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Publication Number:  FHWA-HRT-16-082    Date:  August 2017
Publication Number: FHWA-HRT-16-082
Date: August 2017


Federal Highway Administration Research and Technology Evaluation: National Household Travel Survey Program Final Report

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As of April 2018, this online document was modified in the following way:

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Location Corrected Values URL
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Compendium of Uses https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/publications/research/randt/evaluations/16082/001.cfm#01
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NTHS Compendium of Uses https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/publications/research/randt/evaluations/16082/003.cfm#02
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more diffuse https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/publications/research/randt/evaluations/16082/004.cfm#05
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CAFE https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/publications/research/randt/evaluations/16082/004.cfm#06
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Place https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/publications/research/randt/evaluations/16082/004.cfm#11
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the White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity.(52) https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/publications/research/randt/evaluations/16082/004.cfm#12
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Bike and walk trips to school (used as a baseline measure of “How Kids Get to School,” and set the goal of increasing by 50% (by 2015) the percentage of children who take walking and biking trips to school.)

Human Services’ 10-year agenda, providing national guidelines for public health.
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The results from these models enable States and MPOs to meet reporting requirements as specified in the Clean Air Act (CAA).(56) https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/publications/research/randt/evaluations/16082/004.cfm#14
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Communicating Information Derived from National Household Travel Survey, Part 2 https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/publications/research/randt/evaluations/16082/004.cfm#15
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April 2015 https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/publications/research/randt/evaluations/16082/004.cfm#16
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and the MOVES model.(51) https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/publications/research/randt/evaluations/16082/006.cfm#17
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Are there other decision-making contexts in which your NHTS work has had an impact? https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/publications/research/randt/evaluations/16082/008.cfm#18
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decision-making contexts https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/publications/research/randt/evaluations/16082/008.cfm#22
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decision-making process https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/publications/research/randt/evaluations/16082/008.cfm#23
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Non-DOT https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/publications/research/randt/evaluations/16082/008.cfm#26
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Impact on Policy, Program, or Project (d) https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/publications/research/randt/evaluations/16082/008.cfm#27
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DC https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/publications/research/randt/evaluations/16082/010.cfm#28



The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Research and Technology Program furthers the FHWA’s Office of Research, Development, and Technology’s (RD&T) goal of ensuring transparency, accessibility, and responsiveness of RD&T for all stakeholders.

This report examines outcomes associated with the National Household Travel Survey (NHTS) program, namely (1) the extent of NHTS survey usage; (2) the impact of the NHTS Program on policy, project, and regulatory decisionmaking; and (3) the responsiveness of the NHTS Program to its user community.

This report should be of interest to FHWA staff, the NHTS user community, and transportation professionals involved in travel behavior modeling, survey research, and evaluation.

Michael Trentacoste

Associate Administrator
Research, Development, and Technology (RD&T)


This document is disseminated under the sponsorship of the U.S. Department of Transportation in the interest of information exchange. The U.S. Government assumes no liability for the use of the information contained in this document.

The U.S. Government does not endorse products or manufacturers. Trademarks or manufacturers’ names appear in this report only because they are considered essential to the objective of the document.

Quality Assurance Statement

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) provides high-quality information to serve Government, industry, and the public in a manner that promotes public understanding. Standards and policies are used to ensure and maximize the quality, objectivity, utility, and integrity of its information. FHWA periodically reviews quality issues and adjusts its programs and processes to ensure continuous quality improvement.


Technical Report Documentation Page

1. Report No.


2. Government Accession No. 3 Recipient's Catalog No.
4. Title and Subtitle

Federal Highway Administration Research and Technology Evaluation: National Household Travel Survey Program Final Report

5. Report Date

August 2017

6. Performing Organization Code

OST-R V-321

7. Author(s)

Lora Chajka-Cadin, Margaret Petrella, Chris Timmel, Emily Futcher, and Jacob Mittleman

8. Performing Organization Report No.


9. Performing Organization Name and Address

Volpe National Transportation Systems Center
55 Broadway
Cambridge, MA

10. Work Unit No. (TRAIS)

11. Contract or Grant No.
12. Sponsoring Agency Name and Address

Office of Corporate Research, Technology, and Innovation Management
Federal Highway Administration
6300 Georgetown Pike
McLean, VA 22101-2296

13. Type of Report and Period Covered

Final Report, November 2014 to October 2015

14. Sponsoring Agency Code


15. Supplementary Notes

John Moulden was the Research and Technology Program Manager and the Contracting Officer's Representative for contract DTFH for this program summary.

16. Abstract

This evaluation of the NHTS Program addresses three key questions: 1) What is the breadth and depth of NHTS usage? 2) What impact does the NHTS Program have on policy, project, or regulatory decisionmaking? 3) How responsive is the NHTS Program to its user community? Although it is difficult to trace the specific impacts of the NHTS data, the evaluation found many examples demonstrating that NHTS data inform a range of policy and legislative decisions, both within transportation and in other fields (e.g., health, energy). In some cases, NHTS provides context and understanding for how, when, and why Americans travel, as well as trends in travel. This context helps make the case for particular policy or legislative initiatives. In other cases, NHTS is an important data input to a model or statistical analysis, which is used, in turn, to influence policy or legislation. At the State and local levels, NHTS has its greatest impact in developing, calibrating, or validating travel demand models that are used to inform transportation planning and project selection. The report also identifies challenges and lessons learned regarding survey planning, survey administration,and outreach and offers a set of recommendations to improve program effectiveness.

17. Key Words

National Household Travel Survey

18. Distribution Statement

No restrictions. This document is available through the National Technical Information Service,
Springfield, VA 22161.

19. Security Classification
(of this report)


20. Security Classification
(of this page)


21. No. of Pages


22. Price
Form DOT F 1700.7 (8-72) Reproduction of completed page authorized

SI* (Modern Metric) Conversion Factors

Table of Contents

Executive Summary

1.   Introduction

2.   Evaluation Design

3.   Evaluation Findings

4.   Recommendations

5.   Conclusion

Appendix A.   Interviewees

Appendix B.   Interview Guides

Appendix C.   Email Contact Language

6.   References

List of Figures

Figure 1. NHTS Logic Model.
Figure 2. NHTS website traffic, July 2013–May 2015.
Figure 3. NHTS website tool homepage views, July 2013–May 2015.
Figure 4. NHTS website dataset and codebook downloads, July 2013–May 2015.
Figure 5. NHTS website online tool activations, July 2013 to May 2015.
Figure 6. NHTS website publication downloads/views.
Figure 7. 2014 NHTS compendium primary fields.
Figure 8. Transportation topics summary, primary vs. secondary (within transportation field).
Figure 9. 2012–2014 NHTS compendium original classification summaries.
Figure 10. 2012–2014 NHTS compendium original classification summaries.
Figure 11. 2014 NHTS compendium publications by application.
Figure 12. 2014 compendium lead author by organization type.
Figure 13. NHTS conference/workshop lead presenters by organization type.

List of Tables

Table 1. Evaluation outcome and impact areas
Table 2. Evaluation questions and performance measures by impact area.
Table 3. Interview topics by interview audience and type.
Table 4. New classification system for 2014 compendium analysis.
Table 5. Transportation topics by field.
Table 6. Commission briefing papers using NHTS data.
Table 7. AAAFTS project examples using NHTS data.
Table 8. AARP project examples using NHTS data.
Table 9. Health field use of NHTS data.
Table 10. State/MPO NHTS use for travel demand models and travel planning.
Table 11. State/MPO NHTS use for environmental and energy planning.
Table 12. NCHRP reports using NHTS data.
Table 13. State/MPO NHTS data use for project selection or modification.
Table 14. 15-year review of formal NHTS outreach activities.

List of Abbreviations

Abbreviation Term  
AARP American Association of Retired People  
AASHTO American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials  
AAATSF American Automobile Association Traffic Safety Foundation  
CAFE Corporate Average Fuel Economy  
CDC Centers for Disease Control  
EIA Energy Information Administration  
EPA Environmental Protection Agency  
FHWA Federal Highway Administration  
ITS Intelligent Transportation Systems  
MOE measure of effectiveness  
MOVES Motor Vehicle Emissions Simulator  
MPO metropolitan planning organization  
NCHRP National Cooperative Highway Research Program  
NHTS National Household Travel Survey  
SAFETEA-LU Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users  
OHPI Office of Highway Policy Information  
ORNL Oak Ridge National Laboratory  
R&T research and technology  
TRB Transportation Research Board  
USDOT United States Department of Transportation  
VMT vehicle miles traveled  




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