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Analysis of the National Household Travel Survey


The AARP Public Policy Institute has done extensive analysis of the National Household Travel Survey data series to understand the travel patterns of persons aged 50 and older, as well as other population groups. A few key data points associated with PPI publications are highlighted below, along with a link to the full report or fact sheet, where the datapoint has been published.



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Transit Use

Transit use by people age 65+, as a share of all the trips they take, increased by a remarkable 40 percent between 2001 and 2009. Their share of trips by private vehicle declined.ii



ii  AARP Public Policy Institute analysis of the National Household Travel Survey data series. Published in How the Travel Patterns of Older Adults are Changing view


  • The number of older non-drivers (65+) increased by more than 1.1 million between 2001 and 2009. There are now 8 million older non-drivers in the US, comprising 21 percent of the population aged 65 and older.  iii

  • More than 50 percent of nondrivers over age 65 normall do not leave home most days, partly because of a lack of transportation options. iv

  • Family and friends provide more than 1.4 billion trips per year for older relatives (70+) who do not drive. Adult children provide 33 percent of these trips. v


Citation: AARP Public Policy Institute analysis of the National Household Travel Survey data series.

iii  Published in How the Travel Patterns of Older Adults are Changing view

iv  Published in Aging in Place: A State Survey of Livability Policies and Practices view

v  Published in Valuing the Invaluable: 2011 Update, The Growing Contributions and Costs of Family Caregiving view


Medical Travel

Trip-making for medical purposes has outpaced population growth, a trend observed among those aged 50 and older, as well as among those under 50. 

Impact of Baby Boomers on U.S. Travel, 1969 to 2009

  • The Baby Boom Generation has been the demographic engine fueling much of the growth in travel over the 40 years—both in the number of travelers and in the amount of travel per person. During this time period, the number of household vehicles tripled, travel rates more than doubled, and total vehicle miles of travel grew at more than twice the rate of population growth. Since 1977, travel for household maintenance trips (nonwork) grew fivefold.     

  • Vehicle travel by baby boomers increased greatly in the 1980s and 1990s as dual income-earner boomer households raised children, largely in the suburbs. Since 1995, their per capita trips by private vehicle have declined.

  • Boomers’ per capita trips on transit have shown modest, yet steady increases over the past 40 years. Their share of trips on public transportation grew by 34 percent between 2001 and 2009.

Leisure Travel

  • People in their 50s and 60s are taking more weekend getaways in place of one big annual vacation. Overall, people aged 50 and older had a 62 percent increase in the number of trips, but 40 percent decrease in the miles per trip for leisure travel.

  • People in their 50s took nearly twice as many leisure trips in 2009 as in 2001.

  • People in their 70s reported a less significant increase in their number of leisure trips, but increased their miles per trip.

Active Transportation

  • In the US, people age 65 and older make just 9.4 percent of their trips on foot or by bicycle, despite the fact that 31.8 percent of their trips are 1 mile or less and 46 percent of their trips are two miles or less.

  • This phenomenon is not limited to older Americans, however; 69 percent of trips two miles or less are made by car in the US. 

Light Electric Vehicles and Golf Carts

  • The National Household Travel Survey (2009) reports nearly 70,000 light electric vehicles and golf carts in operation on the nation’s roadways in 2009, the first year the Federal Highway Administration began tracking this vehicle type.
  • Americans took more than 180 million trips and drove nearly 65 million miles on these vehicles that year.
  • Forty-five percent of these trips were taken by persons age 65 and older, a surprisingly high number given that older adults comprise just 13 percent of the US population and account for 12 percent of all trips in the US.

Forthcoming NHTS Analysis and Research

  • Work-Related Travel in an Era of Extended Employment
  • The travel of older non-drivers
  • More analysis on Active transportation and the 50+

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