US School Travel, 2009: An Assessment of Trends

The White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity has set a goal of increasing walking and biking to school by 50% within 5 years. Meeting the goal requires a detailed understanding of the current patterns of school travel.

  • Nationally representative estimates of the amount of school travel and the modes used to access school in 2009 were compared with 1969, 1995, and 2001.
  • The National Household Travel Survey collected data on the travel patterns of 150,147 households in 2008 and 2009. Analyses, conducted in 2010, documented the time, vehicle miles traveled, and modes used by American students to reach school. A binary logit model assessed the influence of trip, child, and household characteristics on the decision to walk to school.
  • In 2009, 12.7% of K– 8 students usually walked or biked to school compared with 47.7% in 1969. Rates of walking and biking to school were higher on the trip home from school in each survey year. During the morning peak period, school travel accounted for 5%–7% of vehicle miles traveled in 2009 and 10%–14% of all private vehicles on the road.
  • There have been sharp increases in driving children to school since 1969 and corresponding decreases in walking to school. This increase is particularly evident in the number of vehicle trips generated by parents dropping children at school and teens driving themselves. The NHTS survey provides a unique opportunity to monitor school travel mode share.

Noreen C. McDonald, PhD, Austin L. Brown, MRP, MPH, Lauren M. Marchetti, BA, Margo S. Pedroso, BA. (2011). U.S. School Travel, 2009 An Assessment of Trends.  Am J Prev Med, 41(2), 146-151.

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