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Chapter 1 The Nation Served by Freight

The Nation’s 122.5 million households, 7.5 million business establishments, and more than 90,000 governmental units are part of an economy that relies on the efficient movement of freight. Transportation-related purchases and investments accounted for 8.6 percent, or $1.4 trillion, of U.S. GDP in 2013. Foreign trade grew faster than the overall economy, doubling in real value over the same period, reflecting growth in global interconnectivity. Long-term economic growth will require an even greater demand for freight transportation.

Table 1-1. Economic and Social Characteristics of the United States:  1990, 2000, 2010, 2012 and 2013

Freight transportation has grown over time with the expansion of population and economic activity within the United States and with the increasing interdependence of economies across the globe. The U.S. population grew by 13.0 percent between 2000 and 2014, climbing to an estimated 319 million in 2014. The U.S. economy, measured by gross domestic product (GDP), increased by 24.9 percent in real terms (inflation adjusted) between 2000 and 2014.

Table 1-2. Population and Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by Region:  2000, 2010, and 2012-2014

Although freight moves throughout the United States, the demand for freight transportation is driven primarily by the geographic distribution of population and economic activity. The South has the highest population and the most economic activity. Both population and economic activity have grown faster in the South and West than in the Northeast and Midwest, but the Northeast has the highest economic activity per capita and fastest growth per capita.