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The United States transportation system, including highways, railroads, and airways are used by more than 300 million residents and foreign visitors a day.

There have been slight shifts in travel habits towards more sustainable modes of transit; however, car travel remains the most common mode of transportation across the U.S.

Americans and visitors traveled 4.2 billion miles on U.S. highways in 2011, according to Passenger Travel Facts and Figures, a report outlining personal travel trends released by the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics today.

In comparison, 576 million miles were traveled by air, 54 million miles on public transit, and almost 7 million miles by rail.

2009 2010 2011
Air carrier, certified, domestic, all services 551,741* 564,695 575,613
Highway, total 4,241,346 4,244,834 4,230,505
Light duty vehicle 3,625,598 3,646,452 3,650,223
Motorcycle 22,428 19,941 19,972
Bus 305,014 291,914 292,716
Transit, total 53,898 52,627 54,328
Bus 21,100 20,570 19,883
Light rail 2,196 2,173 2,198
Commuter rail 11,129 10,774 11,314
Ferry Boat 365 389 389
Intercity/Amtrak 5,914 6,420 6,670

*In millions.

Source: Passenger Travel Facts and Figures, 2014

Speaking to those subtle shifts — of which an increase in bike lanes and drop in driving levels led by millennials are two examples of — the miles traveled by highway actually dropped between 2010 and 2011.

In the two years between 2009 and 2011, passenger miles on Amtrak grew faster, 12.8 percent, than any other mode of transportation including air passenger miles, which grew 4.3 percent, and highway passenger miles, which grew 0.3 percent.

Daily Driving Habits

In 2009, the last year such data was recorded, the average American traveled 36.1 miles per day, according to BTS data.

The average driving distance was slightly higher among men, 40.9 miles, and slightly lower among women, 31.5 miles. Average distance traveled per day also varied by age with Americans between 36 and 65 years old going the farthest, 44 miles, and those over 65 years old going the shortest distance, 24 miles.

The majority of daily trips taken by Americans are for family or personal business, 42.5 percent, or social and recreational reasons, 2.75 percent. Only 19 percent of trips are for work or work-related reasons likely because this counts the single round-trip ride to your office.

The majority of Americans get to work by themselves in the car, 76 percent, while a significantly smaller proportion carpool (9.7 percent) or take public transport (5 percent).

The majority of day trips, 83 percent, are taken in a vehicle with either a single or multiple occupant. Only 1.9 percent used public transit.

Photo Credit: The Spanish Peaks and Trinchera Peak, taken from along U.S. 160, about 8 miles west of Walsenburg, Colorado. David Herrera / Flickr