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OUR CUSTOMERS: Travel Patterns

The more than 6.5 million people in the Commonwealth have many reasons to travel and several ways to get to their destinations. A recent statewide survey measured this usage to help us better understand our customers. Every day, each person takes an average of 4.1 trips (and every household averages 10.2), which equals over 26.6 million trips 1 for all purposes (work, school, shopping, recreation, etc.). The primary modes of travel are as follows:

Transit = 7.6% Walk = 19.0% Bicycle = 1.1% Other Means = 3.8% Automobile = 68.5%
Source: 2010-11 Massachusetts Travel Survey

Why so many trips? While many are due to work or school, the majority of trips are made for less “mandatory” activities. Transportation planners analyze these activities to better gauge current and future demand. General categories of trip purposes are as follows2:

Commuting and work-related = 24.3% School = 7.3% Personal Business = 25.3% Social / Recreational = 14.6% Other = 28.4%
Source: 2010-11 Massachusetts Travel Survey, OTP staff calculations

Nearly one-third of all trips do not originate (or return to) home – they are based from other locations. For example, of work-related trips, only 13.4% of all trips are for commuting from home to a job and then from job back to home. For these commuting trips, we use autos and transit at greater rates than for all trips:

  • Each day, over 3.2 million workers living in Massachusetts commute to their workplaces. Over 2.3 million, or 72 percent, drive their car. (86.1% nationwide)
  • Of the rest: Around 405,000, or 12.6 percent, take transit. (5.0% US)
  • About 153,000 (4.8%) walk to work (2.9% US)
  • About 56,000 (1.7%) ride a bicycle to work (0.5% US)
  • The rest (290,000 - 9%) use other means, including 6.5% who work at home (5.1% US)
Transit = 12.6% Walk = 4.8% Bicycle = 1.7% Other Means = 9.0% Automobile = 71.9%
Source: 2010-11 Massachusetts Travel Survey, American Community Survey for U.S. data
Transit = 9.1% Walk = 12.4% Bicycle = 1.1% Other Means = 5.0% Automobile = 42.7% School Bus = 29.7%
Source: 2010-11 Massachusetts Travel Survey

For reaching school (at all educational levels), the traditional school bus is still a significant way to get there. We also walk to school at a much greater rate than for work trips – which underscores the importance of healthy transportation and MassDOT’s “Safe Routes to School” program.


Here are some facts regarding the usage of Massachusetts’ transportation system:

  • Each day, up to 5 million vehicles from Massachusetts and surrounding states collectively travel over 150 million miles on all roads across the Commonwealth. These volumes are generated from over 4.7 million licensed Massachusetts drivers, plus at least 200,000 more from out-of-state.
  • The total MBTA system and regional transit agencies are estimated to serve about half a million people each day.


  • Using a network of roads totaling over 36,000 miles statewide, Massachusetts drivers collectively travel nearly 54.8 billion miles and consume 3.2 billion gallons of gas each year, or about 648 gallons per registered vehicle (2011).
  • With a population of over 6.547 million Massachusetts residents, 81% (5.304 million) are of driving age (16 and over), while 72.5% of all residents (4.747 million) are licensed drivers (MassDOT RMV and 2010 U.S. Census).
  • Each day, over 165,000 workers commute into Massachusetts from our surrounding states, including over 80,000 from New Hampshire and 55,000 from Rhode Island (U.S. Census Journey-to-Work data).
  • Within the City of Boston, the entire Central Artery/Tunnel project processes about 536,000 vehicles per weekday. This includes 323,000 vehicles entering on the expressways, and 213,000 from all local ramps (including the Logan tunnels).
  • The single highest traffic volume location in the state is the I-93/I-95(128) Interchange in Woburn and Reading. This crossing of two busy highways processes around 375,000 vehicles per weekday.


  • For all public transportation trips, the roughly 500,000 people using our transit systems take nearly 1.4 million trips each weekday in Massachusetts, and most all of these are on the MBTA system. The following graph illustrates the proportions of each of the major transit service categories:
    MBTA Bus = 28.5% RTA Buses = 7.2% Four MBTA subway/light rail lines = 55.7% Commuter Rail = 7.6% Other Services = 1.1 %
    Source: 2012 MBTA ridership data
  • On the MBTA system, nearly 770,000 daily trips are made on the subway system, over 390,000 trips by bus, and about 104,000 trips on commuter rail.
  • Other miscellaneous services (water ferry, paratransit, and other contracted bus) serve over 14,000 daily trips in total (2012).
  • Collectively, there are about 100,000 daily bus trips taken on the other 15 regional transit authorities (RTAs).


  • Massachusetts has 39 public use airports (including Logan and Hanscom), serving national and international flights and the approximately 2,400 aircraft based in the Commonwealth.
  • These airports collectively contain about 49 miles of paved runways and 4½ miles of turf runways. 23 runways are at least 5,000 feet long.
  • There are about 2.7 miles of designated water landing area at the two seaplane bases in Massachusetts.
  • Collectively, Massachusetts airports have 12 Air Traffic Control Towers, 11 Instrument Landing Systems, and 44 GPS non-precision approaches to assist pilots, especially in inclement weather or limited visibility conditions.
  • Based on 2012 rankings, Logan International Airport is the 20th-busiest airport in North America in terms of passenger volume and 20th in terms of aircraft movements. In 2012, Logan served over 29.3 million arriving and departing passengers and nearly 355,000 total flight operations (landings and take-offs).


  • Massachusetts contains 11 freight railroads with over 1,000 miles of track. Each year, more than 450,000 train cars carry over 18 million tons of goods (estimates from 2010 Massachusetts Freight Plan).
  • Massachusetts’ ports process nearly 35 million tons of waterborne freight annually, with 68% (23.6 million) foreign and 32% (11.0 million) domestic. The Port of Boston alone handles over 32 million tons (all 2011 data).
  • In 2012, Logan International Airport handled over 262,000 tons of air freight cargo consisting of mail, packages, and other types of freight.


  • Amtrak offers intercity and regional passenger rail service throughout Massachusetts, with 11 station stops and over 3.1 million annual passenger boardings and alightings. Boston’s South Station is the 6th busiest in the national Amtrak System.
  • The Steamship Authority provides year-round ferry service between Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket. In 2012, the Steamship Authority transported over 2.8 million passengers and 600,000 vehicles.
  • Massachusetts contains nearly 600 miles of “shared-use” paths, suitable for recreational or commuting purposes. Primarily for bicycle and pedestrian use, these facilities are a combination off-road and on-road routes, some exclusively paths and some with dedicated lanes on existing roadways.

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1 A "trip" is defined as direct travel from one location to another, which is determined by any stops made (for example, home to day care to coffee shop to work each morning equals three trips, not one).

2 "Personal Business" includes routine shopping like groceries, clothing, and home improvement, as well as major appliance and car shopping, vehicle service trips, health care, and household errands. "Social/Recreational" includes civic and religious activities, vacation travel, and visiting friends and relatives. “Other” includes dining out, volunteer activities, drop-off or pick-up, and “loop trips” (neighborhood walks).

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