Public Transit in America: Observations from the 2017 National Household Travel Survey

This report begins with a discussion of how the National Household Travel Survey (NHTS) survey has changed and describes the NHTS sample of transit trips, followed by a series of sections that address critical issues facing public transportation. The report is not necessarily comprehensive but rather targets issues of particular research and or policy interest. The objective of this research is to afford transportation professionals, policy makers and the public the information necessary to form sound opinions and make judicious decisions regarding public transit. The 2017 National Household Travel Survey data has some distinct survey design, sampling distribution, and collection differences which are detailed in this report and must be accounted for in trend analyses of the data. One of the areas of interest for public transportation is understanding the market segments and the extent to which various markets are using public transportation. Among the metrics that give insight into the ability of public transportation to capture additional markets are the distribution of auto ownership characteristics amongst public transportation users. A second element that adds insight with respect to the public transportation market, is the income distribution of transit travelers. The ability to attract higher income individuals to public transportation indicates that the services are sufficiently attractive to appeal to individuals who are likely to have other choices for travel. Worker status is another element that adds insight with respect to the public transportation market, as work trips account for a significant share of total transit trips, and account for the second highest mode share for all trip purposes. Age is another population characteristic element that effects the public transit market. Daily per capita trips increase through the 36-45 age group, while the share of transit trips increases only through the 16-25 age group. Finally, the 2017 NHTS was the first time that transportation network companies (TNCs, services such as Uber and Lyft that provide smart phone ride hailing services) were captured in the NHTS. TNC use is of interest to public transportation stakeholders in that it both competes with and compliments public transportation with the body of evidence suggesting it is contributing to soft transit ridership in several cities. This report, in its entirety, highlights some key public transit observations from the 2017 NHTS, with applicable comparisons to previous year’s surveys and other data sources.

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  • Supplemental Notes:
    • This document was sponsored by the U.S. Department of Transportation, University Transportation Centers Program. Cover date: August 2019.
  • Corporate Authors:

    University of South Florida, Tampa

    Center for Urban Transportation Research
    Tampa, FL  United States 

    National Center for Transit Research

    Center for Urban Transportation Research
    University of South Florida
    Tampa, FL  United States 

    Office of the Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology

    University Transportation Centers Program
    Department of Transportation
    Washington, DC  United States  20590
  • Authors:
    • Godfrey, Jodi
    • Polzin, Steven E
    • Roessler, Tyler
  • Publication Date: 2019-5


  • English

Media Info

  • Media Type: Digital/other
  • Edition: Final Report
  • Features: Figures; References; Tables;
  • Pagination: 50p

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01739170
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Report/Paper Numbers: CUTR-NCTR-RR-2018-08, CUTR-2019-08
  • Created Date: May 14 2020 10:06AM