, immigrants, school children, low income
  • Commuting trends and comparison to Journey-to-Work Census Data


The information NHTS can provide:

Congestion: Trends in commute patterns and peak travel

Fleet mix and fuel use: Hybrids, SUVs growth and use

Safety: (drivers, passengers, and pedestrian)

Mobility Issues: Older drivers and non-drivers

Trends in basic travel measures: Changes in the components of VMT: Drivers, workers, vehicles, trip rates auto occupancy


NHTS Program Structure

Chart showing the two components of the NHTS program.


The NHTS Program – Two Components

  • National Study
    • Serves the department, congress, and administration
    • Also resource for state and MPOs (forecasting and benchmarking) and public interest groups
    • 40 years of trend data on U.S. travel behavior
    • Sample size of 25,000 households
  • Add-On Program
    • Service to states and MPOs since 1990
    • Allows States and MPOs to purchase additional samples for their local area
    • Program participation has doubled every survey year (Currently sample size of 125,000 households)


Add-On Funding Process

  • Each Add-On pays for their number of additional samples
  • Add-On Funds Use
    • 90 Percent for data collection and data file delivery
    • 10 Percent for program management, quality assurance, and data analysis.
  • Use FHWA Pooled Fund mechanism for encouraging participation


2009 Add-On Participants

Map show the NHTS Add-On participants. South Dakota DOT Cedar Rapids, IA - Iowa DOT Wisconsin DOT Vermont DOT - Chittenden CO New York State DOT Omaha, Nebraska Indiana DOT Tennessee DOT North Carolina DOT Greensboro, NC Maricopa, AZ - Pima, AZ Texas DOT Georgia DOT South Carolina DOT


Contents of Questionnaire

Chart shows type of information collected for each data set. For Each Vehicle: Make, Model, Age (year), How long owned*, Odometer readings For Each Household: Number of people, Number of drivers, Number of Workers, Number of vehicles, Income From 'For Each Household' to For Each Person' For Each Person: Age, Sex, Driver status, Worker Status, Annual Miles Arrow from 'For Each Household' to 'For Each Vehicle' Arrow from 'for Each Vehicle, 'For Each Vehicle, Household and Person' to 'Daily Travel Data' Daily Travel Data: Origin and Destination address (for add-ons); Time trip started and ended; Distance; Means of transportation: 1. vehicle type, 2. if household vehicle, which one, 3 if transit, wait time, 4. if transit, access and egress mod*; Detailed purpose*; Number of passengers on trip: Most recent trip for non-travelers (date)*


Trip definition is from one address to another by all modes

Figure shows which a trips are collected.


2009 NHTS Travel Data

  • 151,000 Household interviews and 320,000 person interviews
  • Collected travel of those ages 5+
  • The goal of the NHTS was to achieve an even distribution of travel days across all days of the week.
  • Travel Day was randomly assigned when the telephone number was sampled.


Nature of Congestion

  • Peak Period travel is complex
  • Commuters are making incidental stops before and after work.
  • Stopping for different reasons (childcare, coffee, pharmacy, school age drop-offs, groceries, meals)
  • Incidental stops are during peak time


Non work trips add to Congestion

Graph shows time periods of travel during congested periods.


Non Work Related Travel During Peak Period

Graph shows Peak Travel during the entire week.

Pct of 2009 Weekday Peak Period Travel Not Related to Work
Mon-Thu AM Peak 0.50879
Friday AM Peak 0.52095
Mon-Thu PM Peak 0.65451


2009-Mandatory Peak travel About 2/3 of AM But About 1/3 PM.

Graph shows percent of travel during peak travel by purpose.


The majority of peak vehicle trips are made by workers… both mandatory and flexible

Graph shows when commuters travel during peak for either mandatory reasons or non-mandatory.


Approximately 30% of AM and 25% of PM Mandatory trips use an interstate

Another chart showing peak travel vehicle trips.

Use Interstate/Toll road on Trip
  Precent of Vehicle Trips
All Trips Mandatory
AM Peak 21 29
PM Peak 29 25


Many workers have the ability to change their work arrival time.

Pie chart show percentage people said they can change work arrival time. Other (WAH/No fixed WP): 9.8 Percent Yest, 35.9 Percent No, 54.3 Percent



Speed plays a role
Types of Vehicles


Fleet: Distribution of HH Vehicles by Vehicle Age

Graph show percentage of how households that have cars for a number of years.


Mobility: As we age we tend to drive fewer miles.

Chart shows the annual vehicle miles driven by age group.


Trends of 2009 Trip Rates by Race/Hispanic Status

Graph shows trip rates by ethnicity.


Good Decisions depend on good Data…

Graph shows the integration of different data sets help policy decision makers.


Thank you!

Adella Santos
NHTS Program Manger
202-366 5021


Page last modified on November 7, 2014.
Federal Highway Administration | 1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE | Washington, DC 20590 | 202-366-4000