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3.3 Million Americans are Stretch Commuters Traveling at Least 50 Miles One-Way to Work

3.3 Million Americans are Stretch Commuters Traveling at Least 50 Miles One-Way to Work

DOT BTS 10-04
Dave Smallen

Wednesday, May 12, 2004 - About 3.3 million Americans travel 50 miles or more one way to get to work - and they commute these distances 329 million times a year, according to National Household Travel Survey (NHTS) findings released today by the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS).

Of the 61.6 billion commutes to and/or from work each year, just under one out of every 200 trips is a "stretch commute."

Who is a "stretch commuter?"

"Stretch commuters" are mostly male. Women - 52 percent of the population - only make 16 percent of "stretch commuting" trips.

Nearly three out of five "stretch commuting" trips are made by someone from a household with an annual income of at least $50,000. Slightly more than two out of five U.S. households earn that much. Five out of six "stretch commutes" are made by workers in manufacturing, construction, professional, managerial or technical jobs. By comparison, those in the sales and administrative workforce make considerably fewer "stretch commute" trips.

"Stretch commutes" are disproportionately rural - two out of every five "stretch commutes" start in rural areas. Eight out of 10 (81 percent) "stretch commutes" are 50 to 99 miles in length one way. For these commuters, "stretch commuting" is nearly an everyday occurrence - about two-thirds of the 50- to 99-mile one-way commutes are made at least four days each week.

While one out of five (19 percent) "stretch commutes" is at least 100 miles, more than one in 20 (six percent) can be called "super-stretch commutes," trips to work of 200 miles or more, one-way.

"Stretch commuters" make 19 of every 20 trips in a personal vehicle like a car, truck or SUV, but when the "stretch commute" distance goes beyond 200 miles one out of four such commutes changes to air travel. At distances of 200 miles or more, the "stretch commute" is most likely to be taken only one to four times (round trip) in a four-week period.

NHTS is a joint project of BTS and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), both agencies of the U.S. Department of Transportation. Conducted in 2001 and 2002, NHTS gives a picture of travel in the United States at the start of the 21st century. Combining new long-distance travel information with daily travel data released earlier this year, it is the most comprehensive survey of travel in the United States since 1995 - offering information on who travels, why they travel, where they travel, when they travel and how they travel.

The NHTS collected information about a wide range of topics, including the amount and purpose of travel, the uses of different travel modes, time and miles spent traveling and the ownership and use of vehicles in the United States. It also examined the relationships between travel and specific household and demographic characteristics. Over the next several months, BTS and FHWA will be releasing additional NHTS data.

For this survey a nationally representative sample of about 26,000 households was contacted and 60,000 individuals were interviewed. The NHTS expands on and replaces the 1995 Nationwide Personal Transportation Survey and American Travel Survey.

The America on the Go. Stretch Commuting findings from the National Household Travel Survey can be found at