Travel by Purpose

Travel by Purpose

Commuting—trips made to and from work—accounted for 15 percent of all personal trips in 2001. In addition, other work-related trips (e.g., travel to meetings and conferences) accounted for 3 percent of all trips. The average length of a commuting trip was 12 miles,1 whereas the average length of a work-related trip was just under 30 miles figure 27).

People made the greatest number of daily trips, 45 percent, to shop, to visit doctors and dentists, and for other family and personal business such as using professional or personal services, attending a wedding or funeral, walking the dog, attending meetings, and dropping off or picking up someone else (figure 28). Most family and personal business trips tended to be relatively short, averaging about 7 miles, although visits to doctors and dentists averaged 10 miles each [1].

Social and recreational reasons for daily travel, including visits to friends and relatives, motivated just over one-quarter of all trips in 2001. These trips included going to the gym, exercising, or playing sports and going to the movies, a restaurant, or a public place, such as a park. The average distance of these trips was 8 miles, with trips to visit friends and relatives being longer than average at about 14 miles [1].

Trips to school and church accounted for 10 percent of trips in 2001 and averaged 6 miles in length. By contrast, vacation trips (including those for rest and relaxation) are taken relatively rarely but far from home. In 2001 (for daily trip reporting),2 they accounted for less than 1 percent of trips but averaged 37 miles in length [1].


1. U.S. Department of Transportation, Bureau of Transportation Statistics and Federal Highway Administration, 2001 National Household Travel Survey, Preliminary Data Release Version 1 (day trip data only), available at, as of January 2003.

1 The 2001 National Household Travel Survey defined a trip as each time a person went from one address to another. “Commute” trips were defined as those trips made for the purpose of going to or returning from work. However, given the definition of a trip, those reported as commuting trips were not necessarily anchored by the home or workplace (for return commutes). Therefore, care should be taken in analyzing work trips, recognizing that the distance for these trips is often, but not always, the distance from home to work.

2 The 2001 National Household Travel Survey “travel period” data were not available when this report was prepared. Without these data, vacation trips and travel by air tend to be underrepresented.