Public Transit in America: Analysis of Access Using the 2001 National Household Travel Survey

Document Type


Publication Date


Subject Area

planning - route design, land use - planning, place - urban, mode - bus


Access, Automobile ownership, Bus routes, Demographics, Households, Income, National Household Travel Survey, Public transit, Race, Residential areas, Ridership, Transportation planning, Urban areas


Understanding transit ridership has become a critical research interest and policy goal. This paper presents the results of an analysis of the National Household Travel Survey (NHTS) data specifically focusing on the appended variables that measure access or distances to public transportation. Statistically significant distance intervals were chosen for analysis respective of a chosen variable. This document augments the report titled “Public Transit in America: Results from the 2001 National Household Travel Survey.” The analysis reveals strong differences in household and workplace access to transit as a function of race, income, auto ownership, and urban area size. Additionally, a very high sensitivity to access exists suggesting that the share of transit accessible trips is smaller than previously acknowledged. Approximately 53% of national households are within a mile of bus service and 40% within a quarter-mile. Approximately 10% of the population lives within one mile of rail. Over 50% of nationwide workplaces are within a quarter mile walk radius of a bus line. Not surprisingly, work is more closely concentrated near transit than are residences. Furthermore, mode share for transit declines approximately two thirds beyond the first interval (up to 0.15 mi) from a bus route. These observations imply a high value to services in close proximity to residential areas. The analysis suggests that access is even more critical than might have previously been acknowledged by the transit planning profession.