Chapter 1 - Summary

Chapter 1 - Summary

Summary

This eighth Transportation Statistics Annual Report (TSAR), like those before it, provides data and analysis on the U.S. transportation system: its extent and condition, relationship to the nation's security and economic growth, safety aspects, reliance on energy, environmental impacts, and contribution to mobility and accessibility. The report was prepared in 2001 and in early 2002. Because it relies on annual data, the most recent data available for the report covered 2000 and, in some cases, only 1999.

Two events significantly affected transportation in 2001 while this report was being prepared. First, in late 2000, a downturn in the U.S. economy became apparent. A mild recovery was underway in September 2001 when terrorists attacked New York and Washington, using four commercial airliners as missiles. The immediate, acute impacts of this shock to the transportation system are well known. When this report was being finalized, however, it was too early to accurately assess the long-term effects of the attacks, as a more secure transportation system was still evolving. Because of the importance of terrorism impacts on transportation, special attention has been given in the report to provide data covering 2001 where possible.

The State of Transportation Statistics

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Pipeline

In its legislative mandate for the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS), Congress called on BTS to provide it with recommendations for improving transportation statistical information in this annual report. Good information is central to effective transportation decisionmaking, whether by governments, businesses, or consumers. Having the right data and information available in the right form and at the right time is key.

While many of the pressing transportation data problems and gaps that existed before BTS was created over a decade ago have been addressed, there is a continuing need for good, reliable data and information. Gaps in data may involve the absence of data, data that are poor in quality, or data that are collected but not provided in a timely manner or in a form that decisionmakers can use effectively. An assessment of such gaps, undertaken by BTS in consultation with major stakeholders, is pointing out many gaps pertinent to a broad range of passenger, freight, and other transportation decisionmaking. Some gaps could be filled through modifications in existing data instruments, while others might require new initiatives. The State of Transportation Statistics chapter provides many specific examples of remaining data problems and solutions. The following six chapters highlight transportation issues, presenting data in tabular and graphic forms along with capsule analyses. In doing so, these chapters also reveal differences in the availability, reliability, and quality of transportation data.

Transportation System Condition and Extent

Luggage carousel at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Washington, DC.  If you are a user with a disability and cannot view this image, please call 800-853-1351 for further assistance.
Luggage carousel at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Washington, DC.

As the fourth largest country in land area, the United States has over 4 million miles of highways, railroads, and waterways that connect all parts of the country. It also has 19,000 public and private airports and 440,000 miles of oil and gas transmission pipelines.

Over the last decade, the condition of the nation's airport runways, roads, and bridges has generally improved even while the number of vehicles in the nation's highway fleet, for instance, has grown (by 17 percent to total almost 226 million vehicles in 2000). Nearly 80 percent of the runways at commercial airports in the country remained in good condition in 2000; however, the number of those airports declined from 568 to 546 between 1990 and 2000. Over 41,000 U.S.-flag commercial vessels were operating in both foreign and domestic maritime trade in 2000.

Mobility and Access to Transportation

The transportation system enables people and businesses to overcome the distance between places. For travelers, this includes having easy access to modes of transportation that will get them between home and work, from store to store, and off on vacation. Almost 4.8 trillion passenger-miles of travel (covering all modes) occurred in 2000, an annual increase of 2.3 percent since 1990. Businesses need to efficiently move both people and goods, increasingly worldwide. There were over 3.8 trillion ton-miles of domestic freight shipments in 1999, representing an annual growth of 2 percent since 1990.

Busy arterial street in Washington, DC.  If you are a user with a disability and cannot view this image, please call 800-853-1351 for further assistance.
Busy arterial street in Washington, DC.

More specifically, highway vehicle-miles of travel (vmt) increased 2.5 percent annually between 1990 and 2000 with light-duty trucks (including sport utility vehicles, pickups, and minivans) rising to 34 percent of vmt. During the same period, automobile vmt declined from 66 percent to 58 percent. In 2000, more than 76 percent of commuters drove alone to work by car, van, or truck, up from 73 percent. However, transit ridership grew 7 percent, from 8.8 billion to 9.4 billion unlinked passenger trips between 1990 and 2000, reaching its highest level in more than 40 years.

Congestion increased on highways in major metropolitan areas, and 22 percent of air travelers' flights were delayed, canceled, or diverted in 2001, up from 19 percent in 1990. International overnight travel by various modes to the United States increased by 31 percent, while the number of U.S. residents traveling out of the country rose 36 percent between 1990 and 2000. Amtrak recorded 23 million passenger trips in fiscal year (FY) 2000, up 4.5 percent from 22 million in FY 1990.

Between 1991 and 2000, domestic air cargo tonnage grew from 5 million tons to 13 million tons, an annual growth rate of 11 percent. Suggesting possible impacts on ports and intermodal facilities, the U.S. waterborne container trade balance shifted more toward imports by a gap of over 4 million 20-foot equivalent container units (TEUs) in 2000, up from a gap of 609,000 TEUs in 1992.

Security

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U.S. Coast Guard vessel in Baltimore, MD.

As the terrorist attacks of September 2001 made clear, the nation's economic well-being and security are dependent on a transportation system that can move people, goods, and military personnel and equipment without the fear of intentional disruption or damage by terrorists or other criminal elements.

The hijacking and crashing of four civilian aircraft on September 11, 2001, ended a 10-year lull in hijackings of U.S. air carriers and resulted in the deaths of an estimated 3,035 people (see box on page 110). The terrorist attacks precipitated an unprecedented shutdown of the entire U.S. civil air system for several days, severely straining the balance of the transportation system and reducing mobility for many.

Other security concerns involve maintaining U.S. capability in airplane manufacturing and shipbuilding and interdicting people and drugs from illegally entering the country. The U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) stopped 4,136 people trying to enter the United States illegally during 2001, down 70 percent from 13,790 in 1991. USCG also interdicted 173,000 pounds of cocaine and marijuana during FY 2001, up nearly 30 percent from FY 1991. Whereas, cocaine represented, on average, 60 percent of USCG interdictions during the last 10 years, it made up 80 percent of the drugs interdicted during FY 2001.

Safety

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People jogging.

Reducing transportation-related deaths, injuries, and property damage is a key goal of the transportation community. While much progress has been made in reducing the number of deaths, these numbers remain high. Crashes and incidents involving transportation vehicles, vessels, aircraft, and pipelines claimed 44,314 lives in 2000 and injured more than 3 million people.

Transportation incidents ranked as the eighth leading cause of death in the United States in 2000, down from the seventh leading cause of death in 1990. (Alzheimer's disease surpassed transportation incidents as a leading cause of death in 1999.) Among people under 45, transportation incidents were one of the top causes of death throughout the decade.

Motor vehicle collisions accounted for about 95 percent of transportation-related deaths in 2000. While the use of safety belts saved almost 12,000 lives in 2000 (two and a half times as many lives as in 1990), motor vehicle collisions have consistently accounted for between 93 and 95 percent of transportation-related fatalities since 1990. Alcohol-related fatalities fell from 51 percent of motor vehicle-related fatalities in 1990 to 41 percent in 2000. Despite this decrease, alcohol-related traffic incidents still resulted in 17,380 deaths in 2000.

Commercial air fatalities totaled 531 in 2001 (including the 265 on board the aircraft hijacked on September 11), while 553 people were killed in general aviation accidents. Ten years earlier, 62 people died in commercial air incidents and 799 in general aviation incidents.

Economic Growth

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Containers loaded on ship at the Port of Miami, FL.

Transportation is a vital component of the U.S. economy. As a sizable element of the country's Gross Domestic Product, transportation employs millions of people and consumes a large amount of the economy's goods and services. Demand for transportation-related goods and services represents about 11 percent of the U.S. economy and supports one in eight jobs.

Households spent an average of $7,400 on transportation in 2000. This represented 19.5 percent of their income in 2000, compared with 18 percent in 1990. Throughout the decade household spending on transportation was second only to the amount spent on housing. Average gasoline motor fuel prices peaked at $1.67 per gallon in June 2000 and $1.81 per gallon in May 2001, but these increases did not make a major impact on fuel consumption.

U.S. international merchandise trade via all modes rose 28 percent to $2 trillion between 1997 and 2000, with Canada retaining its status as our top trading partner. Mexico was our second largest partner in 2000.

In the public sector, inflation-adjusted transportation revenues of federal, state, and local governments totaled $118.9 billion in 1999, an increase of almost 45 percent since 1990. Expenditures rose 22 percent during the same period. The value of highway capital stock (including infrastructure and vehicles) increased by 25 percent between 1988 and 2000.

Energy and the Environment

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Bicycles parked at National Airport Metrorail Station.

The many benefits of transportation are tempered by its environmental effects. The sector's dependence on fossil fuels is at the root of many such problems. However, construction and maintenance of transportation infrastructure and facilities, refining of fuels, and vehicle and equipment manufacturing, maintenance, and disposal also affect the environment.

Transportation sector energy use grew at an annual rate of 1.9 percent between 1990 and 2000, to represent 26 percent of total U.S. energy consumption. However, transportation consumed 67 percent of the petroleum used in 2000. While alternative fuels usage has grown 5.9 percent annually since 1992, it only comprised 0.22 percent of total motor vehicle fuel use in 2000.

Most transportation air pollutant emissions have declined since 1970. Only nitrogen oxides and ammonia emissions remain above their 1990 levels. In addition, transportation sector greenhouse gas emissions of carbon dioxide have risen 19 percent since 1990. However, the greenhouse gas intensity of the U.S. economy declined 15 percent between 1990 and 2000.

Transportation affects the marine environment in a number of ways: oil spills, dredging of sediments to maintain and enlarge waterways and ports, and ship wastewater discharges are among them. The amount of oil spilled in U.S. waterways varies annually; in 2000, 1.4 million gallons were reported spilled, of which 73 percent were from marine vessels and pipelines. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dredges about 300 million cubic yards of sediments-some of it contaminated-from navigation channels each year.

Almost all (97 percent) of the lead content of disposed batteries was reused in 1999, but only 26 percent of the 4.7 million tons of scrapped tires were recycled. These data cover passenger cars, trucks, and motorcycles. Data on the waste products of other modes and components of transportation vehicles and equipment are not available on an annual basis.