Passenger-Miles of Travel

Passenger-Miles of Travel

Estimated U.S. passenger-miles of travel (pmt) increased 24 percent between 1991 and 2001. Pmt totaled an estimated 4.8 trillion in 2001,1 averaging about 17,000 miles for every man, woman, and child (box 2-A) [2, 3].

Just over 85 percent of pmt in 2001 was in personal vehicles (passenger cars and light trucks, including sport utility vehicles, pickups, and minivans) (figure 2-1). Most of the balance (11 percent) occurred by air. Passenger travel in light trucks accounted for a little under one-third of all pmt. Transit, excluding bus, made up less than 1 percent of pmt in 2001.

Travel increased between 1991 and 2001 at an annual average rate of 2.2 percent [3]. Pmt by light trucks grew at 2.9 percent per year on average, while passenger car pmt rose 1.6 percent (figure 2-2). Although air pmt grew the fastest at an average of 3.7 percent per year over the entire period, it declined 5.5 percent between 2000 and 2001 reflecting the impacts of the terrorist attacks in 2001 and the ongoing economic downturn. Pmt by intercity train (Amtrak) declined, although there has been modest growth since 1996. Likewise, transit pmt has grown since the mid-1990s.

Passenger travel increased between 1991 and 2001 for a variety of reasons. The U.S. resident population grew by 32.3 million over this period [2]. Moreover, the economy also grew significantly. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) increased 39 percent2 and GDP per capita grew 23 percent between 1991 and 2001 (figure 2-3) [1].


1. U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Economic Analysis, National Income and Product Accounts, summary GDP table, available at http://www.bea.doc/bea/dn1.htm, as of January 2004.

2. U.S. Department of Commerce, U.S. Census Bureau, Statistical Abstract of the United States: 2002 (Washington, DC: 2003), for population data.

3. U.S. Department of Transportation, Bureau of Transportation Statistics, National Transportation Statistics 2002, table 1-34 revised, available at as of October 2003.

1 This calculation excludes travel in heavy trucks, by bicycle, by walking, and by boat (including recreational boat). Pmt in heavy trucks is excluded because such travel is assumed to be incidental to the hauling of freight, the main purpose of this travel. Bicycle, pedestrian, and boat travel are excluded because national estimates are not available on an annual basis.

2 Calculation is based on chained 2000 dollars.