The multimodal majority? Driving, walking, cycling, and public transportation use among American adults

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

place - north america, place - europe, mode - car, mode - bus, mode - bike, mode - pedestrian, mode - rail, ridership - mode choice, planning - surveys


Multimodality, USA, Trends 2001–2009, Multimodal and monomodal car users, Walk, bicycle, and public transportation only users, Individual travel behavior


Multimodality, the use of more than one mode of transportation during a specified time period, is gaining recognition as an important mechanism for reducing automobile dependence by shifting trips from automobiles to walking, cycling, or public transportation. Most prior research on multimodality focuses on Western European countries. Based on the 2001 and 2009 National Household Travel Surveys, this paper analyzes trends and determinants of multimodal car use in the U.S. during a typical week by distinguishing between (1) monomodal car users who drive or ride in a car for all trips, (2) multimodal car users who drive or ride in a car and also use non-automobile modes, and (3) individuals who exclusively walk, cycle, and/or ride public transportation. We find that during a typical week a majority—almost two thirds—of Americans use a car and make at least one trip by foot, bicycle, or public transportation. One in four Americans uses a car and makes at least seven weekly trips by other modes of transportation. Results from multinomial and logistic regression analyses suggest there may be a continuum of mobility types ranging from monomodal car users to walk, bicycle, and/or public transportation only users—with multimodal car users positioned in-between the two extremes. Policy changes aimed at curtailing car use may result in movements along this spectrum with increasing multimodality for car users.


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