At A Glance

Noteworthy Characteristics

  • Provides extensive information about physical activity outdoors (walking and biking) by adults and children.
  • Provides estimates of travel for low-income households.
  • Data on all travel are collected through a 24-hour travel diary.
  • Some data collected directly from adolescents.



To collect data about travel behavior by members of households in the United States (U.S.).

Target Population

Civilian, noninstitutionalized individuals and households in the U.S.


Began in 1969 as the National Personal Transportation Survey (NPTS). Conducted every 5 to 7 years, in 1969, 1977, 1983, 1990, and 1995. The NPTS became the NHTS in 2001. Most recent year conducted was 2009. NHTS fielded another survey collection effort in 2016, which will be released in 2018.


Federal Highway Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation

Special Note(s)

The NHTS highlights important travel trends in personal travel patterns, including national estimates of trips and miles by travel mode, trip purpose, and a host of household attributes. The 2001 NHTS survey contained a section on long-distance travel. The survey includes demographic characteristics of households, people, vehicles, and detailed information on daily activities such as walking and biking, Internet use, children’s travel, disability, and more.



Sample Design

Cross-sectional, nationally representative, randomized design. Learn more.

Sample Size

Approximately 151,000 households in 2009 with approximately 320,000 persons interviewed.

Special Note(s)

Information on the census results for small geographic selected tract and Transportation Analysis Zones (TAZ) is available in a package called Transferability methodology. It provides estimates of regional or local travel, including vehicle trips (VT), vehicle miles of travel (VMT), person trips (PT), and person miles of travel (PMT) by trip purpose for 2001 NHTS. Transferability is a GIS-based tool that enables users to download trip statistics. Obtain the 2001 Transferability package. The 2009 package is forthcoming.

Key Variables


NameMethods of Assessment
Age (household members)Interview/questionnaire
Employment Interview/questionnaire
Household size, members, and their relationshipsInterview/questionnaire
Housing characteristicsInterview/questionnaire
Immigration statusInterview/questionnaire
Sex (household members)Interview/questionnaire

Physical Activity-Related

NameMethods of Assessment
Amount of time spent bicycling and walking outdoors in past weekInterview/questionnaire
Bicycle, walking, and public transit perceptionsInterview/questionnaire
Child’s usual mode of travel to schoolInterview/questionnaire (proxy)
Daily trips taken in a 24-hour period24-hour travel diary
Disabilities inhibiting travelInterview/questionnaire
Distance between home and child’s schoolInterview/questionnaire (proxy)
Factors that influence parent’s decision to allow child to walk to schoolInterview/questionnaire
Internet access, frequency, and location of useInterview/questionnaire
Length of trip (travel time)24-hour travel diary
Means of transportation used (e.g., car, bus, subway, walking)24-hour travel diary
Number of transit, walking, and bicycle trips in the past week Interview/questionnaire
Purpose of walks and bicycle tripsInterview/questionnaire
Reasons for not biking or walking more oftenInterview/questionnaire


NameMethods of Assessment
State, metropolitan statistical area, census region, census division, countyN/A


NameMethods of Assessment
Composition of passengers in private vehicle trips24-hour travel diary
Modes of transportation for commutingInterview/questionnaire
Number of people in private vehicles used for travel24-hour travel diary
Number of vehicles available for use by each household member and household members who driveInterview/questionnaire
Perceptions of the local transit systemInterview/questionnaire
Purpose of the trip 24-hour travel diary
Reasons for selecting and remaining in homeInterview/questionnaire
Time of day and day of week of each trip24-hour travel diary

Data Access and Cost

Data Availability

Obtain data.


Free of charge.


Geocode Variable(s)

State, metropolitan statistical area, census region, census division, county.

Existing Linkages

NHTS data on households have been linked to Census Transportation Planning Package data on demographic characteristics and number of daily trips using Traffic Analysis Zone (TAZ).

Special Note(s)

Restricted geocodes: Latitude/longitude for home end, work end, and trip end locations; census tract, street, cross-streets, zip code, county. Learn more.

Selected Publications

Physical Activity-Related

Guo JY, Gandavarapu S. An economic evaluation of health-promotive built environment changes. Preventive Medicine 2010;50(Suppl 1):S44-S49. Epub 2009 Oct 17.

Hu PS, Reuscher TR. Summary of travel trends: 2001 National Household Travel Survey. Washington (DC): U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration. December 2004.

McDonald NC. Active transportation to school: Trends among U.S. schoolchildren, 1969-2001. American Journal of Preventive Medicine 2007;32(6):509-516.

Trowbridge MJ, McDonald NC. Urban sprawl and miles driven daily by teenagers in the United States. American Journal of Preventive Medicine 2008;34(3):202-206.

Zhang F, Clifton KJ, Shen Q. Reexamining ICT impact on travel using the 2001 NHTS data for Baltimore metropolitan area. 2005.