Recent trends in school travel mode choice

By Rayla Bellis

A recent study analyzed trends in travel to school in the U.S. using 2017 National Household Travel Survey Data and explored factors that impact mode choice. Among the findings, the study shows that the share of students walking and biking to school has increased since 2009 and the share of students traveling to school by car has decreased. These recent trends stand in contrast to a decline in walking and biking to school over the past few decades. Meanwhile the share of students taking the school bus has continued to drop since the 1960s. These trends are consistent across age groups but most significant among high schoolers.

The study authors also found that:

  • Car travel still made up the largest share of trips in 2017, at 52 percent. Thirty-six percent of trips were by school bus, 8.77 percent were walking trips, and biking made up just 1.12 percent of trips.
  • Low-income students have longer commute times to school and a higher likelihood of riding the bus than other students.
  • Most urban school trips range between 3 and 5 miles; whereas, average rural trips are longer than 6 miles.
  • Students living closer to school are more likely to walk or bike to school.

Rayla Bellis is a Program Manager at SSTI.