School Travel Trends Tracked for Four Decades: National Report Shows More Students Driven to School

(Chapel Hill, NC) — Where can you find the most recent data on school travel in the U.S.? The National Center for Safe Routes to School released today “How Children Get to School: School Travel Patterns from 1969 to 2009,” a research report which provides insight into national trends in U.S. school travel. Using information from the 2001 and 2009 National Household Travel Survey (NHTS) and its predecessor the 1969 and 1995 Nationwide Personal Transportation Surveys (NPTS), the report describes how student school travel in the United States changed between 1969 and 2009.

“Previously, various sources have been cited to document travel to school, which has sometimes resulted in comparing apples to oranges,” said Lauren Marchetti, Director of the National Center for Safe Routes to School. “The NHTS is the only nationally representative survey on youth school travel, and it was a priority for our researchers to develop a central resource for this information in an easily accessible and approachable format. While the report is not specific to Safe Routes to School (SRTS), the findings can be used to create benchmarks for SRTS programs and others to better interpret local travel information they are collecting.”

“How Children Get to School: School Travel Patterns from 1969 to 2009” addresses school travel trends in general, which is an important body of knowledge for anyone working to impact the way children get to school to understand, including communities and individuals involved with SRTS. This report presents the two measures of school travel captured by the NHTS: one measure provided by parents and the other by students and then highlights the differences in data between these two groups.

As stated in the report, statistics show that from 1995 to 2009 among those students living within one mile of school—a distance often considered easily walkable and bikeable—there were no significant changes in school travel trends. When all students are considered, regardless of distance lived from school, the percentage of students driven to school in personal vehicles increased while walking and school bus use dipped slightly and bicycle use stabilized. The report also indicates that parents driving students and teens driving themselves to school accounted for 10-14 percent of all the personal vehicle trips made during the morning of the school year.

To access the full report, visit www.saferoutesinfo.org/program-tools/NHTS-school-travel-1969-2009.

The National Center recently released another report, “Federal Safe Routes to School Program Progress Report,” which addresses the progress of the federal Safe Routes to School Program specifically. It found that since the federal program began in 2005, more than 10,400 U.S. schools across all income levels have participated in SRTS programs, and all three main requirements of implementing the law have been achieved. To learn more about the progress of the federal SRTS program, visit www.saferoutesinfo.org/program-tools/federal-safe-routes-school-program-progress-report.

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About the National Household Travel Survey
The U.S. Department of Transportation conducts the National Household Travel Survey (NHTS) to assess the country’s transportation patterns every 5 to 10 years. The 2009 NHTS updated information gathered in the 2001 NHTS and in prior Nationwide Personal Transportation Surveys (NPTS) conducted in 1969, 1977, 1983, 1990, and 1995. For more information, visit http://nhts.ornl.gov.

About the National Center for Safe Routes to School
The National Center for Safe Routes to School assists states and communities in enabling and encouraging children to safely walk and bicycle to school. The National Center serves as the information clearinghouse for the federal Safe Routes to School program. The organization also provides technical support and resources and coordinates online registration efforts for U.S. Walk to School Day and facilitates worldwide promotion and participation. The National Center is part of the University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center with funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration. Visit www.saferoutesinfo.org.