Socioeconomics of urban travel in the U.S.: Evidence from the 2017 NHTS

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

place - north america, place - urban, planning - surveys, policy - equity, policy - sustainable


VMT, Transit, Socioeconomics, Demography, Mobility, Sustainable development


Using the 2017 National Household Travel Survey (NHTS), this study analyzes America’s urban travel trends compared with earlier nationwide travel surveys, and examines the variations in travel behaviors among a range of socioeconomic groups. The most noticeable trend for the 2017 NHTS is that although private automobiles continue to be the dominant travel mode in American cities, the share of car trips has slightly and steadily decreased since its peak in 2001. In contrast, the share of transit, non-motorized, and taxicab (including ride-hailing) trips has steadily increased. Besides this overall trend, there are important variations in travel behaviors across income, home ownership, ethnicity, gender, age, and life-cycle stages. Although the trends in transit development, shared mobility, e-commerce, and lifestyle changes offer optimism about American cities becoming more multimodal, policymakers should consider these differences in socioeconomic factors and try to provide more equitable access to sustainable mobility across different socioeconomic groups.


Permission to publish the abstract has been given by Elsevier, copyright remains with them.


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