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The road less traveled: Americans cutting down on daily trips

An animation of cars disappearing on the road. ANN ARBOR—Americans spend 10 percent less time making trips for daily activities than they did a decade ago, says a University of Michigan researcher.

In another in a series of reports that examines recent motorization trends in the U.S., Michael Sivak of the U-M Transportation Research Institute says that the average time spent traveling per day for all activities dropped from 1.23 hours in 2004 to 1.11 hours in 2014.

In an earlier report, Sivak found that 2004 was the peak year in terms of distance driven per person, which has been on the decline since then. In the current study, Sivak looks at total travel time for persons 15 and older, using all modes of travel—not just driving a vehicle. The data came from the American Time Use Survey, a representative nationwide survey.

Activities for which average travel time has decreased since 2004 include dining out (eating and drinking), shopping (purchasing goods and services), caring for and helping non-household members, work, education, and leisure and sports.

The average time spent traveling for household activities, caring for and helping household members, and engaging in organizational, civic and religious activities have stayed the same. Personal care was the only activity that registered an increase.

The study showed that the percentage of persons traveling in connection with the various activities has decreased, but found no overall reduction of the duration of the daily trips for those persons who did engage in travel.

In terms of the average percentages of persons traveling per day by activity, Sivak said that all activities showed a decrease, except for personal care.

Finally, among only persons who traveled in connection with an activity, the report found little change in the total average travel times from 2004 to 2014 (5.93 hours vs. 5.96 hours).

 

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