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Long-term trends in domestic US passenger travel: the past 110 years and the next 90


Based upon a long-term historical data set of US passenger travel, a model is estimated to project aggregate transportation trends through 2100. One of the two model components projects total mobility (passenger-km traveled) per capita based on per person GDP and the expected utility of travel mode choices (logsum). The second model component has the functional form of a logit model, which assigns the projected travel demand to competing transportation modes. An iterative procedure ensures the average amount of travel time per person to remain at a pre-specified level through modifying the estimated value of time. The outputs from this model can be used as a first-order estimate of a future benchmark against which the effectiveness of various transportation policy measures or the impact of autonomous behavioral change can be assessed.

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  1. 1.

    Another approach, which goes beyond the scope of this paper, assigns subnational projections of surface transportation demand to network-based supply models, thus significantly increasing complexity. The UK National Transport Model covers nine surface transport modes, eight trip purposes, and households located within nearly 2,500 zones (Department for Transport 2009). Partly owing to the increased complexity, the forecasting time horizon of this model is typically a few decades.

  2. 2.

    Arrival delay is defined as the difference between actual and scheduled arrival time as a share of scheduled flight time.


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The author is indebted to Moshe Ben-Akiva and Frederik Joutz for invaluable econometric advice and thankful to Jim Sweeney for stimulating discussions. Tony Evans helped interpreting air travel delay data. Three unknown referees provided constructive comments, which helped improving the quality of the paper. Any misconceptions and errors remain the author’s sole responsibility. The funding provided by Stanford University’s Precourt Energy Efficiency Center that enabled this work is gratefully acknowledged.

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Correspondence to Andreas W. Schäfer.

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Schäfer, A.W. Long-term trends in domestic US passenger travel: the past 110 years and the next 90. Transportation 44, 293–310 (2017).

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  • Passenger travel
  • Time series model
  • Mode choice
  • Travel time budget
  • Peak car
  • Scenario