The Multimodal Majority? Driving, Walking, Cycling, and Public Transportation Use Among American Adults

The Multimodal Majority? Driving, Walking, Cycling, and Public Transportation Use Among American Adults

Based on the 2001 and 2009 National Household Travel Surveys, this paper analyzes trends and determinants of multimodal car use in the U.S. during a typical week by distinguishing between (1) monomodal car users who drive or ride in a car for all trips, (2) multimodal car users who drive or ride in a car and also use non-automobile modes, and (3) individuals who exclusively walk, cycle, and/or ride public transportation. We find that during a typical week a majority—almost two thirds—of Americans use a car and make at least one trip by foot, bicycle, or public transportation. One in four Americans uses a car and makes at least seven weekly trips by other modes of transportation. Results from multinomial and logistic regression analyses suggest there may be a continuum of mobility types ranging from monomodal car users to walk, bicycle, and/or public transportation only users—with multimodal car users positioned in-between the two extremes. Policy changes aimed at curtailing car use may result in movements along this spectrum with increasing multimodality for car users.

Key findings

Car availability is a key determinant of individual mode use patterns.

Younger age groups and college students are more like to be multimodal than monomodal.

The analysis suggests that multimodal car users are a group in-between monomodal car users and wbt-only users. Coefficients for explanatory variables distinguishing multimodal car users or wbt-only users from monomodal car users show similar signs and levels of significance.

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